Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More Trouble for Dreamworks

A couple weeks after announcing a loss for the 2nd quarter and an SEC probe, Dreamworks is now looking to sell of their live-action division, maybe to GE's NBC/Universal. So, the three pronged attack of SKG (Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen) is down to just K's part, as the Geffen end (the record company) was sold to Universal last year, and their stock is tumbling due to lower than expected DVD sales. They were expecting $0.07-0.09/share profit, and instead got $0.07/share loss. Ouch.

I'm a big Katzenberg fan dating back to his Disney days. IMHO, the loss of Jeffrey and Frank Wells are key to the floundering at the end of the "Disney Decade" and the eventual undoing of Eisner in our present day. Just reading "Keys to the Kingdom" and some similar books, it becomes apparent that this trio worked well together, filled each other's weaknesses, and contributed in building a great era for Disney, just as it becomes apparent that when the one guy was in charge, the bottom fell out. I hate to see this fall apart for Jeffrey, but it appears to be the future trend, as Pixar's DVD sales are down as well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

DisneyToon Australia closes up shop

As much as I hate the cheapquels, it saddens me to see the Sydney animation studio following the path of the Orlando studio. Jim Hill (and others) are reporting that the animators were given notice that they would be closing up shop after the productions of the "Brother Bear" sequel and "Cindy III" wrap [shudder... cringe... bad memories of "Cindy II" flooding in... ok, all better now]. Given the constraints of having to put out low budget direct-to-dvd sequels based on mediocre scripts, this studio did produce some decent quality animation over the years. Among their projects were series work ("Winnie the Pooh", "Dark Wing Duck", "Goof Troop", "Aladdin", "Timon and Pumbaa"), both "Aladdin" sequels, "Lion King II", "Return to Neverland", "Tarzan 2", "Lilo and Stitch 2", "Bambi 2", "An Extremely Goofy Movie" and "Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure" among others. Up until recently, DisneyToon said "virtually all" of the company's hand-drawn animation was being produced in the Sydney studio.

Apparently costs have been rising there, and there are plenty of low cost animation farms in Asia to shift the business to, so we won't be missing out on the highly anticipated "Aristocats 6" or "Fox and the Hound 5" (sorry fellow cheapquel-haters)...

Sources: Jim Hill, NineMSN

Friday, July 22, 2005

Goalpost maker not responsible for Ball State student's paralysis

Sanity prevails in the courts today. In October 2001, Ball State students tore down a goalpost while celebrating a victory over Toledo. Tragically, a student was paralyzed when the goalpost fell on him. Ball State paid a settlement of $300,000 to compensate the student for his injuries due to their negligence in letting the students on the field. Seems like a fair settlement, as this was the most that they could pay by law, and that BSU does have a responsibility to keep people off the field of play (even though this student was also improperly on the field and holds responsibility as well, IMHO, but I digress).

The victim of this injury, though, decided to sue the goalpost maker, claiming negligence of the company for not manufacturing the goalposts to hold the weight of these students hanging on/sitting on/trying to tear down the goalposts. Ignoring the fact that goalposts are not necessarily designed to be hung on/sat on/tear-down resistant, since that is not part of the game and thus not part of their purpose.

The courts saw it this way as well. Judge David Hamilton states in his opinion that this student "and any other reasonable observer knew the mob of students was trying to pull the structure down. The risk was obvious, and the goal post was therefore not unreasonably dangerous under Indiana law". Bravo to him. The attorney for the goalpost manufacturer states that "the real issue in this has to do with letting fans on the field in the first place to tear down goal posts," and hence the BSU settlement.

As much as I feel for this kid and his family, he knew what the risks were. He may or may not have been trying to tear down the goalpost himself. He put himself in the position to be injured regardless. To say that the person who builds this piece of equipment is responsible for injuries related to its improper use makes about as much sense as saying a baseball bat manufacturer is responsible if someone hits you over the head with the bat. The people doing the act (as well as, indirectly, Ball State in this instance) are responsible, not the maker of the equipment.

Ball State, in the meantime, has installed newer, sturdier goal posts to stop this from happening again. The lack of wins also helps...

Galactica 2.0

I've never really watched anything on Sci-Fi, but I have found myself hooked on the new version of Battlestar Galactica that has been running since last year. I happened to catch a marathon of season one and the preceding miniseries a few months ago, and thus I have finally found a current TV series to obsess over. Having childhood memories of the original series (and bad memories of Galactica 1980), I had somehow pretty much missed that this series even existed and found myself intrigued by the new concept and immediately sucked in, all the while fearing for the worst based on the cheesy remakes we've been inundated with this year. I quickly found my fears to be unfounded.

