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Why For returns !

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Why For returns !

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First up, Rich writes in to say:

Hello, Jim,

I was hoping you could answer this Disney related riddle for me since you seem to be the Disney Go To Guy. A friend, knowing I am a huge fan of both Dave Steven's The Rocketeer, as well as of the Disney film, once told me that in the summer of 1991, Disneyland replaced Tinkerbell flying over the part during the fireworks with the Rocketeer.

Do you know if there is any truth to this? And if so, what information can you tell me about this?

Thanks in advance for your help,


Dear Rich --

Well, your friend is of sort kind of right. While Disneyland has occasionally allowed someone other than Tinkerbell to slide down the wire that used to stretch from the top of the Matterhorn to just behind the Village Haus Restaurant (I.E. During the 1960s, at the height of "Mary Poppins" popularity, the world's first Supernanny used to fly over Fantasyland. And during the summer of 1995, right after "The Indiana Jones Adventure" opened, Dr. Jones also zoomed through the sky over that theme park), the Rocketeer never made any regularly scheduled flights over Anaheim.

However, 3000 miles to the east, this Dave Stevens character did (for a short while, anyway) have a featured spot in Disney-MGM Studios theme park's nighttime fireworks extravaganza, "Sorcery in the Sky." During the Summer of 1991, a stuntman wearing a Rocketeer-like jetpack would make a brief flight around the Chinese Theater's forecourt area as a snippet from the film's soundtrack played.

Copyright 1991 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Ironically enough, Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo's original screenplay for "The Rocketeer" featured an action sequence that was actually set at the really-for-real Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Unfortunately, due to budgetary reasons, this witty little scene was cut out of the picture just prior to production.

Lucky for you folks, I have a copy of that film's original script in my research library. And -- for those of you who are familiar with "The Rocketeer" -- this scene would have come right after Cliff Secord & Peevy Peabody have escaped from Eddie Valentine's goons. Since he's just learned that his girlfriend Jenny is in danger, Cliff once again straps on Howard Hughes' experimental jetpack and makes ready to take to the skies.


Cliff stands precariously on the Bulldog's "head." He takes a deep breath and poises his thumb over the ignition button.

Here goes nothing.

He presses the switch. The enormous dog is briefly crowned with fire as the Rocketeer blasts off into the darkness.


Like a shooting start, Cliff streaks through the night, the lights of the city brilliant below.

Circling like a hawk, Cliff looks down at the confusing swirl of illuminating streets and rooftops.

He fumbles in his jacket for a map of the city. As he attempts to open it, the wind plasters the map to his helmet, blinding him. Cliff tears at the map. It flies off and bursts into flames as it passes through the rocket's exhaust.

As the Rocketeer passes over Hollywood Boulevard, he is suddenly illuminated by a spotlight.

Startled, he looks down to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre, a gala movie premiere is in progress.


On the theatre's roof, an excited SPOTLIGHT MAN is attempting to track Cliff across the sky.

What the heck ... ?

He swings the heavy light on its pivot. Then, the operator's foot slips over the edge of the roof. He stumble and rolls over the brink, hands clawing. His fingers seize on a gutter and he hangs precariously over the forecourt.

Down below, however, all attention centers on a roped-off pad of wet cement.

Theatre owner SID GRAUMAN stands at the microphone, trying to get the attention of the crowd, who are transfixed by the beautiful blonde walking up the red carpet. Flashbulbs pop like fire works.

Ladies and gentlemen, please ... Please welcome the lovely Ginger Rogers.
Who will become part of Hollywood history by leaving the prints of her hands
and feet in our world famous --

A panicked voice interrupts Grauman.

Oh my God! Look up there!

All attention shifts to the Spotlight Man dangling from the theatre's main tower. The other searchlights sweep over to illuminate him. Women scream as the unfortunate employee vainly attempts to pull himself up. Helpless, Ginger Rogers, her tuxedoed escort, and the pack of spectators hold their breath.

Then, the man's fingers loose their desperate grip. The crowd gasps in horror as he drops to the pavement.

