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February 3, 2014

Trying to Inspire "Parents to Raise More Walts and Roys"



DisneyBirthplaceChicago2014-01-17.jpg











"A rendering of the Walt Disney Birthplace, a planned private museum in Chicago." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. C3) LOS ANGELES -- The on-again-off-again campaign to turn Walt Disney's Chicago birthplace into an attraction has taken an unexpected new turn. And two theme park ride designers who mostly work for Disney rivals are at the wheel.


. . .


"We don't want to disrupt the neighborhood with a big attraction," Mr. Young said. "But we're also not interested in just putting a plaque on a house." Ms. Benadon added: "Our dream is that this house becomes a place that inspires creativity. We want to inspire parents to raise more Walts and Roys."

The couple have worked on attractions like SeaWorld shows; Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, a water ride at Universal Studios Singapore; and theme parks in China that are seeking to compete with Shanghai Disneyland, which is under construction.


. . .


So far, . . . , they have not contacted the Walt Disney Company. "We wanted to do this ourselves," Ms. Benadon said.


. . .


But Ms. Benadon and Mr. Young do have one important ally: Roy P. Disney, whose grandfather, Roy O. Disney, and great-uncle, Walt, founded the company. "On behalf of the Disney family," Mr. Disney said in a statement, "we are so pleased to see Walt Disney's historic birthplace and family home being restored to its humble origins."



For the full story, see:

BROOKS BARNES. "A Chance to Step Into Disney's Childhood." The New York Times (Weds., December 4, 2013): C3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 3, 2013.)






January 30, 2014

Diane Disney's Museum Displays Walt Disney's "Childlike Sense of Play"



DisneySharonWaltAndDiane2014-01-17.jpg






"Walt Disney with his daughters Sharon, left, and Diane in 1941." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. B16) Diane Disney Miller, Walt Disney's last surviving child, who . . . co-founded a museum dedicated to the memory of her father as a human being rather than a brand, died on Tuesday [November 19, 2013] in Napa Valley, Calif., where she had a home. She was 79.


. . .


At her death, Mrs. Miller was president of the board of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, whose mission is to ensure that her father, and not just his company, is remembered.

"My kids have literally encountered people who didn't know that my father was a person," she told The Times in 2009. "They think he's just some kind of corporate logo."

She opened the Walt Disney Family Museum in 2009, financing it through the foundation.

"The Disney Museum is far from being an airbrushed portrait," Edward Rothstein of The Times wrote in a review of the museum, adding, "The family movies on display show, at the very least, Disney's childlike sense of play, particularly with his two young daughters."



For the full obituary, see:

DANIEL E. SLOTNIK. "Diane Disney Miller, 79, Keeper of Walt's Flame." The New York Times (Thurs., November 21, 2013): B16.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date November 20, 2013, and has the title "Diane Disney Miller, 79, Keeper of Walt's Flame, Dies." The online version substitutes the word "co-founded" for the word "founded" that appeared in the first paragraph of the print version.)






January 26, 2014

Walt Disney's "Job" Was to "Restore Order to the Chaos of Life"



ThompsonHanksSavingMrBanks2014-01-17.jpg "Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks in "Saving Mr. Banks," directed by John Lee Hancock." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



I'm a fan of Disney the entrepreneur and I think that Hanks does a good job of showing that side of Disney. It's a movie made by the Disney company, but has a darker, more adult-themed, side than most "Disney" movies. It's not on my all-time-top-10-list. But we enjoyed it, overall. (Paul Giamatti is wonderful.)



(p. C8) "Saving Mr. Banks," released by Disney, is a movie about the making of a Disney movie ("Mary Poppins"), in which Walt Disney himself (played by Tom Hanks) is a major character. It includes a visit to Disneyland and, if you look closely, a teaser for its companion theme park in Florida (as yet unbuilt, when the story takes place). A large Mickey Mouse plush toy appears from time to time to provide an extra touch of humor and warmth. But it would be unfair to dismiss this picture, directed by John Lee Hancock from a script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, as an exercise in corporate self-promotion. It's more of a mission statement.


. . .


. . . Walt is less a mogul than a kind and reliable daddy. He dotes on his intellectual properties (the mouse, the park, the picture) as if they were his children. He wants to adapt Mrs. Travers's novel to keep a promise to his daughters.


. . .


. . . Walt, in a late, decisive conversation, explains that their job as storytellers is to "restore order" to the chaos of life and infuse bleak realities with bright, happy colors.



For the full review, see:

A. O. SCOTT. "An Unbeliever in Disney World." The New York Times (Fri., December 13, 2013): C8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 12, 2013.)






March 19, 2013

Real Entrepreneurs Do Not Launch a Startup in Order to Cash In and Move On




The following passage is Steve Jobs speaking, as quoted by Walter Isaacson.

I agree with the part about real entrepreneurs not going public quick in order to cash in. But I disagree that the real entrepreneurs are mainly interested in building a lasting company. I think that often they are mainly interested in getting a project, or a series of projects, done (and done reasonably well). Recall that when Walt Disney couldn't convince Roy Disney to pursue the Disneyland project, Walt left the main Disney company to pursue the project through a secondary rump Disney company.


(p. 569) I hate it when people call themselves "entrepreneurs" when what they're really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They're unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business. That's how you really make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before. You build a company that will still stand for something a generation or two from now. That's what Walt Disney did, and Hewlett and Packard, and the people who built Intel. They created a company to last, not just to make money. That's what I want Apple to be.


Source:

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.






December 17, 2012

"It's Kind of Fun to Do the Impossible"



(p. 284) "It's kind of fun to do the impossible," Walt Disney once said. That was the type of attitude that appealed to Jobs. He admired Disney's obsession with detail and design, and he felt that there was a natural fit between Pixar and the movie studio that Disney had founded.


Source:

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.






August 18, 2012

Ronald Reagan Celebrated Opening of Disneyland



ReaganCohostingOpeningDisneyland2012-08-17.jpg "Ronald Reagan, left, helped host a TV show about Disneyland's opening in 1955." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 11) In an unusual collaboration of presidential scholarship and mass-market entertainment -- featuring two men who, truth be told, were never particularly close -- the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Walt Disney Company have joined together to open a sprawling, nine-month exhibition drawn from the Disney archives.


. . .


Reagan was one of three M.C.'s for the televised opening of Disneyland in 1955; a grainy video in the exhibit captures the event. As governor, Reagan petitioned the United States postmaster to issue a Walt Disney stamp, and he was on hand in 1990 for Disneyland's 35th anniversary.