The best parts of the new series include what I would call a somewhat realistic military feel to the show. The combat, technical aspects, and jargon feel very real. Gone are the lasers... real guns with realistic wounds prevail in this show. It seems like these people are reacting very much in the way real people would if they were in this situation and it really feels very modern-day (ignoring the fact that they're on a starship). The people have been recast in a much less sci-fi-ish mode as compared to the original, with the outlandish names (Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer, etc.) used as call-signs and the players given real names. This further adds to the realistic aspects of the new show.

The other new angle in this series is that the Cylons (the red-eyed robots from the original) have evolved into cyborgs that "look like us." From what I've heard from a few locations, this was partly a cost-cutting measure (CGI robots are expensive), but it is also a nice little plot twist, as they can now infiltrate the human ships and have led to the paranoia running rampant. But this also leads to a little of my initial confusion in watching this show... is it a re-boot or a sequel? It is a re-boot, but the implication is that the Cylons existed in their robotic state as they did in the original series and had wars with the humans prior to the new series. I initially thought that the original series constituted these original run-ins, but obviously not.

Episode two of the 2nd season kicks off tonight (9pm CT). Good sites for research are the Sci-Fi site and Alan Light's podcast. The producers also offer a podcast version of a running director's commentary (ala any proper DVD presentation) on iTunes. Good stuff...

Deferred Success?

Reuters is reporting that, in order to avoid labeling and demoralizing pupils, teachers in Great Britian are considering banning the use of the word "fail" in the classroom, opting instead for the softer term "deferred success." So, along with banning red ink in favor of a happier purple and not keeping score in soccer, we are continuing to tell our kids that success is not desirable. That we need to somehow shelter our children from potential failure, fearing that it will injure their psyche instead of allowing them to grow from their failures and strive for success. I have been trying to teach my 7-year old that you fail, you fail, you fail, and then eventually you succeed. If we don't build on the "try and try again" mentality, the kids will grow to feel that failur... er... deferred success is acceptable and will never strive for success, IMHO.

Political correctness gone amuck...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Studies say that studies are wrong...

The journal of the AMA has released a study showing that 1/3 of all medical studies are wrong. But... what if this study is one of the 1/3 that are wrong?!? I'm so confused...

No Property Tax? Tennessean Aghast!!!

I was very amused to read an article in the Tennessean this morning regarding Spring Hill attempting to do away with their city's property tax. The tone brought back fond memories as it was so in line with their reporting on the state income tax. I can just hear the sputtering in their voice as they state:

  • "Residents fret about services"
  • "Spring Hill... stunned its residents"
  • "Most Midstate cities have local property taxes because they need every source of revenue they can get their hands on"
  • "some Spring Hill residents already are wondering whether the tax cut would hurt those services"
  • "what's going to happen in eight to 10 years when stuff starts closing down? If you cut all the taxes out, what are you going to do then?"
Not until halfway through the article do we get to the points that other cities have no property tax (Mt. Juliet's city manager: "The truth of the matter is, counties live on property tax and cities live on sales tax.") and as to how they are intending to fund the services. You see, Spring Hill is one of the fastest growing areas out in these here parts. They rake in plenty from impact fees and commercial development. They still envision a budget of $545,000 after this tax goes away.

Mayor Danny Leverette sounds very much to my liking:

It's unfortunate that people cannot envision stepping outside the box, and that's what we do here in Spring Hill. You're always going to have your nay-sayers and your hindsight's-20/20ers and everybody that has a better way of doing something.
Maybe they can start a trend...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Statement from Roy Disney on closing of

A Message from Roy E. Disney...
To all the faithful visitors to our site here at SaveDisney:

First of all, please accept my most sincere thanks for your faith and trust in us, and for sticking with us through thick and thin during this campaign. You have been our biggest help in the tough times, and the good times... and there is no way to say "thank-you" any more sincerely than I do now.

It's been a while since last I wrote to you about how much nicer Disneyland has been looking lately, and as you probably know, a lot has happened in that time... maybe the single most important thing being that we here at SaveDisney have come to an agreement with the new management at the Walt Disney Company regarding our mutual relationship.

Accordingly, on August 7th, we will permanently close down this website... with regrets, of course, but also with the satisfaction that it has served its purpose... to inform and educate all of you about the future of the Disney legacy.

One result, which pleases me personally, and my family (which has endured these months alongside me), and of course Stanley Gold and many others here at Shamrock, is that I have been asked to rejoin the Company, as a Consultant, and as Director Emeritus, and to take part in whatever way I can help as a part of the Company, its art and its business. It is my intent to fully be a part of the Company again, to the best of my ability, and I can never fully describe what a joy it is that I will soon be re-connecting with so many friends - - from my past, from my present, and from my future.