An explosive roar thunders down from above. Cliff's path is drawn by the rocket's fiery trail as he scoops up the falling man just before impact. Barely managing the extra weight, Cliff circles above the crowd then drops the man safely into a group of policemen.

The crowd goes bezerk. Every spotlight, camera, and eye is on Cliff. He executes a loop and lands proudly, feet spread, hands on his hips.

It is his best landing yet -- but for his feet planted firmly in the wet cement.

Flashbulbs flare blindingly as recognition ripples through the crowd.

It's him! It's the Rocketeer!

Lemme through ... Press ... move it!

Mr. Rocketeer! Who are you? Where do you --!

Cliff's moment of glory is short lived. The excited crowd surges forward. As Cliff blasts off into the night sky, thrust craves a crater in the cement between his footprints.

Thinking like a true showman, Sid Grauman grabs a pencil from a reporter. He reaches down and quickly etches "THE ROCKETEER" in the cement.

Miss Rogers! Miss Rogers!

(turning with a smile) Yes?

Would you step aside, please?

Flustered, the actress moves to one side. The reporters aim their cameras. Flashbulbs explode as the cement slab is photographed.

That's a fun little scene, don't you think? Not entirely crucial to the plot. But still, it would have been fun to see this sequence actually make it into the finished picture.

Anywho ... Next up, Darren checks in to ask:


The closest I'd ever been to my hero Walt was through a friend who was the niece of Pinto Colvig. He is best known for being the original Bozo the Clown. In the world of Disney, he was the original voice of Goofy and contributed heavily to the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" I've heard that he and Walt had a falling out of sorts. Do you know what happened or have any other interesting tidbits about this little known connection to Walt?

Dear Darren,

Yeah, I've heard the same thing about Colvig. That sometime in the early 1950s, Pinto supposedly did something something that really upset Walt. Which is why eight years passed (I.E. From 1953 "Father's Day Off" to 1961's "Aquamania") before this Mouse House veteran (His connection to the studio dated back to the old Hyperion days) was invited back on the lot to voice a new Goofy cartoon.

To be fair, this eight year absense was during a period when Walt Disney Studios was significantly cutting back on the number of animated shorts that it produced annually. So perhaps there's a more innocent way to explain Pinto's prolonged absense. That Colvig wasn't invited back to the Burbank lot for such a long time because there just wasn't any work.

Clarence "Ducky" Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck (left)
and Pinto Colvig, the original voice of Goofy (right)
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.

But -- that said -- Walt did tend to run hot & cool when it came to the studio's staff. Even talented veterans like Bill Peet & Ward Kimball wound up doing things that unintentionally earned Disney's ire. And Walt then punished these animation legends by taking away plum assignments (In Ward's case, he lost out on the chance to direct "Babes in Toyland") and/or giving them demeaning tasks (In Bill's case, he was demoted from working on story for "Sleeping Beauty" to creating storyboards for Peter Pan Peanut Butter commercials).

Given Disney's history of being very quick to anger and extremely slow to forgive ... I have to admit that I tend to lean toward the Pinto-must-have-done-something-that-really-offended-Walt explanation as to why Colvig didn't work for the Mouse Factory for eight long years.

But let me make a few phone calls and see if someone who's much more knowledgable about Disney animation history than I am has a different take on this particular tale. Which I'll then try & post as part of next week's "Why For" column.

And -- finally -- in response to yesterday's "Could cashing in on Pixar now be a whole lot harder than Disney officials had originally thought ?" article, Dory Defender writes in to say:

Why do you always have to be so f*cking negative about Pixar? What has John Lasseter ever done to you? You are such an *sshole. I hate your website. I hope that you & your entire family get cancer and die !!!

Gee, Dory Defender. Why don't you tell me how you really think?

To be honest, e-mails like kind of amuse me. Who'd have ever thunk that someone could get that emotionally overwrought over something that they've read here on JHM?