"He and Walt Disney did know each other," said Robert A. Iger, the chief ex-(p. 16)ecutive and chairman of the Walt Disney Company. "They became Californians. And they clearly had mutual respect for one another."



For the full story, see:

ADAM NAGOURNEY and BROOKS BARNES. "In New Exhibit, Disney Lends Its Star Power to Reagan, and Vice Versa." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., July 22, 2012): 11 & 16.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the date of the online version of the article is July 21, 2012.)







May 3, 2012

Steve Jobs Channels Ellis Wyatt



(p. 260) In 2007 Forbes magazine named Steve Jobs the highest-paid exec-(p. 261)utive of any of America's five hundred largest companies, based on gains in the value of stock granted to him at Apple. He was on the board of directors of the Walt Disney Co. Yet his former residence in Woodside, where he had once met with Catmull and Smith and mused about buying Lucasfilm's Computer Division, was now in a state of decay under his ownership.

He had wanted to demolish it; after a group of neighborhood residents opposed his plan to do so, he left the house open to the elements. The interior suffered damage from water and mold. Vines crept up the stucco walls and wandered inside.

The memories that haunted its hallways were those of Jobs's darkest times. He had bought the house only months before the humiliation of his firing from Apple; he lived in it through that firing and through the hard, money-hemorrhaging years of Pixar and NeXT. He left it as his fortunes were about to change, as he was sending Microsoft away from Pixar, convinced that he had something he should hold on to.

When a judge ruled against his quest for a demolition permit, Jobs appealed in 2006 and 2007 all the way to the California Supreme Court, but he lost at every stage. He received proposals from property owners offering to cart the house away in sections and restore it elsewhere; he rejected them. One way or another, it seemed, he meant for the house to be destroyed.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: italics in original.)

(Note: The passage above is from the Epilogue and the pages given above are from the hardback edition (pp. 260-261). The identical passage also appears in the 2009 paperback edition, but on p. 265.





April 25, 2012

Intellectual Property Rights as Refined in Case Law



The questions and answers in court illustrate how case law would approach the issue of refining and reforming intellectual property issues based on concepts of justice, but also on practical issues. (This is from Disney and Pixar lawyer Steve Marenberg questioning Dick Cook in testimony before Judge Clarence Brimmer, Jr. on November 1, 2001, the day before Monsters, Inc. was scheduled to be released.)



(p. 193) Q : So obviously the delay of the film by injunction or otherwise would affect the first weekend and the ability to gain all of the benefits you've gotten by virtue of the tact that November second is the first weekend?

A : It would be a disaster.

Q : And that would affect, then, not only the theatrical performance of the film, but what other markets in the United Sates?

A : Well, it would completely be a snowball effect in a reverse way in that it would certainly put a damper on all of the home video activities, all the DVD activities; in fact, would influence international because international is greatly influenced on how well it does in the United States, and by taking that away, it would definitely, definitely, have a big, big impact on the success of the film.

And furthermore, going further, is that it would take away any of the other ancillary things that happen, you (p. 194) know, whether it would become a television series, whether or not it becomes a piece of an attraction at the parks, whether it becomes a land at the parks, or any of those kinds of things.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)

(Note: on p. 190 of the book, Price misspells Marenberg's name as "Marenburg.")





April 21, 2012

Workers Want to See Compensation Related to Contribution



This is a great example contra (or at least qualifying) Daniel Pink's claim that all you need do for knowledge workers is provide them enough money so that they can provide for the basic needs of themselves and their family.



(p. 145) The public offering process brought details of the intended allocation of Pixar stock options into view. A registration statement and other documents with financial data had to be prepared for the Securities and Exchange Commission and a prospectus needed to be made ready for potential investors. These documents had to be reviewed and edited, and it was here that the word apparently leaked: A small number of people were to receive low-cost options on enormous blocks of stock. Catmull, Levy, and Lasseter were to get options on 1.6 million shares apiece; Guggenheim and Reeves were to get 1 million and 840,000, respectively. If the company's shares sold at the then-planned price of fourteen dollars, the men would be instant multimillionaires.

The revelation was galling. Apart from the money, there was the symbolism: The options seemed to denigrate the years of work everyone else had put into the company. They gave a hollow feel to Pixar's labor-of-love camaraderie, its spirit that everyone was there to do cool work together. Also, it was hard not to notice that Levy, one of the top recipients, had just walked in the door.

"There was a big scene about all that because some people got (p. 146) huge amounts more than other people who had come at the same time period and who had made pretty significant contributions to the development of Pixar and the ability to make Toy Story," Kerwin said. "People like Tom Porter and Eben Ostby and Loren Carpenter--guys that had been there since the beginning and were part of the brain trust."

Garden-variety employees would also get some options, but besides being far fewer, those options would vest over a four-year period. Even employees who had been with the organization since its Lucasfilm days a decade earlier--employees who had lost all their Pixar stock in the 1991 reorganization--would be starting their vesting clock at zero. In contrast, most of the options of Catmull, Lasseter, Guggenheim, and Reeves vested immediately--they could be turned into stock right away.

"I decided, 'Well, gee, I've been at this company eight years, and I'll have been here twelve years before I'm fully vested,' " one former employee remembered. " 'It doesn't sound like these guys are interested in my well-being.' A lot of this piled up and made me say, 'What am I doing? I'm sitting around here trying to make Steve Jobs richer in ways he doesn't even appreciate.' "



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: italics in original.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)


For Daniel Pink's views, see:

Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.






April 17, 2012

Add to Your List of Marketing Mistakes



(p. 142) The consumer products arm of Disney--the group responsible for licensing toys and other tie-ins--was also slow to see the potential of Toy Story. It was a case of out of sight, out of mind: Toy Story was in production hundreds of miles away. Preoccupied with two other forthcoming releases, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Disney Consumer Products left the Pixar film on the back burner. When Guggenheim met with one of the division's senior licensing executives in December 1994, he was alarmed to discover that she saw no licensing potential in the film.

"We put together a presentation reel of scenes from the film that we'd already completed, and material on how the film was being made" Guggenheim said. "We were taking that around the company so people could get a feeling of what this film was all about."

The executive told him, I don't know how we're going to do toys for this.

"What do you mean?" Guggenheim queried. "It's Toy Story. You know, Toy . . . Story."

Yes, she said, but you have all these toys that already exist--Mr. Potato Head, Speak & Spell, all that stuff. How are we ever going to make money off that?

"But you have all these original characters. You've got Buzz, you've got Woody."