There is so much more that can not be addressed here, but there are plenty of encouraging signs toward the future vision of the Walt Disney Company, visions that we share and have shared through these difficult times.

So for the moment, let me thank each of you and all of you for sharing your emotions and your ideas and your passion for what my Father and Uncle Walt created. Join with us as we enter into this new era, and its promise for a "great big, beautiful tomorrow."

On a purely personal note, I only hope than I can come close to living up to all your hopes and dreams, and maybe even play a part in creating some new dreams!


Thursday, July 14, 2005

More on the Tower of Terror

The Sentinel again gives more details:

The girl had blood on her brain and has had emergency surgery. She still is in critical condition.

It's looking more and more like this girl sadly falls into the "pre-existing condition" category. The ride has passed inspections and no issues have been found with it. There apparently was a technical glitch reported by the Sheriff's report, but it was the horizontal portion of the ride that had a slight problem, not the drops. Apparently she had been experiencing leg cramps and headaches leading up to the day at the park, but no other medical complaints. She rode the ride several times during their stay at the parks with no incident.

This (along with the Mission:Space death) raises scary prospects for Disney. What should they do to see these coming? The boy in the previous incident looked perfectly healthy. After that catastrophe, there was a call for age-screening as well as height-screening. Obviously that wouldn't help here. This girl was 16-years old and in good physical condition. So, that begs the question... assuming this was pre-existing, what can Disney do to prevent this? I think the answer is... nothing. How could they have foreseen this?

Sadly, I have experienced this type of event in my time working in the park. While working in the MK, a 60ish year old guest had a heart attack in a 20K sub. We had to get him out, and then trained cast resusitated him. He was transprted to the hospital and later died. Obviously, the 20K ride held no thrill, so this type of event is not restricted to the thrill rides (the Pirates incident also proves this). That didn't make it easier for the family or the cast involved. Even though you know that there is nothing you could have done differently to prevent it and you did nothing to cause it, you still feel in some way guilty. I feel for the families involved in these incidents, but I also feel for the cast that are entwined... When you're making just over minimum wage, you don't ever think that you'll have to deal with this type of situation.

The good news for Disney is that in the 50 years they have been operating theme parks, now all over the world, their injury/mortality rate caused by their rides and attractions are very minimal. This doesn't ease the pain for those involved in these incidents, but the safety record at these parks is outstanding. Of course, as more and more thrill rides go online replacing family attractions, these numbers may change. Let's hope not...

Link to the 911 call transcript...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

No, my daughter won't be wearing a shirt with this slogan...

But, as Rob Port at Wizbang points out, these parties would be a great place to pick up chicks!!! If I wasn't, you know, married and all... ;)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Another Disney Ride Incident

This one on TOT...

Tampa Bay's Channel 10 News is reporting that a British teen suffered a cardiac arrest after riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at TDS. Apparently the girl "felt strange" after the ride, but told her mother she'd be OK.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office says the girl's condition then deteriorated so rapidly that her heart stopped beating and she had to be resuscitated by emergency workers.

The girl's condition isn't known, but she's being seen by a neurosurgeon.

The spokesman said that no other passengers complained of injuries and that the ride seemed to be functioning properly.


Update (7/13/05 13:38 CT): Not much new on this, other than the girl is in critical condition.

Update (7/13/05 22:32 CT): More from the Sentinel:

Disney employees noticed the sick teen and asked if she needed help. She declined, but an employee called Reedy Creek Fire Rescue anyway, Solomons said.

Leanne's condition worsened as time passed. A caller told an emergency dispatcher the teen was so weak she clung to her mother for support, according to a recording released by an official for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney's governmental arm.

"She's very shaky. She's holding on to her mother. I'd given her some water, but she hadn't drank any yet," the caller told dispatchers. Reedy Creek officials did not release the name of the caller.

Paramedics arrived at 9:57 a.m.. When Orange County deputies arrived less than five minutes later, they called for homicide investigators. They thought Leanne was so ill she might die, prompting a death investigation, Solomons said.

On the way to the hospital, Deacon's heart stopped. Medical personnel worked to start it. They rushed her into the care of a neurosurgeon, Solomons said.

Disney officials shut down the Tower of Terror for the investigation, and the state bureau of ride inspections dispatched two senior managers to Disney at the company's request, said Terry McElroy, a spokesman for the State Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection. They will review Disney safety procedures.

Officials will determine whether to reopen Tower of Terror today.

"We just want to run it through the paces and test it to make sure it's completely operational," Walt Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said.