I mean, it's not like I made up that Disney Brand Management report. That's why the Walt Disney Company isn't stepping forward to deny yesterday's story. That document really does exist. More importantly, it actually does say that there's been significant erosion in the value of the characters from "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo." Which is seriously going to hamper the corporation's efforts to get a speedy return on that $7.4 billion it spent to acquire Pixar.

So why -- because I dared to post that story yesterday -- am I now the bad guy? Isn't that sort of like getting mad at your local weatherman because he tells you that it's going to rain over the weekend? I mean, that guy doesn't control the weather anymore than I control the news.

And yet -- because I choose to write about the Walt Disney Company as if it were an actual business, rather than some magical kingdom that's loaded with beautiful princesses & talking mice -- I continually get slapped with the "you're being far too negative about Disney" label. Which (to my way of thinking, anyway) just seems ... Well ... a trifle bizarre.

Make no mistake, folks. The Mouse really does want to make serious money off of Pixar. And the sooner, the better. Which is why -- after "Cars" under-performed (And it did, folks. No amount of whining or complaining by JHM readers is going to convince me or senior Disney officials or key industry observers otherwise. Initial financial projections suggested that Mickey had a "Finding Nemo" -sized hit on his hands. But "Cars" stalled out at $244 million during its domestic run, which is $95 million less than Andrew Stanton's movie earned stateside. Which is why this John Lasseter film is now considered to be something of a disappointment. End of story) and then this Brand Management report shows up ... Well, that's the sort of thing that really upsets Disney's board of directors. After all, they're the guys who okayed that $7.4 billion payout for a studio that had only produced 7 films. And they don't like being thought of as the boobs who got played by Steve Jobs, the suckers who paid at least a billion (or two ... or three ... ) too much for Pixar Animation Studios.

Which (The way I hear it) is making for some pretty awkward moments in the boardroom. Given that Steve now has a seat on Disney's board of directors. Which only makes sense, given that -- thanks to all those shares of Disney stock that Jobs acquired as a result of the Pixar acquisition -- He's now this corporation's largest individual shareholder.

Anyway, that's the story that is currently making the rounds in financial circles. Increasing discontent about the Pixar situation at the uppermost reaches of the Team Disney Burbank building.

But JHM readers ... Based on most of the talkbacks that were tacked onto yesterday's article said, you guys don't seem to want to hear any more stories like that. Reading between the lines here, it sounds as if what a lot of you really want to read here is some sort of fairy tale about how everything is sweetness & light back in Burbank. How -- now that John Lasseter & Ed Catmull are in charge of WDFA -- everything there is running as smooth as silk and everyone who works in animation at Disney is just happy-happy-happy.

If that's honestly the sorts of stories that you want to read on this website ... I'm thinking that maybe you should probably stop coming by JHM.

You know how Bill O'Reilly has his "No Spin Zone"? Well, here at JimHillMedia.com, we try & keep things Pixie Dust-free. We make an effort not to get sucked in by all of that talk about Dreams & Magic & Wishes & Wonder that the Walt Disney Company always does. I mean, just because virtually every movie that the Mouse makes ends with a " ... And they lived happily ever after" ... Well, that doesn't mean that that actually happens in real life at Disney. Just ask Chris Sanders.

So -- to answer Dory Defender's question (I.E. Why am I so f*cking negative about Pixar?) ... The way I see it, it's not that I'm being negative. It's just that everyone else seems to be looking at the Pixar / WDFA situation through rose-colored glasses. Which is why they print Disney's press releases as written. They believe what they're being told.

Which perhaps explains why this incredibly complex story (I.E. The melding of two distinctly different animation enterprises) has been so under-reported lately. Particularly the negative stuff.

So if it seems as though JHM is the only place where you're reading somewhat downbeat reports on Pixar ... Well, there's a reason for that. I don't have the standard weenie's take on the Walt Disney Company. I try to write about the Mouse as if I'm some reporter who's covering the automotive beat in Detroit. And the tone that I'm going for here is informed but dispassionate.

Mind you, sometimes it's extremely hard to remain dispassionate. Take -- for example -- my current dilemma when it comes to Pixar's next picture.

