TH Creative

Published: November 19, 2009 at 5:40 PM

Mr. Price's book is sitting on my desk six or seven inches away from my keyboard. Buy it and invest the time to read it.
Anthony Murphy

Published: November 19, 2009 at 8:09 PM

I have got to say that I loved this report fully from beginning to end. I really feel envious I was not able to go to this panel and stuck in cold Chicago. Hands down my favorite report ever on TPI.

Did they take any questions? Say what you want about Disney, but they really are the ones that jump started theme parks and these men knew the mindset of Walt Disney and probably found themselves doing something they never thought they would ever do!

James Rao

Published: November 20, 2009 at 3:45 AM

Excellent report. Keep the good stuff like this article coming, Robert!

I think several of today's theme park managers/presidents could benefit from a crash course in Walt Disney style leadership - including the current Disney heads!

I also wonder how similar Lasseter and even Jobs (today's Jobs, not the 1984 "I'll fire you if you look the wrong way" Jobs) are to Walt? They both seem to have Walt's same passion, vision, and goal-oriented approach. Hmmm, I also wonder how Walt would have fared in our Great Big, Cut-throat, Money-grabbing, Not-So-Beautiful Tomorrow...

Todd Houts

Published: November 20, 2009 at 7:33 AM

My job has nothing to do with the theme park industry. But I'm sending this article out to my fellow senior management as there is much we can all learn. I really enjoyed your article on two levels: what I can take from it to make me a better leader, and getting to peek behind the curtain to an inside look at such an influential man. I'm so glad your prompt a few days ago to read Mr. Price's book prompted me to immediately order a copy (used) from Amazon. I can't wait to receive it. Thanks for the wonderful reports from IAAPA Robert.
Joshua Counsil

Published: November 20, 2009 at 11:52 AM

I agree with Anthony. This could very well be the best article I've ever read on TPI. Great job.

I do, however, have one criticism (not about the article itself, but rather about the inspiration). I'm reading Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler, and it seems Walt constantly blamed employees and lost his temper with them (at least in the animation days). He blamed everything and everybody for any little problem. He blamed communism for causing his workers to strike. He blamed his employees' distrust for the company for his economic hardships. He blamed Art Babbitt for just about everything.

Regardless, Walt was still a phenomenal man, and this article was excellent.

Robert Niles

Published: November 20, 2009 at 2:31 PM

The panelists also talked about days when Walt wore "the bear suit" and was best avoided. His future-focused management style did not preclude him from being a human being, with mood swings, and lashing out at folks now and then. And with the exception of Blaine Gibson, everyone on the panel joined Walt in the 1950s, after he had a quarter century of experience at the studio. (Gibson, now 91, joined the studio in 1939.)

But the overall focus of his management, according to the panelists, was positive. While he certainly indulged in moments of self-pity and blame, he didn't allow those to define him or his management style. Simply, he didn't take that stuff seriously, the mood passed, and he moved on.

Contrast that with other managers who do define their leadership negatively, with constant attacks on others.

That said... there was one group Walt did not care to manage in a positive way. Gibson told the story about one day when Walt decided he needed to offer an extra reward to his employees: "'I want all these folks who have worked so hard, and their families, to go to Disneyland,'" Gibson quoted Walt as saying.

"'Except the accountants.'"

Robert Niles

Published: November 20, 2009 at 2:39 PM

I should note that the panelists referenced Walt's successors just twice. (Sklar mentioned Card Walker once, but only in reference to his work before Walt's death.)

Gurr and Sherman namechecked Bob Iger in reference to how much larger the company was now than in Walt's day.

But Buzz Price let Michael Eisner have it for a moment, when talking about Walt's decision to keep Buzz outside the company to do his economic analysis and development feasibility studies. (Buzz's old company, ERA, continues to work as a leading consultant in the themed entertainment industry.)

"He could have done what Mr. Eisner did," Price said. "Put 100 people in strategic planning and create turmoil in the company."

Rogers steered the focus back to Walt, but I could feel the resentment steaming from Price. If you've read his book, you'll know that this is the guy who also dripped skepticism onto the page when writing about the former Premier Parks' acquisition of the Six Flags chain. He didn't like Eisner's business management and he didn't like the Premier Parks deal. Can you tell that Buzz Price is totally my kind of guy? :-)

Nate Mitchell

Published: November 20, 2009 at 5:56 PM

Excellent article! I was to attend this session the other day but i got stuck in a meeting with a client and when i finally got there it was full:( im glad to see some highlights from that and ill be sure to check out the audio as well. This is an example of great management strategy for any industry and the reason so many successful companies are successful by following this way of thinking.

Published: November 21, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Best article I've read so far. It actually inspired even me. :D