I’ve just finished what I would consider my new favorite book – DisneyWar by author James B. Stewart.
It’s a fantastic book that chronicles the Eisner era at the Walt Disney Company; yet, it doesn’t read like a history or a biography. It’s a real page turner! I’ve joked with friends that, when I finish the book, I might go through a period of mourning (as though I’ve lost a loved one). I seriously didn’t want it to end.
I have only two gripes about this book. First, there were too many areas that the author just breezed over; like the creative meetings and management decisions that lead to the creation of Disney California Adventure theme park. Suddenly, the park just exists – as executives gather at the Grand Californian Hotel for a retreat. This park, that Disney executives are currently pouring over a billion dollars into in order to boost attendance, has certainly had a troubled past. Disney isn’t known to completely re-imagineer entire theme parks that are turning a profit. California Adventure has suffered from bad press and bad word-of-mouth. Why? It couldn’t have anything to do with Eisner’s decision to build it “on the cheap”, could it?
My last complaint comes from a sentence, made by the author, late in the book (page 504). He writes, regarding Disney fans he had met at a Save Disney event in March 2004, “[they were] surprisingly well informed, [and said] they stay in touch through on-line Disney fan sites”.
What an odd statement. Why does it surprise the author that Disney fans would be so well informed? It lead me to believe that the Author may have held Disney fans in some sort of contempt; possibly assuming we are childish and ignorant. He must have wondered, what type of adult plays with Mickey Mouse toys and watches cartoons, anyway? I really don’t think people are specifically attached to any one product (the movies, parks, or merchandise). Not on their own merit, anyway. I think many of Disney’s products are able to do what so few others can: spark genuine emotions that then create positive life-long memories. Pixar has certainly nailed this formula. I think it’s these cherished memories that people mostly associate with the Disney brand – which then encourages them to buy the merchandise.
My first Disney-related memory is from when I was about 5 years old. My family took a trip to Walt Disney World… and I was amazed. I reportedly told my parents that I wanted to live there. In turn, I’ve taken my own children to Florida. Three times. And each time I’ve witnessed their amazement I am somehow able to relive my own deep-harbored original reactions. I am able to see the park through their eyes and believe in all of Disney’s magic.
Walt Disney once said that he didn’t make films for children, but for the child in all of us. And, I think that pretty much says it all.