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: ellipsis and italics in original.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





April 9, 2012

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Returned to Disney After 78 Years



OswaldDisneyRabbit2012-03-25.jpgDo you recognize this rabbit? Source of image: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.



The story of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is one of entrepreneurial resilience. Walt Disney was duped out of his legal rights to Oswald. Instead of fighting it out in court, or giving in to discouragement, he shortened Oswald's ears and transformed him into a mouse with a new name.



(p. 2E) LOS ANGELES (AP) - One of Walt Disney's oldest drawings is seeing the light of day after being locked away for nearly 40 years.

A rough 1928 image of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the wacky predecessor to Mickey Mouse, was brought out of the Walt Disney Co. archive this week and showcased at an event unveiling "Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two," an upcoming action-adventure game for the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that allows players to control both Mickey and Oswald.

The mischievous Oswald was co-created by Disney before Mickey, but he was lost in a 1928 contract dispute with Universal Studios. Oswald hopped back to Disney in 2006 when CEO Bob Iger brokered a deal that sent sportscaster Al Michaels to Universal-NBC. Oswald's first appearance since his return came in 2010's "Epic Mickey" as the ruler of a forgotten realm.



For the full story, see:

DERRIK J. LANG. "Disney image displayed for first time in 40 years." Omaha World-Herald (Sun., March 18, 2012): 2E.







April 5, 2012

Lasseter's Success Came from Seeing How the Details Affected the Storytelling



(p. 138) "I had no reason to think it would be any good," recalled Barzel, who was then a recently minted California Institute of Technology Ph.D. on the lighting team. "I knew John was absolutely brilliant as a animator of shorts. But I've read authors who write good short stories and crummy novels; I figured it's a different skill. I had no reason to think John would have the skill to pull off a full-length movie."

He expected something that animators and animation buffs might find interesting, but that probably would not have a particularly wide audience.

"I joined because I wanted the practical experience," he said, "I thought, Well, it's going to be the first full-length [computer-animated] movie, so it'll be a fun thing to have been associated with, however it turns out."

What finally made Barzel a believer was watching Lasseter at work. He found that Lasseter had an uncanny ability to shift between the macro level of the entire film and the micro level of whatever detail he was dealing with at the moment. "Looking at an individual frame -- it's meticulous work-- he would always be aware of its role in the larger context of storytelling," Barzel recalled. "He'd say something like, 'This is the first time this character responds to that situation; it's really important that he get the right glint in his eye.' " Barzel started to think, John knows what he's doing. This movie could be really good.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: italics and brackets in original.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





April 1, 2012

"Being Able to Work on a Great Project"



(p. 133) Recruiting was brisk; the magnet for talent was not the pay, generally mediocre, but rather the allure of taking part in the first fully computer-animated feature film. "Disney gave us a very modest budget [$17.5 million] for Toy Story," Guggenheim said. "Although that budget went up progressively over time, it didn't afford for very high salaries, unfortunately. We tried to make the other working conditions better. Just the enthusiasm of being able to work on a great project is as often as not what attracts artists and animators."


Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: italics and brackets in original.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





March 16, 2012

Lasseter's Epiphany: "This Is What Walt Was Waiting For"



(p. 52) In a trailer on the Disney lot, Lasseter huddled with Rees and Kroyer to look at the first computer-generated scene to come in--a race among drivers in virtual motorcycles known as light cycles. The scene had no character animation and its graphics were rudimentary, but it brought Lasseter an epiphany. The dimensionality of the scene was something he had never witnessed before. If this technology could be melded with Disney animation, he thought, he would have the makings of a revolution. Until then, three-dimensional effects in animation had required difficult, costly sessions with the multistory "multiplane" camera, practical for only a few key sequences in a film, if that. The computers could even move the audience's point of view around a scene like a Steadicam. The possibilities seemed infinite.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," he said later. "Walt Disney, all his career, all his life, was striving to get more dimension in his (p. 53) animation . . . and I was standing there, looking at it, going, 'This is what Walt was waiting for.'"

He was not able to interest the animation executives in it; they did not care to hear about new technology unless it made animation faster or cheaper.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





March 12, 2012

CalArts Was One of Walt Disney's Last Projects




It is a nice minor coda to Walt Disney's life that the CalArts school that he founded provided a starting point for many of the next generation of great innovative animators, including John Lasseter.


(p. 47) CalArts was Walt Disney's brainchild; he had started the planning of the school in the late 1950s and provided generously for it in his will. Walt and his brother Roy formed it in 1961 through a merger of two struggling Los Angeles institutions, the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute. The doors opened at the school's consolidated campus in Valencia in 1971, five years after Walt's death.


. . .


(p. 48) The storms of the 1960s had mostly receded by the time Lasseter arrived. At CalArts, he found his own kind of liberation: Here, he no longer needed to conceal his passion for cartoons. His twenty classmates from across the country were animation geeks like him. Others had been corresponding with the Disney studio just as he had, and even making their own short films. Many would go on from CalArts to perform significant work at Disney or elsewhere; among them were future stars John Musker (co-director of Aladdin, Hercules, and The Little Mermaid) and Brad Bird.

First-year classes took place in room A113, a windowless space with white walls, floor, and ceiling, and buzzing fluorescent lights. The teachers made up tor the setting, however: Almost all of them were longtime Disney artists with awe-inspiring animation credits. Kendall O'Connor, an art director on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, taught layout; Elmer Plummer, a character designer on Dumbo, taught life drawing; T. Hee, a sequence director on Pinocchio, taught caricature. The program was rigorous and the hours long; the fact that the campus was in the middle of nowhere made it easier to focus on work. Tim Burton, who entered the program the following year, remembered the experience: . . .



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: ellipsis added; italics in original.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





March 8, 2012

Funding Was Scarce to Develop Computer Graphics



(p. 29) As in Catmull's graduate school days, however, the Walt Disney Co. was not interested in computer graphics. Walt had died of cancer in 1966, and the company was now run by a caretaker chief executive, Esmond Cardon "Card" Walker. Some of Disney's technology experts saw great promise in the NYIT group's work, but that was as far as it ever went.

