Hey there! Hi there! Ho there! You're as welcome as can be ...
I am certain that - when Disney's board of directors selected Salt Lake City as the spot where they'd hold the Company's annual meeting of shareholders - that Mouse House management hoped that they would get a warm reception in Utah.
Photo by Jeremy Marx
But never in their wildest dreams did Disney CEO Bob Iger & Chairman of the Board John Pepper, Jr. think that things would go as well as they did yesterday at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
How well did things go? So well that Pepper actually broke the golden rule of shareholders meeting (i.e. that you never, ever extend the question & answer period) to accommodate all of the people who were standing on line, asking upbeat, polite questions. And Iger - after a wee bit of noodging from a member of the audience - eventually agreed to give everyone who physically attended yesterday's meeting a free ticket to Disneyland.
Disney Chairman of the Board John Pepper, Jr. welcomes audience members to theannual meeting of shareholders. Photo by Jeremy Marx
Mind you, what really helped here is that this year's meeting of Disney shareholders was fairly lightly attended. According to crowd estimates, only 300 people or thereabouts made their way to the performing arts center to attend this presentation. And those who brought their children along were in for a real treat. Given that their kids got lots & lots of face time with the Disney characters.
As for the adults, they were treated to extended trailers for "Thor," "Cars 2"and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Not to mention the world premiere of the first Toy Story Toon, "Hawaiian Vacation."
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Which isn't to say that this annual shareholders meeting was entirely controversy-free. During the Q & A portion, Unite Here - a union that includes Disneyland Resort hotel workers - repeatedly brought up the fact that some of their members have been working without a contract for four years now due to an on-going dispute regarding affordable healthcare. A longtime Company employee also expressed their concerns about identity theft. In particular how Smartphone technology could now be used to compromise the security & integrity of Disney cast member IDs.
Disney Chairman of the Board John Pepper, Jr. Photo by Jeremy Marx
In both of these cases, Iger and Pepper expressed their sympathies and promised that Disney Corporate would work to try & resolve these issues.
Speaking of technologies ... Though shareholders - as they entered the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Cneter - walked by the sign pictured below. Which stated that no cell phones or laptops would be allowed into Disney's annual meeting ...
... those who were seated in the balcony said that - as they looked down at Bob Iger as he was standing at the podium ... Well, Disney's CEO was rocking his iPad. Regularly consulting this tablet as he made his way through this meeting. as Iger called up additional, up-to-date information. Which he then used to give detailed responses to audience members' questions.
Disney CEO Bob Iger. Photo by Jeremy Marx
And - of course - it just wouldn't be a Disney shareholders meeting unless someone brought up "Song of the South." But Bob stuck to his guns when it came to this 1946 Walt Disney Productions. Insisting that - just as he did at last year's annual meeting - that after personally reviewing this motion picture, it would be harmful to the Company's overall reputation if this live-action / animated feature were to ever be released on Blu-ray or DVD.
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"Sometimes you have to make financial sacrifices in order to do what's right," Iger said. "So remember 'Song of the South' for what is was and don't expect to see it again anytime."
Bob was also equally blunt when it came to a sequel to "TRON Legacy." Telling one shareholder - who asked Iger when "TRON 3" was going to be greenlit - that "(I) don't know."
Another perk of attending yesterday's annual shareholders meeting was that you got the chance to chat with Disney Archivist BeckyCline about D23, the Official Disney FanClub. Photo by Jeremy Marx
But given that many of the questions Bob & John fielded yesterday seemed to be from third graders asking if anything new was in the works for Walt Disney World after the Fantasyland expansion (Iger's response? "You're testing me here. We haven't announced any large-scale projects for Walt Disney World at this time ... There will be other things. Nothing that we've approved yet, though") and why Pixar only seems to making sequels these days (Bob - after making sure that the "Monsters, Inc." sequel had already officially been announced - was quick to defend the creativity of this animation studio. Insisting that Pixar had lots of original films in the works ... Plus perhaps another sequel or two further on down the line) ... Well, is it any wonder that Disney's board of directors walked away from today's annual shareholders meeting feeling goofy ...
... I mean giddy. Thinking perhaps that the Company really needs to bring its annual meeting back to Salt Lake City again someday soon.
Special thanks to Jeremy Marx for taking all of the on-site images used in today's article
Re: Song of the South. I understand why Disney's not releasing it anytime soon. But, it is available all over the internet.
I don't understand why they won't release it. I think it's absurd. There are literally hundreds of classic movies, cartoons, and television shows that other studios make available that are equally, if not more, inappropriate by modern standards. It's really, really a crying shame they're being so silly about this. Release it with a disclaimer and an intro (maybe hosted by Iger or Lasseter) that explains the context of the film and move on. In reality, the entire basis for the complaints about the film are derived from implications anyway. There's not even anything overtly offensive about the film, for heaven's sake!
I wish I was there so I could ask him "why for" attractions like Splash Mountain are built based on an unavailable/unpopular movie and are hugely successful, and yet if a movie flops at the box office these days, we can't see an attraction based on it at the parks. Just because it flopped at the box office, doesn't necessarily mean it will flop at the parks. I still would like to see an attraction themed to Atlantis or Hunchback on Broadway someday.
I really wish Mr. Iger had asked Unite Here why THEY haven't done anything about their members not having a contract for almost 4 years. Oh that's right, they're too busy with their theatrics.
I just got a VHS of SotS (brand new, from abroad), quality is ok, so I´m happy I did not throw away my old VCR :-)
The whole thing about Song of the South is very much ado about nothing - honestly, the portrayals of the African-Americans in that movie are about the same or better than anything you'll see in Gone With The Wind, and the only reason anyone clamors for it is because Disney says they can't have it. Just release the thing as a Treasures DVD and be done with it, already.
I'm glad that Bob and the board had a wonderful time in Utah, but really, isn't it about time that the "Disney Shareholders Roadshow" finally come to an end and that they just hold the meeting somewhere in Los Angeles near the Company's headquarters, or at least hold the meeting in Orlando, where another sizable community of Disney shareholders are located? I could understand the traveling roadshow year after year when Michael Eisner was in charge and getting a lot of heat, but for the most part folks are happy with the current board's management of the Company - there's no real need to duck the critics any more.
Oh, who am I kidding? I imagine next year it'll be in Honolulu to celebrate the opening of Aulani.