The BLOGFlume—Happy Passover
Disney deals, a silly auction, and America's Cheerleader.
Written by Russell Meyer
LA Time 4/23/05
While the Walt Disney Company and new CEO Robert Iger have already negotiated a new deal for Monday Night Football involving its highly successful cable network ESPN, there’s no end to negotiating with the media giant. Disney is currently in negotiations with Jerry Bruckheimer to extend his deal with the company to produce feature films for Disney and its subsidiaries Buena Vista and Miramax. Bruckheimer has almost single-handedly kept Disney’s live-action movie business in the black with the massive hits, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and National Treasure. The two surprisingly profitable movies have made Bruckheimer a hot commodity, and it is pretty clear that Disney does not want him to get away. Not only that, but Bruckheimer-produced television shows such as members of the CSI family (originally passed on by Disney’s broadcast network ABC) and The Amazing Race are some of the highest rated series on TV, especially with the highly coveted young-adult demographic. Disney has been in negotiations for some time with the popular producer, and it is clear Disney will have to pony up some huge dollars to keep the coveted talent in-house. Not only could Disney continue to use Bruckheimer to produce movies, but could also use him to develop television shows exclusively for Disney and ABC. Bruckheimer is currently working on the production of the two Pirates sequels, and Glory Road, a sports movie along the lines of Remember the Titans. I think it could be devastating if Disney were to let Bruckheimer go, despite what he is likely to demand monetarily in a long-term deal. There are only a handful of producers that are able to turn total rubbish into blockbusters, and Bruckheimer is one of those guys, along with Brian Grazer and Steven Spielberg. As long as Bruckheimer stays away from director Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, and Bad Boys), Disney cannot go wrong re-upping with him at just about any cost.
Not only is Disney negotiating with Bruckheimer, it appears that Iger may be warming up talks with Pixar to renegotiate a deal with the most popular computer animation firm in the world. Disney will be releasing their own in-house computer animated film, Chicken Little, later this year, and also have plans to create their own sequels of popular Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc. The Disney sequels to Pixar films still have Pixar and Apple head Steve Jobs upset, but the two may be able to put their differences aside to try to forge a compromise and bring the two companies back together. The deal would likely have to include creative control of the franchises created by Pixar, and a larger cut of the box office receipts. Aside from Chicken Little, Disney has not divulged any information regarding any original material in development for theatrical release. However, Pixar has not currently had any viable offers from other distributors to release Pixar films on the big screen. Most of the other major studios either have their own in-house computer animation studios (Dreamworks/Universal and Fox), which in reality only leaves Sony/Columbia and Warner Brothers as the only major studios who could legitimately give Pixar a palatable deal to release their films with a high enough profile. The other choice for Pixar would be to try to go it alone, which is something that a company producing films costing up to $100 million each cannot do on a yearly basis. Can Robert Iger work a deal with Pixar, or does he even need to negotiate a deal with Pixar? Some industry experts seem to think that Pixar may be at a dead end without any distribution offers on the table, and is walking right into Disney’s hands (probably a situation that has Michael Eisner grinning from Mickey ear to Mickey ear) and a potential deal that may only be a slight improvement to the animation studio over the previous deal. Disney has actually positioned themselves into the driver’s seat in this negotiation, now let’s see if Iger can close the deal.
Charity auctions are nothing new to amusement parks, but when I think of bidding on an experience I’m willing to pay a whole lot of money for, I want it to be an awesome one-of-a-kind experience. Recently, Six Flags Great Adventure auctioned off seats to be the first on Kingda Ka, the soon-to-be world’s tallest fastest roller coaster. While the ride is somewhat similar to Top Thrill Dragster (another record breaking roller coaster that auctioned off seats on its inaugural ride), Kingda Ka is still a record-breaker, and coaster freaks will pay just about anything to say they’ve conquered the mother of all coasters. However, I think Cedar Point has taken the charity auction a bit too far. They have started auctions to be one of the first 50 people to ride their newest flat-ride maXair. The ride is technically a record-breaker, by giving Cedar Point an unprecedented number of rides (65), but the ride itself is a standard Huss Giant Frisbee ride that has already been installed at a number of other parks around the world, including Paramount’s Kings Island, a mere 3 hour drive away from Cedar Point. Cedar Point is starting the auctions at a steep $75, but the experience includes breakfast, a medallion, and free admission to the park’s opening day on May 7, 2005. The proceeds of the auction will benefit the American Red Cross, a worthy charity, but one has to wonder who is actually going to plunk $75 to be the first to ride a flat ride. Maybe if the experience included a lifetime membership to the Cedar Point fan club and an honorary certificate they could create some more interest, because as it stands right now, I just cannot see all 50 seats being purchased.
I’m really appreciative of the job our armed forces are doing overseas and at home to keep our country safe from our enemies. Still, while their intentions are probably good, Anheuser-Busch is shoving patriotism down our throats. It started with the “clapping airport” commercial during the Super Bowl (which I was surprised to see get such a positive reaction at Sea World San Antonio), and has invaded Busch’s theme parks through free park tickets for troops and their immediate families and sections of the parks that wreak of cheesy, over-the-top, patriotism. It’s now gone to the point where they’re bringing a little bit of their theme parks to the troops and their families. Two Clydesdale hitches will be started on different coasts of the United States, and work their way to A-B headquarters in St. Louis, covering 21 cities in 10 weeks. The nation-wide tour will also include a number of exotic animals from A-B theme parks, and a mobile exhibit that will allow visitors to record messages for the troops and view responses from the troops abroad. Is Anheuser-Busch selling beer or Stinger missiles? I’m a huge fan of the A-B parks, but this tour makes me wonder what kind of message a theme park should give to its patrons. While parks should not ignore the fact that a number of American troops are fighting battles under horrible conditions thousands of miles away, in order to preserve our most basic freedoms that we often take for granted, I don’t think toting out the Clydesdales and the like is the way for a beer and theme park company to show their gratitude. Many troops would probably appreciate a simple “thank you” and a tall frosty one when they come home, a little extra in their paycheck, and a little more of an attempt at diplomacy. Maybe we should just start calling Anheuser Busch “America’s Cheerleader.”
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