Who else hail pockets deep enough to support a major research effort into computer animation for filmmaking? It might cake a decade, or even longer, before computer costs came clown enough for (p. 30) a feature film to be anywhere near the realm of possibility. The only option, it seemed, was to keep making progress on the technical issues--On NYIT's dime--while waiting for Disney to call.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





February 17, 2012

"What Success Had Brought Him, . . . , Was Freedom"



(p. 5) The success of Pixar's films had brought him something exceedingly rare in Hollywood: not the house with the obligatory pool in the backyard and the Oscar statuettes on the fireplace mantel, or the country estate, or the vintage Jaguar roadster--although he had all of those things, too. It wasn't that he could afford to indulge his affinity for model railroads by acquiring a full-size 1901 steam locomotive, with plans to run it on the future site of his twenty-thousand-square-foot mansion in Sonoma Valley wine country. (Even Walt Dìsney's backyard train had been a mere one-eighth-scale replica.)

None of these was the truly important fruit of Lasseter's achievements. What success had brought him, most meaningfully, was freedom. Having created a new genre of film with his colleagues at Pixar, he had been able to make the films he wanted to make, and he was coming back to Disney on his own terms.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: ellipsis in title was added.)

(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)





December 12, 2011

Creativity Continues at Disney



GirolamiCrumpNikolailittleMermaidRide2011-11-10.jpg"'We're kind of like an old married couple,' said Imagineer Chris Crump, center, of his longtime colleague Larry Nikolai, right. Lisa Girolami, the ride's producer, is left. It took nearly four years to conceive and build 'Ariel's Undersea Adventure,' which opened at Disney California Adventure Park last week. The trio spearheaded a group of over 100 designers, architects, lighting experts and other specialists." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. C11) It took nearly four years to conceive and build a theme-park ride that put visitors inside the world of "The Little Mermaid," including several musical numbers, a few key narrative moments and 184 figures from Disney's animated hit.

And that followed the 18 years it took to settle on an approach to the ride, which was on the entertainment giant's to-do list almost from the day the film was released in 1989. The ride finally opened last week at Disney California Adventure, Disneyland's younger neighbor, and takes visitors through a condensed version of the movie's narrative, cramming nine scenes and four songs into 5½ minutes.


. . .


They start by thinking big: Ms. Girolami described their brainstorming sessions as "an iterative process"--first deciding what parts of the movie to retell, then returning to the drawing table as the decision-making focuses to smaller and smaller details.

Then, helped by "rapid prototyping," a technology that allows them to generate physical models directly from computer-design files, the group tests and retests their models.


. . .


The Imagineers pride themselves on their never-say-die spirit. "We commit to things creatively that haven't been done," Ms. Girolami said. "Someone will say, 'That's never been done before,' and it's our job to say, 'Great--let's do it.' "



For the full story, see:

Ethan Smith. "CREATING; Taking the Little Mermaid for a Spin." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JUNE 4, 2011): C11.

(Note: ellipses added.)





October 8, 2011

Entrepreneur Jobs Was an Exemplar of Creative Destruction






The clip embedded above from the CNBC web site, was broadcast on CNBC on Weds., Oct. 5, 2011.


I watched several commentaries on Steve Jobs after his death was announced today (Weds., Oct. 5). I think the one above, from CNBC, was one of the best.

It highlights many important aspects of Jobs' life. That he came back from failure, that he brought us products we didn't know we needed until he showed us what they could do, that his products disrupted the status quo of whole industries, that at his death he owned more shares of Disney than anyone else. (Steve Jobs and Walt Disney were two of the greatest "project entrepreneurs" of all time.)






August 27, 2011

"A Passion for the Ambition of Walt"



FavreauJon2011-08-06.jpg





Jon Favreau. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.







(p. 11) You've announced you won't be doing the third "Iron Man" movie, in order to make "Magic Kingdom," which is a Disney movie about a family that gets caught inside Disneyland. A movie produced by Disney about a Disney theme park? It sounds a little cynical.

That's my Rubik's Cube that I have to solve on this one. I found a writing partner in the novelist Michael Chabon, who shares a passion for the ambition of Walt.







For the full interview, see:

ANDREW GOLDMAN. "TALK; Jon Favreau, From Swingers to Aliens." The New York Times Magazine (Sun., July 31, 2011): 11.

(Note: bold in original, indicating comments/questions by interviewer Andrew Goldman.)

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated July 29 (sic), 2011.)





May 30, 2011

The "Disneyland Dream" Lives



Liberal columnist Frank Rich writes of the home movie "Disneyland Dream"---with a measure of eloquence, but unfortunately also with a measure of condescension and sarcasm. In the end, he believes the dream is dead.

But Rich is wrong. Disneyland is still the happiest place on earth, and Walt Disney's entrepreneurial spirit is also still alive.

Here are a couple of the more eloquent bits of Rich (though not entirely devoid of sarcasm):


(p. 14) "Disneyland Dream" was made in the summer of 1956, shortly before the dawn of the Kennedy era. You can watch it on line at archive.org or on YouTube. Its narrative is simple. The young Barstow family of Wethersfield, Conn. -- Robbins; his wife, Meg; and their three children aged 4 to 11 -- enter a nationwide contest to win a free trip to Disneyland, then just a year old. The contest was sponsored by 3M, which asked contestants to submit imaginative encomiums to the wonders of its signature product. Danny, the 4-year-old, comes up with the winning testimonial, emblazoned on poster board: "I like 'Scotch' brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it."


. . .


. . . The Barstows accept as a birthright an egalitarian American capitalism where everyone has a crack at "upper class" luxury if they strive for it (or are clever enough to win it). It's an America where great corporations like 3M can be counted upon to make innovative products, sustain an American work force, and reward their customers with a Cracker Jack prize now and then. The Barstows are delighted to discover that the restrooms in Fantasyland are marked "Prince" and "Princess." In America, anyone can be royalty, even in the john.

"Disneyland Dream" is an irony-free zone. "For our particular family at that particular time, we agreed with Walt Disney that this was the happiest place on earth," Barstow concludes at the film's end, from his vantage point of 1995. He sees himself as part of "one of the most fortunate families in the world to have this marvelous dream actually come true" and is "forever grateful to Scotch brand cellophane tape for making all this possible for us."



For the full commentary, see:

FRANK RICH. "Who Killed the Disneyland Dream?" The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun., December 25, 2010): 14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated December 25, 2010.


