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Monday Mouse Watch : Mickey, Minnie ... and Michael ?!

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Monday Mouse Watch : Mickey, Minnie ... and Michael ?!

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It's the highest honor that a Mouse House employee can possibly recieve. The Disney Legends award.

Established in 1987 to honor " ... the many individuals whose imagination, talents and dreams have created ... Disney magic," each year's honorees are selected by a committe chaired by Roy E. Disney. And over the past two decades, this awards program has paid tribute to dozens of animators, Imagineers, actors and executives who have had a significant impact on the creative legacy of the Walt Disney Company.

And based on the list of 2008 honorees that JHM recently got a peek at, that tradition of excellence & achievement will continue with this year's awards. Among those selected for induction are:

All of the folks listed above (particularly those last two. For those of you who don't know, Russi & Wayne are the husband-and-wife team who are the official voices of Minnie & Mickey Mouse) are obviously deserving of recognition. Which is why I'm sure that the entire Disneyana community will applaud their nominations.

Minnie & Mickey flanked Michael Eisner earlier this year,
when Disney's former CEO was honored with his
very own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

There is -- however -- one additional Disney Legends honoree that I'm sure certain segments of the fan community are going to have some trouble with. And that's the company's former CEO Michael Eisner.

Now before all of that "Save Disney" era talk can start up again, where the die-hard fans rail about how Eisner almost drove this company into the ground ... I think it's important to take in the bigger picture. You gotta remember that -- when Michael & Frank Wells first took control back in October of 1984 -- Walt Disney Productions was a show business dinosaur verging on extinction. The corporation had just survived two greenmail attempts. And few -- if anyone -- in Hollywood took this Burbank-based operation seriously.

But under Eisner & Wells' guidance (with a large assist from then-Disney Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg), the Mouse House eventually became a media powerhouse. Over the two decades, the company built seven new theme parks, acquired ABC, ESPN as well as several other cable channels, launched a cruise line as well as creating a stage division.

And during that time, Walt Disney Productions grew from being a $1.5 billion operation (with most of that value coming from the company's theme park division as well as its film library) to a $30.75 billion behemoth. A worldwide multimedia corporation with nearly 130,000 employees (which was up almost 100,000 from the 28,000 people who were working for Disney back in 1984).

An achievement of that size does deserve some recognition, folks. Which is why it's only right that Michael Eisner receive a Disney Legends award. But I would imagine that there are those of you who would disagree. Which is what JHM's TalkBack section was built for.

So -- please -- share your thoughts on what's sure to be a somewhat controversial ceremony. Which will be held sometime later this fall in the Disney Legends Plaza on the Burbank lot.

Your thoughts?

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  • I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but here goes:

    Maybe Ei$ner deserves to be named a Disney Legend at some point in time, but I think it's too soon for him to receive this honor.  There are still a lot of hard feelings associated with him and his reign and I think it would have been less jarring if it occurred a few years down the road instead of now.  Kind of reminds me of Ford pardoning Nixon so soon after he left office.

    There are plenty of others who are more deserving of this honor that have waited much longer.

  • Well I might get flamed for this but I say why not?  I'm not a fan of the last few years of his reign and think he's probably a royal jerk but for every horrible decision he made he also came up with some brilliant ones and pushed the company forward in several ways.  Eisney was around long enough that often people forget that a lot of the "good ole days" that they remember were under HIS guidance.  Certainly all of my fond memories at MGM-Studios are partially indebt to him.

    Does he deserve the honor?  Yes.  End of story.  Whether the timing is right is a silly question.  Waiting five-ten years will only cause old wounds to come up.  Rip the band-aid off now and get it over with so we can move on.

    Oh and for the record, while he may not be as deserving when it comes to personal integrity and quality of character, he HAS done more for DISNEY then Barbra Walters.

  • At the risk of sounding oh so very grown-up and sensible, may I remind everyone of something?

    The Walt Disney Company is.....A COMPANY. It is not a church, a benificent charity, or some extra-territorial commission. The "honoors" it bestows on its own EMPLOYEES are about PROMOTION and profit, not some extra-human non-commercial and utterly altruistic effort to make The Planet, let alone The Human Race more wonderful or honorable or moral or good.

    So when they give these honors and "legends" and stuff, what they're doing is about promoting themselves and playing politics. Why oh why oh why do some of you get your knickers in a knot about this sort of thing? When you do, and when you stir the pot by giving this purely internal promotional process attention and gravitas it does not deserve, you only HELP them do what they do.

    When I was a film student at the University Of Southern California a LONG long time ago, there was a wonderfully crusty and down-to-earth prof named Dave Johnson who, among his other frank statements ("The definition of an Associate Producer is...anyone who will associate with the Producer." was a favorite) used to accost any student new enough to not expect it when he caught one wearing a teeshirt or hat or other promotional item with a film or studio logo or slogan or name on it and ask, "Tell me something--did they PAY you to advertise them on your chest/head/body all day today?"

    So please, folks--get a grip. This isn't even a big deal, as much as we can all take enjoyment in the work of "Walt's Old Men" and the rest of the bygone Disney artists and contributors. This whole "Legends" thing is a ripoff, basically, of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is a ripoff of other "halls of fame" and the rest of the efforts of PRIVATE businesses to somehow imbue their works and personalities with some sort of extra-human quality in the name of self-promotion and profit.  

    The same b.s. happens (and is happening now) every few years in the form of the Olympic "movement"--which isn't a "movement" but a COMPANY making MONEY. That doesn't dilute the brilliant efforts of the athletes and I have ZERO problem with moneymaking. It just doesn't give some glowing "magic" nobility to the enterprise that isn't there in its deeds.