Brad Bird, director of "The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles" & "Ratatouille"
Copyright Disney / Pixar

As an animation fan, I really can't wait to see "Ratatouille." Given that Nancy & I are such huge Brad Bird fans, this is probably the film that I am most looking forward to seeing in 2007. Simply based on Brad's history (Plus what I've seen so far of the film's characters from various books & the trailer as well as the voice talent that Pixar has tapped to work on this picture), "Ratatouille" looks like a thoroughily delightful movie. Something that I'll probably see two or three times while it's in theaters this summer.

But that's just Jim Hill, animation fan, talking. When I put my reporter hat on, I then to admit that there's still some very weird buzz swirling around this film. That those within the company who have already seen the work-in-progress version of "Ratatouille" will first tell you that they absolutely love this movie, that it's some of Bird's best work ... But then they'll go on to say that they still expect this Pixar film to do only 2/3rds of the business that "Cars" did. Which means that this Brad Bird movie -- just like the John Lasseter film that preceded it -- will get tagged with the "Pixar disappointment" label.

Now I'm assuming that JHM readers would actually like to know about something like that. That -- in spite of the recent assurances that were posted here on this website that Disney has this situation well in hand -- there are still those in-house who are very concerned about this Brad Bird movie.

But then when I read the 40+ talkbacks from yesterday (Plus -- of course -- Dory Defender's delightful note), where JHM readers go on & on how they don't want to read any more negative Pixar-related stories. And then I think: "Well, it's not like I commissioned that report. Disney Brand Management did. All I did was report its findings."

I mean, is that what you really want? That I not report stories like this? Are you honestly saying that you'd prefer not knowing about stuff like this? That we all should just pretend that bad news never happens at the Walt Disney Company? Because I'm not sure that I can do that, folks.

That said, I'd be willing to consider some editorial guidance from JHM readers. So what it is exactly that you want to see at this website? What do you want to see more of? More importantly, what do you want to see less of?

Mind you, I make no promises that I actually follow any of the suggestions that you folks post in the talkback section of today's column. But I will make a point of reading through each of your comments this coming weekend. And -- if a strong enough pattern emerges -- maybe we'll make a few changes at the site. Maybe.

Soooo ... Your thoughts?

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  • Wall Street analysts and film executives can not predict the future with 100% accuracy. This is never the fault of any analyst or executive - it must be a problem with the product and/or company (since meeting or exceeding financial goals can only be attributed to marketing efforts). That's basically what we learn from any financial business story. It's not a matter of tinted lenses, it's just not informative, unless you're "trying to work the market." I can present numbers, graphs, alleged quotes from disgruntled workers, and flashy powerpoint presentations that will conclusively show that any American product or company is either the next big thing, or just two steps away from bankruptcy. Any acquisition can be too costly while at the same time a fantastic deal. Pick your bias and proceed accordingly.

    This past year, Disney Co ended up with the #1 and #2 movies of the year, yet "company sources" are still "concerned." Where have they been the last twelve years?  Must have been confined to suicide watch.

    Today's big story - Annie Leibovitz has taken pictures of various celebrities interpreted as Disney characters to promote the unfortunate Year of a Million Dreams campaign. The photos are digitally altered to include castles or fantasy  effects.  This qualifies as a financial story. Disney paid Annie a chunk of change - even though staff photographers could get the same shots and digitally edit them. Disney paid the celebrities a chunk of change - not even using Disney TV or film stars. Beyonce is currently promoting a Dreamworks film (Dreamgirls), Scarlett Johansson's next film is from the Weinstein Company(Nanny Diaries) - a company created when the Weinsteins got chased off Disney property, and I don't know what David Beckham is promoting. Disney paid airlines and hotels a chunk of change - Annie brags that Disney flew heavy teacups to her New York farm, and I know those celebrities need their hotel suites, hair stylists, and personal massages. Finally Disney will pay the magazines a chunk of change to run these ads.