Part 1 of "Disneyland Dream" via YouTube's "embed" feature:




Part 2 of "Disneyland Dream" via YouTube's "embed" feature:




Part 3 of "Disneyland Dream" via YouTube's "embed" feature:




Part 4 of "Disneyland Dream" via YouTube's "embed" feature:











April 7, 2011

Mickey Mouse: "A Little Fellow Trying to Do the Best He Could"



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Source of book image: http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID983/images/dancing_in_the_dark_by_morris_dickstein_250.jpg



(p. 17) After a fond, lingering look at "Shall We Dance" -- Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in the spotlight, romancing to songs by George and Ira Gershwin -- Dickstein sums up expertly: "Each number is a miniature of the movie, moving from singing alone, dancing alone, dancing with the wrong person, or dancing to the wrong music to making beautiful music together." With his next breath he roughly reminds us of the context: "It's the music, the dancing, that saves all this from familiar romantic cliché. As photography documents the Depression, dance countermands it." And then he takes one more step back to give us an even broader view: "The culture of elegance, as represented by Astaire and the Gershwins, was less about the cut of your tie and tails than the cut of your feelings, the inner radiance that was one true bastion against social suffering. They preserved in wit, rhythm and fluidity of movement what the Depression almost took away, the high spirits of Americans, young and modern, who had once felt destined to be the heirs and heiresses of all the ages." Sheer delight, pure escapism, serves its cathartic purpose -- and it means something, too.

Which makes the omission of Walt Disney (his name doesn't even appear in the index) all the more perplexing. Even if one rejects the provocative claim by the historian Warren Susman that "Mickey Mouse may in fact be more important to an understanding of the 1930s than Franklin Roosevelt," it's hard to deny Disney a place in the pantheon of the decade's movie­makers, if only for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Fantasia." Whether or not the cartoons that delighted '30s audiences are complex works of art, they would have slotted nicely into several of Dickstein's chapters. On the lookout for a cultural artifact that served to "lift sagging morale and stimulate optimism about the future"? Try any one of the dozens of animated shorts featuring that cartoon collective, Mickey, Donald Duck and Goofy. Every gag is an explosion of energy, and the whirligig of slapstick invention always ends happily, thanks to the orchestrated efforts of our heroes. Mickey, described by Disney as "a little fellow trying to do the best he could," may have been born in the late '20s, but he grew up a pure creature of the '30s.



For the full review, see:

ADAM BEGLEY. "Side by Side ." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., September 27, 2009): 17.

(Note: the online version of the review is dated September 25, 2009.)


Book reviewed:

Dickstein, Morris. Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.





March 18, 2011

Roy E. Disney as a "Real-life Jiminy Cricket"



DisneyRoyE2011-03-08.jpg"Roy E. Disney, shown in 1996, was considered a tough and outspoken critic of top executives at the Walt Disney Company." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B18) LOS ANGELES -- Roy E. Disney, who helped revitalize the famed animation division of the company founded by his uncle, Walt Disney, and who at times publicly feuded with top Disney executives, died on Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 79.

His death, at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, was caused by stomach cancer, a spokeswoman for the Walt Disney Company said. Mr. Disney, who had homes in Newport Beach and the Toluca Lake district of Los Angeles, was the last member of the Disney family to work at the entertainment conglomerate built by his uncle and his father, Roy O. Disney.

As a boy the younger Roy would play in the halls of his uncle's studio, where animators often used him as a test audience as they toiled on movies like "Pinocchio." As an adult he helped bring the animation studio back from the brink, overseeing a creative renaissance that led to "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King."

But the soft-spoken Mr. Disney was primarily known for a willingness to question the company's top managers, aggressively and publicly, when he felt they were mishandling the family empire. Some people in the company referred to him as its real-life Jiminy Cricket: a living conscience who was at times intensely disliked by management for speaking out.


. . .


Returning to the company in 1984, Mr. Disney set about revitalizing the floundering animation division. He obtained financing, for instance, for a computerized postproduction facility, helping to make possible the revolving ballroom scene in "Beauty and the Beast."



For the full obituary, see:

BROOKS BARNES. "Roy E. Disney Dies at 79; Rejuvenated Animation." The New York Times (Thurs., December 17, 2009): B18.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





December 11, 2009

Walt Disney, Like Brer Rabbit, "Constantly Wriggling Out of the Snares Set for Him"



(p. 325) The real Disney may yet elude his most fervent admirers' and detractors' suffocating grasp. When he was young, he was a sort of human Brer Rabbit, constantly wriggling out of the snares set for him by the likes of Charles Mintz and Pat Powers (not to mention Laugh-O-gram's creditors). He emerged finally, and unexpectedly, as the creator of a new art form, one whose potential has still scarcely been tapped, by him or anyone else. It is hard to imagine that man--the passionate young artist, the intense "coordinator," the man who scrutinized every frame of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with a lover's zeal--trapped forever in anyone's briar patch.



Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

(Note: italics in original.)





December 7, 2009

The Real Disney and the Disney of Academic Critiques



(p. 324) Disney seems no more real in the growing body of academic critiques of the man and the company that bears his name. Many of these critiques are vaguely if not specifically Marxist in their methodology, and they display the usual Marxist tendency to bulldoze the complexities of human behavior in the pursuit of an all--embracing interpretation of Disney's life and work. What fatally cripples most academic writing about Walt Disney is simple failure to examine its supposed subject. Disney scholarship, like many other kinds of scholarship in today's academy, feeds on itself. The common tendency is for scholars to rush past the facts of Disney's life and career, frequently getting a lot of them wrong, in order to write about what really interests them, which is what other scholars have already written. It is this incestuous quality, even more than such commonly cited sins as a reliance on jargon, that makes so much academic writing, on Disney as on other subjects, claustrophobically difficult to read.



Disney has attracted other writers whose unsupportable claims and speculations sometimes win approval of scholars all too eager to believe the worst of the man. The persistent accusations of anti-Semitism are only the mildest examples of an array whose cumulative effect is to portray a Disney who was, among other vile things, racist, misogynist, imperialist, sexually warped. a spy for J. Edgar Hoover, desperate to conceal his illegitimate Spanish birth, (p. 325) and so terrified of death that he had his body cryogenically frozen. Pathologies are undoubtedly at work here, none of them Disney's.



Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.





December 3, 2009

Walt Disney: Motive Was "Fun" (Not "Money")



(p. 291) Said Bob Gurr, a member of the WED staff: "One big thrust behind our design work for the World's Fair was the fact that we were going to own all the equipment. In other words, somebody else would build the pavilion, on somebody else's property, but the show equipment that went in there was Disney's, and he had a ready-made location waiting for it. The fact that the Fair was going to run two years meant he could build more expensively, and Disney priced these projects in a way that the sponsors were paying for everything for a two-year use."

Disney approached the fair with a certain skepticism, even so. "You don't like to do those things unless you have fun doing 'em," he said in 1961, when work on the exhibits was just getting under way "You don't do 'em for money." Robert Moses, the imperious road builder who was in command of the fair, "wanted us to develop the amusement area and we looked at it," Disney said, 'but it just wasn't for us. I wouldn't want to try to do anything in New York. I'm not close enough. . . . On top of that, I mean I don't know whether I want to do any outside of Disneyland because you don't want to spread yourself thin."




Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)





November 29, 2009

Walt Disney: "I Don't Care About Critics"



(p. 286) "He is shy with reporters." Edith Efron wrote for TV Guide in 1965. "His eyes are dull and preoccupied, his affability mechanical and heavy-handed. He gabs away slowly and randomly in inarticulate, Midwestern speech that would be appropriate to a rural general store. His shirt is open, his tie crooked. One almost expects to see over-all straps on his shoulders and wisps of hay in his hair. . . . If one has the patience to persist, however, tossing questions like yellow flares into the folksy fog, the fog lifts, a remote twinkle appears in the preoccupied eves, and the man emerges."

Here again, as in other interviews from the 1960s, Disney permitted himself to sound bitter and resentful when he said anything of substance: "These avant-garde artists are adolescents. It's only a little noisy element that's going that way, that's creating this sick art. . . . There is no cynicism in me and there is none allowed in our work. . . . I don't like snobs. You find some of intelligentsia, they become snobs. They think they're above everybody else. They're not. More education doesn't mean more common sense. These ideas they have about art are crazy. . . . I don't care about critics. Critics take themselves too seriously. They think the only way to be noticed and to be the smart guy is to pick and find fault with things. It's the public I'm making pictures for."




Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

(Note: ellipses and italics in original.)





November 25, 2009

Disney Learned Quickly (Despite Lack of Formal Education), and Impatiently Expected Others to Learn Quickly Too



The story below is very reminiscent of a story that Michael Lewis tells in The New, New Thing about how entrepreneur Jim Clark learned to fly.

Possible lesson: impatience and quick learning may not be traits of all high level entrepreneurs, but they appear to have been traits of at least two.


(p. 213) Seventeen years later, Broggie told Richard Hubler that teaching Disney how to run a lathe and drill press and other machinery was difficult "because he was impatient. So I'd make what we call a set-up in a lathe and turn out a piece and say, 'Well, that's how you do it.' He would see part of it and he was impatient, so he would want to turn the wheels--and then something would happen. A piece might fly out of the chuck and he'd say, 'God-damn it. why didn't you tell me it was going to do this?' Well, you don't tell him, you know? It was a thing of--well--you learn it. He said one day, . . . 'You know, it does me some good sometimes to come down here to find out I don't know all about everything.' . . . How would you sharpen the drill if it was going to drill brass or steel? There's a difference. And he learned it. You only had to show him once and he got the picture."

This was a characteristic that other people in the studio noticed. "He had a terrific memory," Marc Davis said. "He learned very quickly. . . . You only had to explain a thing once to him and he knew how to do it. Other people are not the same. I think this is a problem he had in respect to everybody . . . his tremendous memory and his tremendous capacity for learning. He wasn't book learned but he was the most fantastically well educated man in his own way. . . . He understood the mechanics of everything. . . . Everything was a new toy. And this also made him a very impatient man. He was as impatient as could be with whoever he worked with."

Disney's lack of formal education manifested itself sometimes in jibes at his college-educated employees, but more often in the odd lapses--the mispronounced words, the grammatical slips--that can mark an autodidact. "For a guy who only went to the eighth grade," Ollie Johnston said, "Walt educated himself beautifully. His vocabulary was good. I only heard him get sore (p. 214) about a big word once in a story meeting. Everyone was sitting around talking and Ted Sears said, 'Well, I think that's a little too strident.' Walt said, 'What the hell are you trying to say, Ted?' He hadn't heard that word before.




Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

(Note: ellipses in original.)


For a similar story about Jim Clark, see:

Lewis, Michael. The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.





November 21, 2009

The Long Gestation of the Disneyland Entrepreneurial Idea



(p. 212) Before returning to Los Angeles, Disney and Kimball also went to Dearborn, Michigan, outside Detroit, and visited a village of another kind--Henry Ford's Greenfield Village, a collection of old and reconstructed buildings that included the Wright brothers' bicycle shop and a replica of Thomas Edison's laboratory. Greenfield Village, which Ford established in 1929, had a strong autobiographical element: many of its buildings were there because they had been significant in Ford's life, as with the school he attended and the scaled- down replica of his first auto plant. Greenfield was, besides, a make-believe village, a mixture of buildings spanning centuries. There was no pretense, as at Colonial Williamsburg, of re-creating the past.

Disney had visited Greenfield Village at least once before, in April 1940, but this time he returned to Burbank with his imagination stimulated. He was thinking now beyond a miniature train for his own home. He drafted a memorandum on August 31, 1948, in which he set out in detail what might go into a "Mickey Mouse park" on the sixteen acres the studio owned across Riverside Drive. Ford's influence can be felt in Disney's description of an idyllic small town, anchored by a city hall and a railroad station. There would have been a specifically Disney presence in the park only through a toy store that sold Disney toys and books and a shop where Disney artists could sell their own work.

Disney had been talking about a park of' some kind, on the studio lot or adjacent to it, for years, perhaps since the late 1930s, the idea being to have something to entertain visitors to a studio that was otherwise very much a workaday place. For the studio to embark on such a project in 1948 was irnpractical, though, given its financial condition, and Disney's memo had no immediate consequences.




Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.





November 17, 2009

Project Entrepreneurs Want to Keep Control



(p. 152) As late as January 1940, Disney still resisted selling stock--"I wanted to build this in a different way," he told sonic of his artists--but by then his need for money was such that going public had become the lesser of evils. Preferred stock in Walt Disney Productions was offered to the public on April 2, 1940. The money raised helped pay for the Burbank studio ($1.6 million) and retired other debts (more than $2 million). The common stock remained in the Disneys' hands. The company took out a $1.5 million insurance policy on Walt's life.

Disney remembered having lunch with Ford Motor Company executives a few days after the stock issue, when he passed through Detroit on his way back from New York. Henry Ford himself joined the group after lunch, and when Disney told the old autocrat about selling preferred stock, Ford said. "If you sell any of it, you should sell it all." That remark, Disney said, "kind of left me thinking and wondering for a while." Ford "wanted that control," Disney said. "That's what he meant by that." Disney shared the sentiment, even in relatively small matters. On July 1, 1940, he told the studio's publicity department: "From now on all publicity going out of this studio must have my O.K. before it is released. There shall be no exceptions to this rule."




Source:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.





