The BLOGFlume—Happy Passover

Disney deals, a silly auction, and America's Cheerleader.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: April 24, 2005 at 8:35 PM

Disney Negotiates
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.

Auction This! 4/14/05

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.

Yahoo News 4/22/05

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.”

Readers' Opinions

From TH Creative on April 25, 2005 at 2:06 AM
Mr. Meyer writes: Disney has actually positioned themselves into the driver’s seat in (the Pixar) negotiation(s)...

I Respond: I couldn't agree more. In fact reading that gives me the weirdest sense of deja vu. It seems that I have read that same general sentiment someplace before -- only the metaphor had something to do with "holding cards" not "the driver;s seat." Hello Mr. Baxter. Would you like a side of fries with that crow?

Side note: If Disney does sign a deal with Pixar it could have a healthy impact on the stock price and would likely make Roy "Fredo" Disney ("You can't fire me I quit!") shut up -- permanently.

From Robert OGrosky on April 25, 2005 at 11:20 AM
I think it is great what that A & B is doing to recoginze the great jobs our troops are doing, the only sad thing is that other theme parks arent giving similiar breaks to military members and there families.
After 9/11 Knotts Berry Farm had special discounts for police officers/firemen and family in recongition of the job they do for the country and i also thought that was a great idea.
Its nice when companies/theme parks give thanks to those who keep our country safe by putting there lives on the line on a daily basis!!!(often with little support from the general population)
From kyle sussman on April 25, 2005 at 3:34 PM
everyone happy pesach and we shall hope disney makes a few good deals with the production studios.
From J. Dana on April 25, 2005 at 5:26 PM
Kyle, what the heck did you just say?
From Derek Potter on April 25, 2005 at 7:37 PM
I'll tell you who will plunk down 75 bucks. The huge numbers of Cedar Point fanboys/girls (aka Pointyheads as Kevin likes to call them) who worship the place. Cedar Point has a cult following that most other parks would only dream of having, and contrary to what many would assume, a lot of people in northern Ohio don't get down to Kings Island much. There are a number of people on the Point fansites who haven't ridden a Huss Giant Frisbee. As long as the auction is for a good cause, I have no problem. Trust me, they will have no problem filling up the seats.

As for Busch, this does seem to be a bit of a publicity stunt. I am in no way underestimating their appreciation for our troops, as we all should recognize their sacrifice, but Busch seems to be making a lot of noise about what they are doing. This is a large corporation, and I'm sure that there is more to their motives than pure appreciation for the troops. Make no mistake, they are still trying to sell beer the troops who come home, and to the millions of beer drinking patriots at home.

From Chuck Campbell on April 25, 2005 at 7:44 PM
I have no problem with Busch offering soldiers and their families free admission. But do we really need to hear "From the Halls of Montezuma" and "As the Caissons Go Rolling Along" as we walk on the bridge between Oktoberfest and San Marco at BGW? As the Firesign Theatre once said, "What a fetid fervor of freedom."
From TH Creative on April 26, 2005 at 3:05 AM
I thought every theme park offered military discounts.
From Jason Moore on April 26, 2005 at 8:07 AM
Busch knows their target audience. They know that the majority of the people who buy their brands of beer are blue collar, flag waving patriots. It's part of their image.
From Robert OGrosky on April 26, 2005 at 11:12 AM
I have no trouble with A & B getting a little PR boost while d9oing something good for the brave people in the military. The bottom line is the people in the military are benefting and that is what is important.
From Derek Potter on April 26, 2005 at 8:49 PM
Cedar Fair offers something like a 25% discount to retired and active military and their immediate families. Six Flags also sells at a discount. I would assume that Disney and Universal do the same. Not sure about the rest, but I do know that military bases usually sell tickets to the nearest park at a lower price as well. Seems as though Busch is the only one actually letting them in for free. One question, Are they allowed in free as many times as they want over the year? or is it a once or twice a year thing.

Top 10 Attendance

  1. Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Universal Studios Japan
  5. Tokyo DisneySea
  6. Epcot
  7. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  9. Universal Studios Florida
  10. Islands of Adventure