Boy, I bet that the folks at Bekins wish that they had the Disney account.
Inside of just one month, we've had Marty Sklar pull up stakes ...
Drawing courtesy of Hani El-Masri
... vacating his position as WDI's Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive to take on a new role as Imagineering's ambassador to the Disney parks and resorts.
Well -- just because the universe has to remain in balance -- whenever the Walt Disney Company experiences an enormous departure like this, someone of equal size has then to return to the Mouse House.
Well, in this case, make that two someones. According to the Hollywood Reporter, WDFA's winningest directorial team -- Ron Clements & John Musker (I.E. The guys who brought us "The Great Mouse Detective" AND "The Little Mermaid" AND "Aladdin" AND "Hercules" AND "Treasure Planet") -- have agreed to return to the studio.
Mind you, no official word has come down yet regarding what Ron-n-John's first official assignment for WDFA might be. But the current scuttlebutt is that John Lasseter and Ed Catmull allegedly asked Clements & Musker to come back so that these two could then play a key role in the revival of Disney's traditional animation unit. So that's pretty great news, don't you think?
Mind you, there's also been a bit of mixed news coming out of the Mouse House this week. Remember that story that JHM ran this past Monday about how Pete Docter might soon be coming on board at WDI as John Lasseter's eyes & ears within that Disney business unit? Well, it appears that there's been a bit of a hiccup with that plan.
You see, while Docter readily admits that he's a heavy-duty Disney theme park geek, he also has a wife and two young kids. And Pete's family ... They love that Northern California lifestyle. Which is why Docter reportedly doesn't think that it would be all that fair to uproot his family and head on down to LA. Just so he can then keep an eye on Walt Disney Imagineering.
Then there's the factor that Pete and a team of very talented artists are already at work on Docter's next animated feature for Pixar. Which also precludes him from just pulling up stakes and heading down on to Glendale.
But -- that said -- Docter (Just like John Lasseter) has had a life-long love affair with the Disney theme parks. Which is why Pete is quite anxious to play a role -- any role -- in the revitalization of the parks in general and Walt Disney Imagineering in particular.
So will this mean that -- like Lasseter -- Docter will be spending several days a week down in Southern California, as he tries to get a handle on WDI's peculiar corporate culture? Or will Pete have to temporarily relocate to LA, maybe do six months on site, as he helps John put together a battle plan as to how they can Re-Imagineer Walt Disney Imagineering? No one knows for sure right now.
Mind you, I've heard from several folks in Emeryville that the real fear is -- once Docter walks through the front door at 1401 Flower Street -- that Pixar will ever never get him back. That this is just the sort of assignment that Pete's always dreamed of having (I.E. Doing what Marc Davis did. Bringing an animator's sensibility about how to correctly stage a scene, how to properly pay off a gag, back to Walt Disney Imagineering). And given that -- while Docter supposedly says that he'd never relocate to LA, move his family from Northern California to Southern California -- it may then be difficult to resist the siren's call once he starts working day-to-day with the Imagineers.
So -- in the end -- I guess we're just going to have to wait & see as to how this whole Pete-Docter-working-with-the-Imagineers-in-order-to-revitalize-WDI story actually plays out.
And speaking of stories that have yet to be played out, let's look ahead to July of this year. When the Walt Disney Company completes its acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios. More importantly, when Steve Jobs becomes Disney's largest individual shareholder.
Now you may have seen some stories lately that have speculated about whether Apple would ever make an attempt to acquire the Walt Disney Company. That Steve might take a stab at grabbing the Mouse Factory and making it his own. Which -- given Jobs' agressive nature and previous work history (EX: Look at what happened to poor Gil Amelio when Steve returned to Apple in February of 1997. Within six months, Amelio was out as Apple's CEO and Jobs was then named as the new interim head of that corporation) ... Well, I guess you can see why some people might have some concerns about Bob Iger's long term job security.
Which brings me to a story that I've now heard several times from several different sources in Burbank. Which has to do with an office betting pool at Disney.
The way I hear it, there are two office betting pools currently being operated by middle managers at the Walt Disney Company. One will allegedly allow you to pick the date that you think Steve Jobs will be named as George Mitchell's successor (I.E. Meaning that Jobs would then become Disney's next Chairman of the Board). FYI: The range of dates for that wager reportedly runs from July 2006 through December 2007.
While the other Mouse House betting pool supposedly allows you to select the date that Steve Jobs will replace Bob Iger as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. And the range of dates for that pool reportedly runs from July 2007 through December 2008.
Sooo ... Given that members of Iger's own management team is now supposedly already laying down money, betting that he will eventually be shoved aside by Steve Jobs ... Maybe Bob better get Bekins on retainer.