November 14, 2009

"The Animated Man" is a Useful Account of the Life of an Important Entrepreneur



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Source of book image: http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/wp-content/e/a336.jpg



I have always believed, and recently increasingly believe, that Walt Disney was one of the most important entrepreneurs of our time.

One of the most favorably reviewed biographies of Disney is Michael Barrier's The Animated Man. (At some point in the future, I will briefly discuss an alternative biography of Disney by Gabler.)

I have not thoroughly read The Animated Man, but have thoroughly skimmed it. It appears to be a very useful account of Walt Disney's life.

I did not want to wait until I had fully read it, in order to highlight a few passages that I think may be of special interest. I will do so in the next few weeks.


Reference to the book discussed:

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.





September 29, 2009

Entrepreneur Sees What Others Do Not See




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Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. Source of photo: http://app2.sellersourcebook.com/users/101907/ebay_125.jpg



One of the characteristics of innovative entrepreneurs is that they have the vision to see possibilities that others do not see, and the perseverance to turn the vision into reality.

When I saw the mug pictured above, I bought one. It shows a frumpy middle-aged Walt Disney in an empty black and white Disneyland looking down at a smiling full-color Mickey Mouse.

By chance, this summer, we were present at the birthday of Disneyland. We attended the brief celebration on Main Street. I found myself getting choked up when they played a recording of Walt Disney at the park dedication, saying that Disneyland was intended to be the happiest place on earth.





September 7, 2009

Government Protects Us from Unlicensed Eight Year Old Lemonade Entrepreneur



DanielaEarnestLemonadeStand.jpgDaniela Earnest at her lemonade stand (left) and in court (right). Source of photo: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_GGAmzDRA_BY/SnvDbYoMpzI/AAAAAAAAHEg/W1BI2XK8DH4/s400/daniela%2Bearnest.jpg


(p. 5A) THE FRESNO BEE

TULARE, Calif. -- Eight­-year- old Daniela Earnest made lemonade out of lemons in more ways than one last week.

Hoping to raise money for a family trip to Disneyland, the Tulare girl opened a lemonade stand Monday. But she didn't have a business license, so the city shut it down that day.


. . .

Tulare officials said they could not recall ever shutting down a lemonade stand before, though such action is not uncommon. Authorities across the nation have done it.


. . .


Daniela found the situation "pretty weird" but said it hadn't soured her on reopening the lemonade stand.



For the full story, see:

The Fresno Bee. "City puts squeeze on pint-size purveyor of lemonade." Omaha World-Herald (Sun., Aug. 9, 2009): 5A.

(Note: ellipses added.)





June 15, 2009

Becker and Farmer on the Economics of Discrimination



FarmerDonnaAndChildren2009-06-09.jpg "ROYAL SUBJECTS; Donna Farmer, with her children, applauds Disney's efforts." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


In Gary Becker's initially controversial doctoral dissertation, he argued that those who discriminate in the labor market pay a price for their prejudice: they end up paying higher wages, than do those employers are not prejudiced.

The bottom line is that the free market provides incentives for the encouragement of diversity and tolerance.

Similarly, Donna Farmer argues, in the passages below, that the marketplace provides the Disney company with incentives to have "The Princess and the Frog" appeal to black audiences.


(p. 1) "THE Princess and the Frog" does not open nationwide until December, but the buzz is already breathless: For the first time in Walt Disney animation history, the fairest of them all is black.


. . .


After viewing some photographs of merchandise tied to the movie, which is still unfinished, Black Voices, a Web site on AOL dedicated to African-American culture, faulted the prince's relatively light skin color. Prince Naveen hails from the fictional land of Maldonia and is voiced by a Brazilian actor; Disney says that he is not white.

"Disney obviously doesn't think a black man is worthy of the title of prince," Angela Bronner Helm wrote March 19 on the site. "His hair and features are decidedly non-black. This has left many in the community shaking (p. 8) their head in befuddlement and even rage."

Others see insensitivity in the locale.

"Disney should be ashamed," William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, told London's Daily Telegraph. "This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community."

ALSO under scrutiny is Ray the firefly, performed by Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Yosemite Sam). Some people think Ray sounds too much like the stereotype of an uneducated Southerner in an early trailer.

Of course, armchair critics have also been complaining about the princess. Disney originally called her Maddy (short for Madeleine). Too much like Mammy and thus racist. A rumor surfaced on the Internet that an early script called for her to be a chambermaid to a white woman, a historically correct profession. Too much like slavery.

And wait: We finally get a black princess and she spends the majority of her time on screen as a frog?


. . .


Donna Farmer, a Los Angeles Web designer who is African-American and has two children, applauded Disney's efforts to add diversity.

"I don't know how important having a black princess is to little girls -- my daughter loves Ariel and I see nothing wrong with that -- but I think it's important to moms," she said.

"Who knows if Disney will get it right," she added. "They haven't always in the past, but the idea that Disney is not bending over backward to be sensitive is laughable. It wants to sell a whole lot of Tiana dolls and some Tiana paper plates and make people line up to see Tiana at Disney World."



For the full article, see:

BROOKS BARNES. "Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too." The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sun., May 31, 2009): 1, 8-9.

(Note: ellipses added.)


The published version of Becker's doctoral dissertation is:

Becker, Gary S. The Economics of Discrimination. 2nd Rev ed, Economic Research Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.


DisneyPrincessAndFrog2009-06-09.jpg Movie still of Princess Tiana from Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" to be released in December 2009. Source of movie still: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





June 13, 2009

Past Successful Entrepreneurship is a Predictor of Future Successful Entrepreneurship



DavidowWilliamVentureCapitalist2009-05-31.jpg"William H. Davidow, a venture capitalist, says he would want to know why an entrepreneur's last deal failed "and what the person learned from it." " Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


The research reported below, goes against the conclusions of some (such as Christensen and Raynor) that entrepreneurs often learn useful lessons from their failures. However, if true, the research has interesting policy implications.

For instance, if it is true that entrepreneurs who have succeeded in the past, are also more likely to succeed in the future, then it makes sense to allow them to keep the wealth from their entrepreneurship. In that case, the wealth is not only an incentive and reward for hard work, and taking risks. It also provides them the seed-funds for ever-more ambitious future entrepreneurial efforts that have a better-than-average chance of success. E.g., the profits from Disney's cartoon movies, were crucial for funding Disneyland.

(The Gompers et al research is consistent with one of Edwin Mansfield's papers, that I think I mention in my review of Mansfield's contributions to the economics of technology.)