    The point of the "Legends" isn't their naming, but their WORK. And for those who are quick to dump on Mikey, consider how many great Disney movies and attractions and things he, even though he's clearly the evil, demented, rotten s.o.b. you all just KNOW he is, greenlighted and made real and, more importantly, found the CASH to make happen and, in the process, put cash in the pockets of thousands of employees, stockholders, and the millions of companies that do business with or around the Mouse House nexus.

    Get real, ok? Otherwise, your comments and angst over this silly thing will wind up looking...well...kinda Mickey Mouse.

  • I think that Eisner should become a 'Legend', but not yet.  Maybe in about 10 years?  What's the hurry Jim?

  • Of course Mr. Eisner is deserving of this honor. And of course he is deserving of it right now.

    Tuckenie is correct when he notes "for every horrible decision he made he also came up with some brilliant ones and pushed the company forward in several ways."

    Even in the latter part of his career, he held firm on the Pixar negotiations (which benefitted the company), he advocated the promotion of Iger to CEO (a wise choice -- affirmed by Roy Disney's return to the company) and he backhanded Comcast's weak hostile takeover.

    Making him wait seems like a petty gesture

    Was he perfect? Nope. But his remarkable contribution to the company makes him more than deserving of this honor.

  • Um, John, the only comment here that's remotely angst-y is yours.  Telling people to "get a grip" after only two calm, reasonable posts begs the response "Doctor, heal thyself".

    As for the substance of your post, way to belabor the obvious point.  Sure, Disney is a business, but that doesn't mean that the Disney Legend award isn't a great honor.  Disney is a megacorp now, but it started as a way for one man to -- yes, make some money, but to entertain the masses as he did so.

    Regardless of whether the Legends program is naught but a marketing scheme these days, it still offers recognition to people who have done much to entertain us over the years, often in ways we don't always realize.  To the extent that they bring attention to these names, whether forgotten or not, they remain valuable and worthy of discussion.

  • I don't think Eisner should get a legend award. For several reasons.  First off, he's not a legend.  He hasn't pioneered anything, didn't create anything new and hasn't been around for as long as the title LEGEND implies. Also, while I agree that he did bring Disney back from the brink, in a business sense, hr didn't do it by himself. He made excellent use of what was already there and exploited it to maximum profit. He also had Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg helping him achieve everything good that the company achieved.  And let's be real, Katzenberg and Roy Disney were the ones who revitalized Disney Animation which is the keystone of the company.  And of course, you can't discount the amount of damage Eisner did to the company by driving away Katzenberg, bringing in Ovitz, alienating Pixar, allowing hand drawn animation to die and bringing in legions of folks who had no idea how to create themeparks, like Paul Pressler. So, while it doesn't ANGER me to se Eisner considered, I do think it's insulting to those who have received the honor for him to be nominated. It demeans the whole idea of Disney Legend and turns it into nothing more than crass self promotion. Which is probably what it is anyway, but it shouldn't be so obvious.   Does Eisner deserve some kind of positive recognition? Absolutely, he did some fine work at Disney in the beginning. He's a remarkable and even creative executive, But, he's not a Disney Legend.

    And just what IS Barbara Walters doing there?  For her work at ABC? Most of her work was done before Disney owned ABC so she seems somewhat ineligible for this. Not to belittle Barbara Walters. She is a superb journalist/commentator.  But, not a part of Disney history.

  • Here's the link with all the legends:


    It's quite a diverse group, including, among others, Tim Allen and Elton John.

    I guess when you look at what the group is comprised of, it makes sense to have Eisner in there too. After all, Frank Wells is on the list, and he and Eisner were the dynamic duo for a decade. Even Card Walker made it to the Disney Legends in 1993.

  • He does deserve it and people will complain a little online and then forget it after the ceremony.  Just let it go....

  • Whateva'

    It was bound to happen soon or later.  Remember.... Eisner (call me Michael) is practically an anagram for Disney.  

    :roll eyes:

  • That Roy E. is chairing the committee that selects the Legends says a lot about Roy.  If Roy can let bygones be bygones, why can't everyone else?

  • Wasn't Eisner supposed to get the award last year?

    Anyways, you've said pretty much everything I was thinking. Even though people today will only remember Eisner for the last half of his tenure, that shouldn't by itself erase the first half of his tenure. The Disney geeks who grew up during the 80's would know more than I do, but one of my favorite parts of Disney history is the company's fall and rise during that decade. It was a testament of how the company was able to survive and eventually grow its own legs long after the founding father's deaths.

    A lot of what came from the first half of Eisner's tenure has a long-term impression on audiences today. The Little Mermaid, Roger Rabbit, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King all played factors in Disney's present-day prominence on our society. That, to me, cannot be ignored.

  • If Eisner is getting this, than I think that Ron Miller deserves one too!!

    After all, alot of what Eisner gets credit for, Ron was responsible for.

    And if you don't know who Ron Miller is, shame on you!

  • Good to see Oliver Wallace get some recognition. One of the Disney studio's "house" composers for decades (along with Frank Churchill) when that sort of thing was going out of style, he scored dozens of animated shorts. He was perhaps better known for combining the efforts of more distinguished songwriters into scores for Disney features than for writing memorable songs himself. Two of his better known songs are "Der Fuehrer's Face" and "Old Yeller." And of course, the themes for the World of Disney TV shows.

  • jedited said:

    If Eisner is getting this, than I think that Ron Miller deserves one too!!

    After all, alot of what Eisner gets credit for, Ron was responsible for.

    And if you don't know who Ron Miller is, shame on you!

    I wish I had added this to my first post!

    Yes, Ron Miller planted the seeds that Ei$ner took credit for.  The Disney Channel, CGI (Tron), Touchstone Pictures (anyone remember Splash!), hiring Tim Burton and acquiring the rights to Who Framed Roger Rabbit  are among those accomplishments.

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