Friday, September 17, 2004

Working for the Mouse

Like a lot of adults, I think, I have mixed feelings about Disney. There are things I love about the company, there are other things about Disney that make me wince. While I was a fan of Michael Eisner at one time, I'm glad he's finally - albeit slowly - going, as he seems to have lost touch with the sense of wonder that is the underlying foundation for Disney's success. "What would Walt do?" is not a rhetorical question. For all the founder's reported faults, Walt Disney understood wonder and magic. Eisner seemed to also understand and believe in a sense of wonder at one time. Now he only seems to understand business and the bottom line... and hasn't done a particularly good job with either in recent years.

Note to CEO's at large. Do not make off-handed promises in your annual report and then not follow up. Several years ago, Eisner commented on the general appearance of the Disney stores; his one remark on the store's carpeting echoed something I thought each time I walked into one. The carpet material wore down quickly and apparently doesn't clean easily, their grayish appearance gives the stores a dingy, unkempt feeling.

"Hah," I thought, reading Eisner's letter to shareholders where he said, almost as an aside, that the carpeting was a problem and would be replaced in every Disney store. "He gets it, too."

There are three Disney stores within driving distance of Merrimack. To date, not one of them has had their carpets replaced. I lose a little more respect for Eisner each time I see one of those carpets.

I've often thought that I was glad I never had the opportunity to work at Disneyland, when I was a teenager and living in California, as my experience has been that the quickest way for me to lose respect for a company I admire is to go to work for it. That's not true for everyone, of course. My friend Chuq worked for Disney and continues to work for Apple and has good things to say about both companies. Maybe my expectations are so high - or unrealistic - that I set myself up for disappointment. "I want to believe," as Mulder's poster declared, the cry of a cynic who is really a disappointed optimist.

But if I had gone to work for the Big Mouse, I would have campaigned to work on the "Mark Twain." Amanda LeRoy wanted to be a Jungle Cruise skipper, but ended up as a Haunted Mansion attendant, a job she hated... for a little while.

It's a nice story, and gives me hope that Disney will survive the Eisner years and rebuild back into the company I want to think it is. Disney's done it before. There was a long drought in the Magic Kingdom before "The Little Mermaid." It can happen again.

I want to believe.

(link via boingboing)

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