(p. 3) Professor Gompers and his co-authors Anna Kovner, Josh Lerner and David S. Scharfstein found that first-time entrepreneurs who received venture capital funding had a 22 percent chance of success. Success was defined as going public or filing to go public; Professor Gompers says the results were similar when using other measures, like acquisition or merger.

Already-successful entrepreneurs were far more likely to succeed again: their success rate for later venture-backed companies was 34 percent. But entrepreneurs whose companies had been liquidated or gone bankrupt had almost the same follow-on success rate as the first-timers: 23 percent.

In other words, trying and failing bought the entrepreneurs nothing -- it was as if they never tried. Or, as Professor Gompers puts it, "for the average entrepreneur who failed, no learning happened."

This finding flies in the face of conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley, where failure is regarded as an important opportunity for learning. No less an authority than Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, says that in the Valley, "You're more valuable because of the experiences you've been through under failures."



For the full article, see:

LESLIE BERLIN. "Prototype; Try, Try Again, or Maybe Not." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., March 22, 2009): 3.



The research by Gompers et al, can be downloaded from:

Gompers, Paul A., Anna Kovner, Josh Lerner, and David S. Scharfstein. "Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurship." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 09-028, 2008.


PincusMarkEntrepreneur.jpg










"Mark Pincus, who founded Tribe.net and then Zynga, says: "As an entrepreneur, you have to get used to failure. It is just part of the path to success." " Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





April 19, 2009

Why Disney Was a Better Artist than Picasso



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Source of book image: http://ebooks-imgs.connect.com/ebooks/product/400/000/000/000/000/035/806/400000000000000035806_s4.jpg



(p. 275) The popularity of the creative arts, and the influence they exert, will depend ultimately on their quality and allure, on the delight and excitement they generate, and on demotic choices. Picasso set his faith against nature, and burrowed within himself. Disney worked with nature, stylizing it, anthropomorphizing it, and surrealizing it, but ultimately reinforcing it. That is why his ideas form so many powerful palimpsests in the visual vocabulary of the world in the early twenty-first century, and will continue to shine through, while the ideas of Picasso, powerful though they were for much of the twentieth century, will gradually fade and seem outmoded, as representational art returns to favor. In the end nature is the strongest force of all.



Source:

Johnson, Paul M. Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

(Note: I am grateful to John Devereux for telling me about Paul Johnson's views on Picasso and Disney.)





September 6, 2008

At Pixar, "Storytelling is More Important Than Graphics"



PixarTouchBK.jpg







Source of book image:
http://bp2.blogger.com/_Sar8IPNlxOY/SClPS33oTxI/AAAAAAAAB_0/B8GjajHtetY/s1600/PixarTouch.jpg


(p. A19) One of Mr. Catmull's other inspirations was to hire computer animator John Lasseter after he was fired by Walt Disney Co. in 1983. (He had apparently stepped on one too many toes in the company's sprawling management structure.) Then again, as Mr. Price reports, in the world of computer animators, workplace comings and goings seemed to be part of the job. Mr. Lasseter himself had already quit Disney and then returned before being fired. In the creative ferment of computer animation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, what mattered most was the work itself: Never mind who signs the paychecks - what project are you working on now?

. . .

One of Pixar's first projects revealed a truth that would point the way to success: Storytelling is more important than graphics firepower. The company created a short film, directed by Mr. Lasseter, called "Tin Toy," about a mechanical one-man band fleeing the terrors of a baby who wants to play with it. "Tin Toy" made audiences laugh in part because it turned established themes on their heads. The story was told from the toy's-eye view, close to the floor. The baby, doing what babies do, seemed like a gigantic, capricious monster. "Tin Toy" won the 1988 Academy Award for animated short film.

The upside-down "Tin Toy" point of view seems to fit much of what happened at Pixar afterward. The company made a deal with Disney in 1991: The little animation outfit would produce three movies, and the entertainment behemoth would distribute and market them. With the outsize success of the first movie in the deal, "Toy Story" - it grossed $355 million world-wide - Pixar and Disney were perhaps on an inevitable collision course over control and profits. Mr. Price adroitly depicts the clashes between Mr. Jobs and his nemesis at Disney, chief executive Michael Eisner, and captures the sweet vindication of Mr. Lasseter as the projects he guides outstrip the animation efforts of his former employer.

The sweetest moment in the Pixar saga came two years ago, when Disney bought the company for $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal - one that gave Pixar executives enormous power at their new home. Mr. Jobs sits on the Disney board and is the company's largest shareholder. (Mr. Eisner left in 2005.) And Mr. Lasseter became the chief creative officer for the combined Disney and Pixar animation studios, where Mr. Catmull serves as president.

The day after the sale was announced, Mr. Lasseter and Mr. Catmull flew to Burbank, Calif., to address a crowd of about 500 animation staffers on a Disney soundstage. "Applause built as they made their way to the front," Mr. Price reports, "and then erupted again in force" when the two men were introduced. "Lasseter was welcomed as a rescuer of the studio from which he had been fired some twenty-two years before." In one of their first moves, Mr. Price says, Messrs. Lasseter and Catmull "brought back a handful of Disney animation standouts who had only recently been laid off." Redemption, after all, is essential to any story well told.




For the full review, see:


PAUL BOUTIN. "Bookshelf, An Industry Gets Animated." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 14, 2008): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





September 7, 2007

Reagan's "Crazy" Speech Inspired Lessig to Pursue the "Impossible"

 

Mr. Lessig has become the standard-bearer for those who see copyright law as too protective of original creators and too stifling of the artists who follow them. That position has made him the darling of those who want a relatively unfettered Internet, whether it be music sharers or online poem reprinters.

But it has also made him an opponent of many big media companies, including the Walt Disney Company, whose signature creation, Mickey Mouse, would have passed into the public domain years ago if not for a series of well-timed extensions to the law.

. . .

. . . , it might surprise many of Mr. Lessig’s supporters to find that his inspiration for his copyright work was Ronald Reagan.

“I heard George Shultz give a talk in Berlin on the 20th anniversary of Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’ speech,” Mr. Lessig said. “It was very moving to be at this event. Many of the Germans in the audience were moved to tears. They said that at the time this happened, it was impossible to see this change happening.”

In recalling his thoughts on the possibility of communism falling, he said, “When I heard Reagan’s speech, I remember thinking, ‘boy, he is crazy,’ ” he said.

It is fair to say you can quote him on that.

 

For the full story, see: 

NOAM COHEN.  "LINK BY LINK; Taking the Copyright Fight Into a New Arena."  The New York Times   (Mon., July 2, 2007):  C3.

 




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