    Creatively - Why didn't they use celebrities somehow affiliated with Disney? Boston Legal's James Spader and William Shatner as Peter Pan and Captain Hook, any two Desperate Housewives as Snow White and the Queen with her mirror, Jimmy Kimmel as Pinocchio, at least George Lopez or Jim Belushi as the Mad Hatter instead of Oliver Platt.         Was Annie able to take pictures that were impossible for Disney's staff photographers to create?      Will people make the leap from seeing Beyonce in a teacup to booking a vacation at WDW?

    Financially - Was this money well spent? Is the company better off promoting fluff, knowing that a minimum number of bodies will come to the parks anyway? Or should the company return to putting most of the money back into the parks, and let the new attractions pull people in? Especially with several TV stations at their disposal now.    Hiring Annie got the company "free publicity", but are there really that many people who are unaware that the Disney Co exists?

    This type of spending goes on every single day at Disney Co unquestioned. Actual cash payments - not exchanging paper stock that completed the Pixar deal. Executives have huge expense accounts that go unchecked unless a scandal erupts.

    Financial articles are fine - let's start examining how the money is really spent. Why do executives feel it's a good idea to spend $$$ trying to save a poorly planned ad campaign, but not on front line worker salaries?  Why are executive bonuses always paid regardless of the condition of park attractions? Why is every theme park ride cut back due to costs, but there's plenty of money for Iger's security force? Why is there enough money for manager pay and benefits, but not enough money for animator pay and benefits?

    The Pixar deal was a home run. Disney Co got full control of Pixar's past, present, and future - by using paper stock instead of cash. That Disney stock was also floundering at the time. I would sure rather see Lassetter and company get stock bonuses - after directly contributing to Disney Co's bottom line. I don't remember Eisner, Iger, Mitchell, Ovitz, or any other recent Disney exec storyboarding, writing, directing, or animating any hit for Disney Co.

  • "But then they'll go on to say that they still expect this Pixar film to do only 2/3rds of the business that "Cars" did. Which means that this Brad Bird movie -- just like the John Lasseter film that preceded it -- will get tagged with the "Pixar disappointment" label."

    You know, i can't quite put my finger on it, but somehow this seems famil...

    Oh, wait......


    You know, if you did the math, 2/3rds of Finding Nemo Projected Box Office take - 2/3rds of The Incredibles take - 2/3rds Cars take would probably equal about a buck tweny five Box Office take for Ratatouille.

    In all honesty Mr. Hill, I used to love reading your work and was constantly amazed at how in a week you put together a good two three part series on things like "The Making of Alien Encounter," you know, stuff no one has heard about. I even made the trek from your time with Al Lutz, through the Coaster Society and Laughing Place till you set up shop here. On the site's opening day I was kinda hopeful, but since then it's been a landslide down hill as you traded good stories for a daily dose of "Stock Market Mouse" and "Oh holy %^&, Pixar was SUCH A DUMB MISTAKE FOR THE COMPANY."

    While I have theories about how the site hits you got during the Save Disney thing warped you into thinking people come here for a CNBC style take on the mouse, I know that I (and I'm willing to bet others) have come here less and less often for your epic stories and more for Jim Korkis (sp?) and Floyd Norman's amazing tales of animation history.

    Oh and I do come here sometimes to watch the slow erosion of this site. Yep, I'm the kinda guy who rubbernecks at a crash along the freeway.

  • Are you people actually Jim Hill fans?!? You all take the time to read his articles. You then post time and time again. All the while taking every potshot at him you can. WTF is wrong with you people. You know what, I tried sushi before and I didn't like it. I didn't eat the sushi, then eat it again and again, then proceed to write a letter as to why I didn't like it each time. You know what Jim, I do not always agree with what you say or how you say it and I may have brought that up before, but I only said what I had to say once and moved on. Forget all of these fanboy losers who keep coming here and trashing the place. If you don't like Jim's take on Disney, then GO AWAY!!! Get a life people, spend time interacting with things that you can associate with, not things that seem send you over the edge. In fact here is a website you may enjoy www.disney.com.  I personally have a ton of opinions of the current state of Disney, and most of them are not good. Not to be all WWWD, but the movies and parks have turned in to a bunch of suits coming up with things like "brand management." That is what is really wrong with Disney, not Jim's articles. Disney needs to let the people with imagination start making the big desicions, not the penny pinching, money grubing, lifeless corporate jackasses. Now that the readers and I are BFF, I will stop my rant.

