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Erasing Roy

Jim Hill

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Erasing Roy

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Okay. Quick question: How many of you have heard about what happened with those "Disney Treasures" DVDs?

For those of you who don't know: Wave 3 of this extremely popular, limited edition series of Disney DVDs was supposed to have rolled into stores on December 2nd. And -- this time around -- the titles that were to have been offered in collectible tins would have been "The Chronological Donald," "Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Vol. 2," "Tomorrowland" and "On the Front Lines."

But then -- back on November 13th -- Buena Vista Home Entertainment suddenly issued a press release, which stated that -- due to unforeseen circumstances -- the release of Wave 3 of the "Disney Treasures" DVDs was going to be pushed back 'til May 18, 2004.

So what exactly was BVHE's excuse for pushing back the release of "The Chronological Donald," "Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Vol. 2," "Tomorrowland" and "On the Front Lines?" Well ... this is where this story gets kind of convoluted.

Were you to call the Buena Vista Home Entertainment guys directly (as I did) and ask them what was going on, they'd have told you that the real reason that they'd opted to put off the release of Wave 3 of the "Disney Treasures" collection was because their production facilities had just been overwhelmed by retailers' requests for additional copies of "Finding Nemo" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" DVDs to sell this holiday season. Which is what supposedly forced BVHE to push the release of Wave 3 of the "Disney Treasures" 'til May of next year.

Which is a perfectly logical explanation, don't you think? Except that the press release that Buena Vista Home Entertainment put out about this "Disney Treasures" situation says something entirely different. It says that:

Due to the overwhelming consumer demand and retailer orders for Buena Vista Home Entertainment's WALT DISNEY TREASURES Wave 3, we have rescheduled the release to May 18, 2004.

Growing in popularity with each of the two previous debuts, demand for the four titles in the upcoming wave has exceeded BVHE's ability to manufacture enough of the highly-collectible, individually numbered, limited series.

Now where this gets truly weird is that -- if you were to e-mail the Walt Disney Company and ask what became of Wave 3 of the "Disney Treasures" DVDs -- you would have gotten a third explanation of the delay. Which was:

"Yes, it is true that the new releases from "Walt Disney Treasures" will be postponed until May 2004. This is due to a vendor delay. We do not have any further information."

So that's three explanations for the delayed release of four highly collectible Disney DVDs. So which is the real reason we won't be able to purchase any copies of Wave 3 of the "Disney Treasures" DVDs 'til next May?

Roy E. Disney.

How does Roy E. factor in here? Well, how many of you have purchased copies of any of the titles in Wave 1or Wave 2 of the "Disney Treasures" series? Do you recall how each of these collectible tins had a decorative blue wrapper on the outside? Now whose signature was on that wrapper?

You guessed it. Roy E. Disney.

According to my sources within the corporation, Disney CEO Michael Eisner -- in a fit of pique -- allegedly ordered early last month that Roy E. Disney's name be stricken from the packaging of the "Disney Treasures" DVDs. And that -- in addition -- that supposedly an effort should be made to lessen and/or remove any additional references to any or all contributions that Walt's nephew had made to the Walt Disney Company.

Sounds kind of extreme, doesn't it? Well, this should give you some idea how long this feud between Michael and Roy has been festering. I mean, just because Roy E. Disney chose to officially announce his resignation from Disney's Board of Directors on Sunday, November 30th doesn't mean that things weren't terrible between these two for weeks (and even months!) before the mainstream press latched onto this story.

And it's not like Eisner hasn't done something like this before. How many of you recall how -- in the Fall of 1994 -- Michael allegedly ordered that all references to former Disney studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg be removed from all of the company's books, videos and laser discs?

Don't believe me? Then go chase yourself down a copy of the 1993 edition of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on laser disc. Now take a look at this disc's additional features. Given the multiple number of times that Jeffrey pops on this laser disc, you'd think that Katzenberg himself had animated every single frame of the film.

Now contrast that to the "Platinum Edition" of "Beauty and the Beast: The Special Edition" DVD that Buena Vista Home Entertainment put on sale last Fall. You could search through all the features on both discs in this set and I doubt that you'd hear more than one or two brief references to Jeffrey. It's now as if Katzenberg never existed. As if this talented producer never ever worked at the Mouse Factory.

Well, it's one thing to supposedly order that all references to a former studio head of the Walt Disney Company be deliberately stricken from the record. But quite another when the CEO Of the corporation tries to pull the same move on Walt's nephew.

Said one studio insider:

"This is a truly stupid maneuver on Eisner's part. This ham-handed attempt to get back at Roy is going to totally blow up in Michael's face. You can't just pretend that Walt's nephew never existed. Particularly now that Roy and Stanley are on the outside, trying to convince Disney shareholders that they too can make a difference.

This is the sort of thing that they used to do during Stalin's time in the Soviet Union. Not something you try and pull in today's Hollywood. Particularly when there are people like you out there, Jim. Who are happy to shine a spotlight on Eisner whenrver he's behaving like an ass.

I honestly don't know what the deal is with Michael, Jim. You'd think that -- given what PR disasters Mike Ovitz and Jeffrey's exits turned out to be for Eisner -- that this guy would finally learn from his mistakes. But not Michael. Every time Eisner gets mad, this guy loses IQ points.

Mark my words, Jim. It's this stupid petty stuff that's ultimately going to cost Eisner his job at Disney. The fact that the price of the company's stock is holding steady isn't going to matter much to the media once they find out that Disney's CEO likes to act like some Soviet dictator.

The very idea that he even try to erase all references to Roy E. Disney within the Walt Disney Company ... That's going to come back and bite Eisner in the ass big-time, Jim."

I'm afraid that I have to agree. If this allegation proves to be true -- that Eisner did in fact order that Roy E. Disney's name be removed from the wrappers on the "Disney Treasures" DVDs -- this is going to make Michael look pretty bad. That Eisner would stoop to this sort of Stalinist behavior, and then think that he could get away with it without anybody ever noticing is just beyond arrogant. It's ignorant.

Of course, once this story breaks today, I'd imagine that Buena Vista Home Entertainment will quickly be issuing a damage control press release. Which will attempt to explain why BVHE had three different explanations as to why Wave 3 of the "Disney Treasures" DVDs wasn't actually released on December 2nd.

It'll be interested to see how these guys handle the whole "Is Roy's signature still on the DVDs' wrapper or not?" issue. I'm betting that -- just to play it safe -- Buena Vista Home Entertainment will issue a non-denial denial. Which is PR talk for an answer that sounds pretty good, but doesn't actually get around to answering anyone's question.

But -- if these are the sorts of moves that Mike's going to make -- maybe it's good that he and a team of his trusted executives reportedly quietly slipped away from Disney headquarters in Burbank yesterday afternoon. To meet in secret some 30 miles away from the lot. With the hope that whatever it was that they were talking about wouldn't leak back to Walt's nephew and Stanley Gold.

And what is it exactly that Eisner and Co. supposedly talked about? Allegedly, they were putting together a battle plan for the next few weeks. Something that would take the wind out of Roy and Stanley's sails. Undercut the momentum of the "Oust Eisner" movement.

And what might that plan be? When I know ... You'll know. I'll post what I learn right here as soon as I get my hot little hands on the info.

But -- for now -- let's all reflect back on the idea of a CEO that's so out of touch, so arrogant, that he actually allegedly thought that he could erase Roy E. Disney from the Walt Disney Company.

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