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A partial total from Eisner's scorecard

A partial total from Eisner's scorecard

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Well, it's obvious that JHM readers have a great range of opinions when it comes to Michael Eisner. Some praise Disney's soon-to-be-ex-CEO for all the work that he did in the early 1980s. Talking about how Eisner turned Walt Disney Productions from a Hollywood also-ran into one of the top studios in Tinsel Town.

While still others attack the man for everything that he's done to the Walt Disney Company since the late 1990s. Which includes allowing WDI & Disney Feature Animation to be gutted as well as whittling away at the maintenance & the upkeep budget at the theme parks. In short, cutting back on virtually everything that used to make Disney seem special. All in an effort to temporarily boost the corporation's bottom line.

That seems to be the common thread that runs through much of the criticism of Eisner. With most JHM readers seeming to think that Michael was the right man for the job from 1984 to 1994. But in the 11 years that followed, the guy repeatedly got the Walt Disney Company involved in foolish vanity projects (EX: Eisner's flirtation with being an architecture patron) as well as aborted enterprises (I.E. Go.com, Disney's America, DisneyQuest, etc).

Let's get to the specifics, shall we? Roger Rmjet said:

Basically, I see Eisner as his own worst enemy. For every great thing he accomplished, he lacked that inner voice to say, "Okay, now don't screw it up."

HIT - Taking his son, Breck, to visit Imagineering, where Breck picked out Splash Mountain as the coolest idea there.
MISS - Not taking Breck back to Imagineering on a regular basis.

HIT - Expanding WDW into a vast, multi-day resort with four theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney, and more.
MISS - Building MGM and AK as half-day parks (and charging full price), never building them up into truly full-day parks, and building too many hotels instead.

HIT - Plans for the Disney Decade.
MISS - Not following through on plans for the Disney Decade.

HIT - Building relationships with powerful players in Hollywood, such as Jim Henson, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Steve Jobs.
MISS - Pissing off those very same people (or in the case of Henson, his family and botching that deal).

HIT - Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
MISS - Running it five times a week. (I use this as the key example of Eisner finding a good thing and then running it into the ground.)

HIT - Building the Direct-to-DVD market.
MISS - Littering it with "cheapquels" and lackluster product.

HIT - Opening Disney Stores across the US.
MISS - Opening too many, pricing merchandise too high, allowing the chain to be mismanaged into the ground. Allowing Wal-Mart and other retailers to carry much of the same merchandise at lower prices.

HIT - Developing DisneyQuest.
MISS - Botching its execution. Never going after the Chuck E. Cheese market, which is ripe for take-over.

HIT - Planning to expand Disneyland into a multi-day resort.
MISS - California Adventure -- bad theme, building it on the cheap, the list goes on.

HIT - Turning EuroDisney around and renaming it "Disneyland Paris."
MISS - Going back to square one by building Walt Disney Studios on the cheap and putting Disneyland Paris right back in the hole.

HIT - Mission: Space (Semi-Hit). Despite people throwing up and its iffy reputation, Disney succeeded in building a ride like no other with a one-of-a-kind experience, though it lacks a bit in story.
MISS - Building cheap, lackluster rides like Pooh and not putting enough money into Rocket Rods at Disneyland. Not adding new rides to Disneyland for years on end. Not doing much else at WDW, either.

MISS - Allowing Pressler to cut back on maintenance in the parks to save money, resulting in injury and death to park visitors.
HIT - There is definitely no hit with this one.

HIT - Taking the Walt Disney Company from being on the verge of closing its doors to being one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.
MISS - Losing sight of everything that made the Walt Disney Company great in the first place, and firing all the people who made the company what it is, such as the animators and imagineers. Allowing middle-management and accountants to destroy the company from within.

HIT - Stepping down a year early.
MISS - Hand-picking his own replacement.

Semaj86 focused more on the toonier side of things by saying that:

HIT -- Gave Disney animation a chance to redeem itself in the 1980's.
MISS -- Shot down every other new movie idea since the 2000's, and milked the animation department dry with spin-off TV shows and sequels since the 1990's.

HIT -- Proved that cartoons CAN be for adults by releasing Touchstone films (Roger Rabbit, Nightmare Before Christmas)
MISS -- Re-inforced the "cartoons are for kids" stigma by failing to make any future Touchstone releases.

HIT -- Honored Roy Disney as a Disney Legend in 1998.
MISS -- Alienated Roy by nearly dismissing him in 2003.

HIT -- Rode with the animation revival of the early 1990's.
MISS -- Killed-off the studio's hand-drawn legacy, destroyed animation annexes, and castrated thounsands of loyal animators in the early 2000's.

With Gigglesock expanding on a few of Semaj86's points by narrowing the focus to how Eisner so badly botched his working relationship with Jeffrey Katzenberg. Listed Michael's key mis-steps as being:

1. Pissing off Jeffrey Katzenberg, the real brains behind the resurgence of Disney animated films. Just look at "The Lion King" and then look at "Pocahontas" - and every other 2D film Disney spewed out after Jeffrey left. Like night and day. The post-Katzenberg Disney films are full of story problems Katzenberg would have caught and corrected.

2. Making Katzenberg a rival instead of an ally. Katzenberg built "Shrek" into an incredibly successful movie franchise, while Eisner kept firing people and cheapening the Disney classics by making crappy TV versions and inferior DVD sequels.

While Prschebs focused more on where Eisner went wrong on the theme park side of things:

HIT -- Having the guts to allow WDI to design and build an amazing park at Disneyland Paris.
MISS -- Not having the guts to ever let them do it again on Disney's dime after DLP got into financial trouble.
DOUBLE MISS --Insisting on putting in too many hotels at a one-day park 30 miles outside of Paris, which is really what did DLP in.

HIT -- Giving the go-ahead to Disney's America.
MISS -- Chickening out on Disney's America when the Virginia horsey set started to complain.

HIT -- Allowing WDI to come up with some great concepts for DisneySea and Westcot.
MISS --Not allowing either of those parks to be built because of the financial fallout from DLP.

MISS -- Allowing Pressler and Harriss to drop the ball on preparations for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary.
DOUBLE MISS -- Allowing WDP&R to turn Disneyland's 50th into a marketing campaign that put the most exciting stuff into WDW.
HIT -- Putting Matt Ouimet in charge of the DLR in time to partially salvage the 50th Anniversary events at DL.

Now we've still got another 11 days 'til this totally unscientific poll closes. So let's hear from some other JHM readers. What do you think Michael Eisner did right? What did Disney's soon-to-be-ex-CEO do wrong?

And here's a brand-new question to help kickstart discussion: in 20 years, what do you think Michael Eisner's legacy will be? When people look back on the 21-years that he was in charge of the Walt Disney Company, how do you think they'll describe the Eisner era? A time when (fill in the blank, please) ...

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