This isn't the first time a medical emergency has prompted investigators to scrutinize the Tower of Terror.

More on SaveDisney's Fizzle

Jim Hill (as usual) has some scoop on the conclusion to the SaveDisney saga. And (if his sources are to be believed) , my speculation from a few days prior has proven out.

From Jim's column:

As one unnamed Disney Company official explained it to me yesterday:

Bob was all for closing the book on this whole thing. But -- given all the awful things that Disney & Gold had said about Iger as well as several other members of Disney's board of directors -- Disney's new CEO initially wasn't willing to offer these two any sort of new position within the organization. Bob felt that creating even a largely ceremonial role for Roy would be setting an awfully dangerous precedent.
By filing that lawsuit in Delaware, they signaled to Mouse House managers that -- although all parties involved here knew that the "Save Disney" effort was basically out of gas -- Disney & Gold were still capable of throwing a very large monkey wrench into Mickey's plans.

In fact, had this court case actually gone forward, it could have potentially undermined Iger's authority right from the get-go.

And thus ends the SaveDisney saga. It sadly appears that Roy has accepted a role within the Company that has no power as a payoff for dropping the suit and killing SaveDisney. Of course, appearances can be deceiving, and there may be much more to this than is apparent, but much of the list I published prior has not been solved, and thus Disney has not been saved. Maybe some things will be forthcoming (Pixar and FA announcements would change my mood considerably). I dunno. There is a story about selling off ABC radio and thus trimming things down to core business, so that's certainly a step in the right direction. Along with the work done for the 50th, the selloff of the Disney Stores, the new rides and attractions, the belated efforts to shore up CalAdv, etc., I'm staying optimistic.

This I know, though... Roy and Stanley cannot pursue an alternate slate for 5 years, nor can they submit shareholder resolutions. And Roy's title is ceremonial and carries no voting power. So the strongest voice of opposition to the status-quo, the one with all of the name and face recognition, has been effectively silenced. And they released a statement speaking of how much Eisner has contributed to the Company, after spending the last 2 years raking him over the coals. Ouch...

So, as I peel my SaveDisney bumper sticker, and have removed the link from over there --->, I must say that the effort was not without merit. The largest shareholder revolution on record is nothing to sneeze at. Eisner is stepping down a year early. Iger appears to be interested in approaching Jobs. Roy and Stan are justified in taking credit for this, as well as some of the other ways they shone the light on the inner workings of the Company. All of this was certainly worth the efforts. I just hate to see the whole thing fizzle in the end, with a feeling that the work is incomplete. Hope I'm wrong...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Core Values?

I like Barack Obama. I agree with him on very little, but he seems to be a very personable, passionate, and well-intentioned person (well, as well-intentioned as a politician can be). But I find myself amused by his response to a question at a town-hall meeting in Orlando this weekend (courtesy of the Sentinel)...

Glenn Anderson of Orlando: "I see a Democratic Party afraid to say they're Democrats, who voted for the war in Iraq and voted for tax cuts for the wealthy. Why should I remain a Democrat?"

Obama: "The Democrats at times have lost their way. We are trying to decide what our core values are."

Ingoring the ludicrous "tax cuts for the wealthy argument" that we dispelled here, I am intrigued by the response. "We are trying to decide what our core values are." They have to decide what their core values are?!? I am now remembering why I left this party many years ago (or it left me in the words of Reagan). I can see it now... Focus groups... Polling... Maybe a planning meeting or two to analyze the results and try to figure out what should be the "core values" of the party.

To me, this is the major difference in the two parties. Like the values or not, most people can identify the Republican "core values": tax cuts, fiscal restraint, defense, moral values, etc. I would define myself as a conservative and not necessarily a Republican due to the fact that I don't think they act on these stances as strongly as they should (esp. the fiscal restraint), but still, friends and enemies pretty much agree with the list above and spin it to suit their tastes.

Democrat "core values?" Hmmm.... Disagreeing with the President on everything? Guess that's not a value. Well... um... geez... guess I'm stumped. Obviously Barack and his party mates are as well, judging by this (and some similar recent comments by higher-ups in the party). Keep trying to decide what your values are, and keep losing elections, fellas...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Since we're talking about strife at Disney this weekend, I thought I'd throw out a wonderful little book that I ran into a year or two ago for your perusal. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a short 200ish page book set in a future time where Disney Company has ceased to exist, and squatters have moved into the Magic Kingdom to preserve the park. From a review by Noah Robischon of Entertainment Weekly:
What better place to fantasize about our troubling evolutionary path than Tomorrowland? Doctorow takes the scariest scientific advances -- cloning, medical immortality, an inter-networked world in which social standing is based on eBay-style ratings -- and sets them inside a Disney theme park. More specifically, these techno-possibilities are the backdrop for a battle over the Haunted Mansion. Members of the governing "Ad-hocracy" want to preserve the attraction's animatronic innards, but a techno-populist team from Disneyland Beijing has developed a way to flash-bake experiences directly on visitors' brains. The resulting tug-of-war leads to on-line insurrections, fan-led coups, and an assassination. The futuristic roller-coaster that is Down and Out travels is more fascinating than the murder-mystery at its core. Still, Doctorow's debut is a sci-fi ride worth lining up for. A-