  • Well, it seems like most people are supportive of you, while still offering intelligent suggestions and criticisms.  I don't know if that's what you were looking for in response, but hopefully so.  I agree with many people so far, but pschnebs and ajguy really described what I am feeling.  I started reading your articles because I learned so many cool things about the Disney company that I never knew before - plans that never made it off the drawing board, hidden secrets and suprises, and the people behind the magic that I love.  I really trust your book reviews, and have bought many titles on your suggestion alone.  I love the pictures and tidbits you share, and I'm particularly fond of the why fors which bring up so many interesting topics, and your long-winded series (seri? plural) particularly when they get finished.  I for one liked the Scrooge series, because it was filled with interesting factoids that I'd never learn elsewhere, and you actually finished!  However, I find myself spending more time in the archives looking for fun articles like those, as opposed to reading some of the newer attack articles.  Telling us about the ugly side of Disney is fine, if you've got some relevant facts or interesting insights to share.  It's not worth reading for me if it's just an attack, with no history, relevance, or restraint.  Again, most people mentioned that these articles would be fine in moderation, but you have dropped everything that used to be fun about reading your site in favor of pieces that only look at the negative side of Pixar.  There's not been one good thing to report in the last six months?  No new why for questions?  No more plans that never made it?  I want that back.

  • Jim, Jim, Jim ...

    I'm sorry ... I am a professional journalist and where I work most of what you print would never see the light of day as a news story. Great column material with a smattering of news, but a bit too much of it is muckraking and slanted journalism. You rely too often on unnamed sources and no one knows what ax they might have to grind.

    Now, I know, after talking to our friend, Roger, that you don't think anyone who feeds you inside information should lose their job for doing so ... That's fair and understandable ... but we, as readers, never know what you're writing is based on one source, two sources, three. We never know if you have a complete copy of any report you write about or if you're being fed some small piece of it that helps spin the story in the way you or your source wants. Still, there's a lot here, to read and enjoy ... I like your historical articles, Floyd Norman's great column and other stuff.

    Plenty of people -- official corporate sources and independent outsiders -- have a good grasp of the subject material. Plenty of Wall Street-types and investment fund officials, experts on box office tallies, consumer products, theme park and tourism trends, etc. -- people only too happy to get a little web ink. Still, if you go into something with an agenda, you're apt to talk only to those who will give exactly what you want.

    There's always someone on the other side of an issue ... and larger, more important questions you fail to address. The whyfor. When your stories fail to ask the bigger questions, your loyal readers are there to say "what the hay?"

    We're fans and people who are LOOKING at the BIG PICTURE and not focusing on one important but much smaller cog. This cuts both ways -- at the theme parks the smaller cogs can really impact the big picture. With the motion prictures, all I care about both as a Disney shareholder and filmgoer, is that people are entertained and the movie turns a profit.  Walt didn't have the string of successes that Pixar has enjoyed -- that's factually true. Many of Disney's early animated features lost money in their initial release. Would anyone today call "Pinocchio," "Alice in Wonderland," "Fantasia" or so many other classics "failures" or "disappointments"?

    So, when someone argues that "Cars" -- Disney's second-highest grossing film of the year -- wasn't a success, we bring out the nets and try to get him checked into a mental institution because only someone suffering from delusions would, with conviction and a straight face, continue to try and convince everyone else he's right.  Wall Street has deemed it so. It must be true -- even if it's absurd. Don't look at how poorly all the other films did at the box office, all the other films that failed to live up to expectations. I'd venture to say that $1 investment vs. $1 returned that every one of Pixar's films was more successful than any Disney animated film released in the last decade.

