This was NOT how executives at Buena Vista Magazines (I.E. The subsidiary of Disney Publishing Worldwide which -- obviously -- handles the company's magazines) had expected things to go down.
When it came to last week's sudden closure of "Disney" Magazine ... What these execs had been hoping for was that things would go pretty much the way they'd gone with last month's sale of "Discover" Magazine. As in: The media would basically ignore BVM's announcement that Disney was selling off this publication. And there'd be few (if any) complaints from the magazine's subscribers.
Well, obviously, that's NOT what happened with the shuttering of "Disney" Magazine. Since the news broke early Monday afternoon that this fan favorite was ceasing publication, the folks at Buena Vista Magazines suddenly found themselves in the middle of a firestorm.
By that I mean: The phone has supposedly not stopped ringing at BVM's New York offices since word initially began leaking out about "Disney" Magazine's sudden closure.
Mind you, it's not just the hardcore Disney fans who are calling to express their outrage & frustration with Buena Vista Magazine's decision to shut down "Disney" Magazine. Some very powerful (More importantly, some very angry) heads of other divisions of the Mouse House have also allegedly been calling in. Making it quite clear that they are furious that their departments were not consulted prior to this decision being made.
Why all the rage? Because these various divisions of the Disney corporation rely heavily on their ability to reach diehard Disney fans in order to sell their goods & services. And -- with "Disney" Magazine's unexpected closure -- a crucial line of communication has suddenly been cut off.
Given that there were reportedly some very heavy hitters calling in to express their anger & disappointment with Buena Vista Magazines' decision to suddenly shutter "Disney" Magazine (I'm told that among the Mouse House officials who chimed in were senior officials from Disney Theme Parks & Resorts, Disney Theatrical, Disney Consumer Products as well as Buena Vista Home Entertainment), there have been some rumblings that this publication might actually get a reprieve.
As of this moment, however, officials at Buena Vista Magazines are sticking to their guns. Insisting that they made the right decision to shut down "Disney" Magazine (Which -- occuring to BVM insiders -- only had a paid subscription base of 500,000) so that they could then focus their efforts on "FamilyFun" magazine (With a reported subscription base of 1.9 million) & "Disney Adventure" magazine (With a reported subscription base of 1.2 million). Not to mention that division's upcoming launch of "Wondertime" magazine, a brand-new publication aimed at the mother-and-child market. Which BVM hopes to have hit newsstands during the first quarter of 2006.
I've heard that the higher-ups at Buena Vista Magazines have supposedly been working the phones very hard over the past 36 hours. Trying to placate various VPs at the Walt Disney Company. Insisting that they made the right decision. More importantly, that these divisions of the Mouse House will still be able to reach the key customers that they crave by placing ads and/or providing fodder for features that can run in "FamilyFun," "Disney Adventure" and (eventually) "Wondertime" magazines.
But -- as the mainstream media begins to pick up on this story -- again there are those rumblings. Reportedly coming out from folks very high up in the Mouse House. Suggestions that BVM needs to get a lid on this crisis and fast. Why for? Because people in the Team Disney Burbank building are beginning to worry that the sudden closure of "Disney" Magazine could turn into a major PR disaster for the company.
"How so?," you ask. Well, let's consider that -- just in three weeks' time -- the media will be descending on Anaheim & Orlando. Hundreds of reporters flying in from around the globe to cover the launch of Disney's "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" celebration. Which (ostensively) is an 18-month-long event designed to celebrate Disneyland's 50th anniversary.
Well, how's it going to look if the Walt Disney Company -- with little or no warning to that publication's staffers -- suddenly shuts down one of the very first vehicles that the corporation successfully used to promote that theme park? Given that "Disney" Magazine (if you take into account its earlier incarnations, "Disney News" & "Vacationland" magazine) is almost as old as Disneyland ... Isn't that going to lead to some pretty awkward questions from reporters? Like "How can the Walt Disney Company be asking the public to come celebrate Disneyland's past when the Mouse seems so eager to shed important parts of its own corporate heritage?"
Okay. I know. That's a somewhat labored analogy. But it honestly isn't going to be as easy for Mickey to shrug off questions like that as one might think. Particularly given that the very last issue of "Disney" Magazine (I.E. The Summer 2005 edition. The one that DM staffers are currently putting to bed even as they pack up their offices) is virtually an 88-page valentine to Disneyland and the theme park's 50th anniversary.
Of course, what really isn't helping matters that the writers & editors at "Disney" Magazine are now reaching out to their friends in the media and beginning to talk about how short-sighted Mouse House management is, how furious various VPs at the Walt Disney Company are for not being consulted on the publication's closure, etc.
So will all of this extra heat & light on the "Disney" Magazine closure story be enough to earn that publication a last minute reprieve? Right now, it's pretty hard to say. But JHM will be keeping a close watch on this still-evolving situation. And if there are any interesting developments ... Well, we'll be sure & pass them along.