This book is a fun little read, especially related to the technology he theorizes and the unique locales. It certainly seems logical that we would all be direct-wired into to the web sometime in the future, but it's also a little bit scary. Money? Who needs it? An electronic point system seems to be a logical step from electronic banking. The settings and geography of the book are spot-on as well. Only one thing is amiss... Snow White Castle in the Florida Magic Kingdom?

Best thing about the book? You can download a copy of the e-book for free.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Did Roy Disney Sell Out?!?

In a speech at the Council of Institutional Investors Meeting on 3/26/04 (that is streamed here from, Roy made the following statements:

To sum up, he stated that in order to right the ship, the Disney Company needed to acknowledge:

  • 10 years of declining performance
  • failing strategy
  • lack of executive depth
  • decline in working conditions and cast morale
  • failure of ABC network
  • failure of
  • failure of Fox (now ABC) Family network
  • failure of Disney Stores
  • failure of California Adventure theme park
  • failure of extending the Pixar deal

... failures that cost the shareholders over $7B.

Did they admit to these things or correct them? Obviously they did with the Disney Stores, and ABC's fortunes have improved, but I have yet to hear anything many of these topics.

In a NYTimes article, the following is stated:

Mr. Iger appears to be moving quickly to resolve the problems that contributed to the undoing of Mr. Eisner. The unrelenting campaign against Mr. Eisner waged by Mr. Disney and Mr. Gold played a role in his departure.

Mr. Iger has also reached out to Steve Jobs, chief executive of the highly successful movie studio Pixar Animation, who had announced that he would not renew his distribution deal with Disney. Mr. Jobs had a strained relationship with Mr. Eisner, and Mr. Iger, after it was announced he was taking over, quickly arranged a visit with Mr. Jobs.

A spokesman for Mr. Disney, Michael Sitrick, said that yesterday's agreement had been reached "after both Mr. Disney and Mr. Gold had several conversations with Bob Iger."

In the last several months, Mr. Iger has been meeting with employees, investors and corporate partners to rebuild confidence in the company's leadership.

Did Roy change his stance and basically ditch his demands in exchange for a place of honor in the Company, or are admissions and/or fixes for these issues in our future? As a shareholder, I must say that I am not holding my breath, but as a fan of the SaveDisney group, I hope the text of the NYTimes article is right and this is not a sellout...

Disney Saved?!?

Interesting e-mail showed up in my box this evening...

***Roy Disney and The Walt Disney Co. Resolve Differences***


BURBANK, Calif. (July 8, 2005) -- The Walt Disney Company, Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold announced today that they have agreed to put aside the differences that have characterized their relationship over the past several years. Messrs. Disney and Gold have agreed not to run a rival slate of directors or submit shareholder resolutions for the next five years. Messrs. Disney and Gold have also agreed to dismiss all their pending lawsuits against the Company. In reestablishing ties with him and his family, the Company has named Roy E. Disney Director Emeritus and a consultant. The Company also reaffirmed its commitment to the rotation of committee members and chairpersons on its Board committees as currently required by the Company's Corporate Governance Guidelines. In putting aside their differences, the Company noted Mr. Disney's long time devotion to the Company and welcomed the reestablishment of a relationship with him and his family. Messrs. Disney and Gold expressed confidence in Mr. Iger's leadership, and as Mr. Eisner retires after 21 years with the Company, they acknowledged his contribution to the Company over the years.

Guess I can take SaveDisney off the link list, eh? Is this a buyoff, or have they really come to an agreement? I think and hope that this is positive news. With the rumours of reestablishing the traditional animation and reestablishing a relationship with Pixar swirling, and with the positive press surrounding the 50th Celebration (minus the Mission:Space death), things are starting to look up for the Company. Hopefully this will all spin off into better product down the line.

I still hold my beef for the cancellation of feature animation projects, the deluge of direct-to-video crap, and the lessening of training and emphasis on show in their current cast, but my former employer is still near and dear to my heart, and I really want for them to succeed. I hope that this is the first step in moving towards a renaissance in the company's product.