    The question isn't "did Disney overpay for Pixar." I think this was a historical decision by Bob Iger and one that your grandchildren's grandchildren will be grateful was made.  Let it be judged by history.  Anyone who expects Disney to recoup its investment overnight, in a year, or even in a decade, is delusional. Anyone who thinks it wasn't in the best interests of EVERY shareholder at Disney and Pixar had a chance to be heard. Disney gets a creative braintrust and Pixar gets the genius of Disney marketing and merchandising -- and some assurances that its characters will live on for generations to come.

    There certainly was a lot more stockholder value in the Pixar purchase than the fiasco of hiring Michael Ovitz. And, what about the severance package and golden handshake Mr. Eisner took when he finally woke up and realized he overstayed his welcome? CEO compensation is still way out of whack and even failures are generously rewarded when they're forced out.

    Jim, I guess I'm a little disappointed because I KNOW you know a lot more about the history of the enterprise Walt and Roy Disney started nearly 100 years ago. Somehow, I think Disney's going to make as much off of the licensing of "Cars" merchandise as it has with "Winnie the Pooh."

    I haven't heard of any toy companies having to dump any Pixar-related products like they did with "Brother Bear" and I recall a certain article you wrote about how Disney couldn't even get a buy-in with "Toys R Us" on "The Wild." The small Mattel die-cast "Cars" characters are still flying off the shelves and there are still several new ones that can be introduced.

    Now, as far as other Pixar character merchandise sales falling off ... well, that's simply marketing -- and characters do have a primary life and then a long slow fade ... Disney's still best at keeping many of its characters alive with the theme parks, the ice shows, broadway shows, through books, re-releases both theatrical and video. Shrek III is coming and I'd bet it doesn't hold a candle to the character licensing revenues that Disney collects from Woody, Buzz and the Toy Story gang.

    The children who grew up with Pixar's characters will enjoy introducing their children and grandchildren to them just as I was introduced to Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the films of Frank Capra and Billy Wilder.

    Jim, I like your site and most of your stories ... you're certainly free to write anything you wish. But many of us have noticed that when your columns are challenged, you fight back ... and throw gasoline on a raging inferno and dance with delight as your site visits increase.

    You don't take criticism constructively ... you don't seem to take a step back and ponder why you're being attacked. Could it be that you've not asked enough questions and really tried to give up both sides of the story? That you haven't considered how out of touch some Disney suits and greedy Wall Street analysts are with the general public?

    Truth, without spin or pixie dust, interests me a great deal. Holes in stories -- not digging or asking the bigger questions -- is not journalism. I like this site and many of your researched historical articles. But, like most everything I read on the 'net -- and even the mainstream media -- I filter it through my own bullxxxx filter, my own experiences, knowledge and understanding. Sometimes you amuse me; sometimes you enlighten me; and, sometimes you infuriate me. But, thankfuly, even through the arduous "Christmas Carol" series, you've rarely bored me.

  • curmudgeon said:

    "This past year, Disney Co ended up with the #1 and #2 movies of the year, yet "company sources" are still "concerned." Where have they been the last twelve years?  Must have been confined to suicide watch."

    This is, without a doubt, the funniest comment in this entire thread!

    Thanks, curmudgeon ... you gave me a good belly laugh this morning!

  • it's good to see why for? return even though it was like watching my boss chew on an employee who stepped out of line.

    The site is fine Jim, a good mixture of articles about Disney past with Disney future. I like both your articles as well as those by other experts in the field. Maybe we need two different views of the same report. A dis or dat report by yourself and someone with an entirely different viewpoint. I think that would be something worth reading.

  • "Ratatouille" won't be considered a disappointment if Disney and Pixar simply set expectations properly. "Cars" only underperformed in that it didn't perform to the hype that was set for it.

  • Hey Jim,

    I like your site. Reading about the good/bad stuff altogether, is interesting. I think the issue is that many JHM readers come to your site to read about current/past Disney projects rather than the status of the company. Its a shame because they forget that Disney is a large corporation and like any business, it has its ups and downs. In Disney's case, many downs.

    On a random note, I have a question about the Wall*E film. In a business sense, will little/no dialogue in a film really jeopardize its success? I was really curious about that. Thanks.

  • I just realized something. If people don't like the stuff they read on JHM, or feel that you are a bad writer, why do they still come to your site...?

    Whenever I watch a bad TV show, I stop watching it. Simple.

    Makes you wonder, huh?

  • I love most articles, particulary about the current inner workings of the House the Mouse Built.  However, the articles that "drone" on about the gross of movies (like Cars) get rather boring for even a math teacher!  

  • I hate to jump into already stale waters filled with ravenous sharks, but I must add my two cents about "Ratatouille" and its box office prospects.

    I really don't see how "Ratatouille" can be a huge success in a summer as jam-packed as the one we're about to witness. It has an unwieldly title, mangy looking rats as stars, and no topline name attached to it (I don't think the name Brad Bird resonates with Joe Q. Moviegoer, and neither does Patton Oswalt).

    It will be competing with a thick field of G, PG and PG-13 flicks for the entertainment dollar -- "Harry Potter" will kill any box office legs it might have two weeks after the rats are unleashed, and "Shrek the Third" and "Pirates" will still be sailing strongly. Its toughest competition will come from "Evan Almighty," which opens the week beforehand and, with its trailers chock full of animals, is clearly aiming at a younger audience than its Jim Carrey predecessor.

    If "Ratatouille" is going to enter $200 million territory, it's going to have to be one of those movies that's No. 3 every weekend for like two months. It's certainly within the realm of possibility, but a low opening weekend could doom it as a failure in the press, fairly or not.

    Of course, I could be dead wrong -- $450 million-worth of "Pirates" watchers will see the "Rat" trailer right before Jack Sparrow's triumphant return...

  • Pschnebs said: "What the freak is going on at Disneyshopping.com? The whole idea of unloading the Disney Stores was to put the rest of the merchadise division on a better footing, but it seems like Disneyshopping.com's imploding."

    Jim, the above is a great observation that has a news item behind it just waiting to be properly reported. The fact is, the entire art department at Disney Consumer Products was dissolved on Oct. 1st and this tragic news has pretty much been below everybody's radar. To my knowledge, only Cartoon Brew has made mention of it, but there's a story that I think needs to be delved deeply into by a guy like yourself. The gist of it is that all of the artists that generated all of the terrific merchandise geared towards the Disneyana collectors have been unceremoniously dumped. The result is that we're probably going to see less and less of the quality merchandise (Big Figs, snow globes, vintage Disneyland memorabilia, etc.) and more of the mass-market dreck that you can just as easily find on the Wal*Mart shelves. I'm telling you, Jim, I think someone needs to write an exposé on why it is that Disney management doesn't value artists anymore.

  • Pinto Colvig remained a valued colleague of Walt's over the years. He left Disney in 1939, worked free-lance as a voice man, and went to Miami and worked for Fleischer in story and voice--and did a lot of itinerant work for others. He did voice work back at Disney through the 1940s.

    In July, 1953 Colvig appeared in a re-creation of the composition of "Who's Afraid of the Big bad Wolf?" staged for the Ed Sullivan "Toast of the Town" TV show, and later re-used on the Disney TV episode "Cavalcade of Songs."

    I have never heard of a feud or falling out between Walt and Colvig, but Colvig was a performer who liked the limelight, and the Disney Studio only offered a limited and controlled access to that.

  • Thanks for your efforts Jim Hill & those with your site.   I agree.  It’s important to keep the rose color glasses off.  You can fully appreciate all of the true artists hard work that way.    You can then applaud those who need to be credited with.  And thus you can see who to fire that screw the artists, and shareholders over.   The various postings to this discussion/your posting were wonderful to read and reaffirm that logic is still alive.   BTW: Great snowman Jim - who did it?  (BTW: I think it's "Dave Stevens" not Dale.

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