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Michael Eisner's legacy: positive? negative? mixed?

He built 3 new theme parks....on the cheap.

From Daniel Etcheberry
Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:52 AM
I would say mixed; 3 new theme parks is better than nothing, and he revitalized the animation features with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin which became successful theme park attractions. On the other hand, Euro Disney was a failure at the beginning,and MGM, Animal Kingdom, and Disney California Adventure were built on the cheap (as few attractions as possible).


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Andrew Dougherty
Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:03 AM
While this is true, I think that DCA has since been fixed up.

From TH Creative
Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Positive.

From Rob Pastor
Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:28 PM
In relation to the Disney P & R, my opinions concerning Eisner have changed over the years, after seeing what those following him have done (or haven't done) with the parks. I look upon his efforts as mostly positive at this point in time. It seems like he had a passion for the parks. A lot of excellent attractions were introduced during his tenure. Sure Animal Kingdom and DHS could have had more attractions, but on the whole they're pretty decent theme parks. Actually DHS is one of my favorite theme parks. Chances are, neither park would exist today if not for Eisner. WDW would probably just consist of Magic Kingdom & Epcot. California Adventure 1.0, though, was probably a mistake, since it's original version was more amusement park than theme park. But, once again, the present 2.0 version, which is pretty good, probably would not exist if Eisner didn't give the original park the go ahead. Eisner seemed to really care about the parks and Disney's roots. The people that followed him seem to care more about the overall corporate, all encompassing, Disney, but treat the P&R as poor step children of the company. Maybe its great for the stockholders, but the magic has dimmed since Eisner left. Many analysts wanted him booted when he was in power, but it turned into a careful what you wish for situation, with nothing much happening to the parks since he left. The view of history often changes what the contemporary thought may have been.....On Euro Disney, they probably should have rejected the French financial contributions, and built the park in a friendly climate and labor location, such as Spain. Euro Disney has just been a constant strain on Disney's finances and its doubtful it will ever be successful financially. Just a money pit.

From TH Creative
Posted April 21, 2013 at 7:28 AM
Positive.

From Daniel Etcheberry
Posted April 21, 2013 at 9:48 AM
Roy Disney was no fan of Eisner. He considered Eisner's management of the theme parks to be too timid. Remember Roy's campaign "Save Disney"?


From N B
Posted April 21, 2013 at 10:03 AM
TH, you posted "positve" twice at two completely different times.....

From Rob Pastor
Posted April 21, 2013 at 11:33 AM
Yes, Roy Disney did have that view. But in hindsight, Eisner was theme park aggressive compared to those who have followed him. Once again, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

From Flavio de Souza
Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:04 PM
How much Disney worth before him and how much it worth after him?

Case closed!

Before him people were talking about separete the theme park business from the studios and sell it!!!!!!!

From TH Creative
Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:57 PM
Flavio de Souza makes an interesting point. Mr. Eisner arrived after hostile takeover attempts by people like Mr. Saul Steinberg. Mr. Eisner and Mr. Frank Wells brought in the Bass brothers as white knights. They strengthened the company's defenses against the Wall Street pirates.

Thinking back, my favorite Eisner moments occurred during the tumultuous 2004 Disney shareholders conference. During that time, Comcast was trying to launch a hostile takeover of Disney.

At an informal meeting between Mr. Eisner and a group of business reporters, the Disney CEO was asked about Comcast's efforts.

Mr. Eisner chuckled, "Mergers and acquisitions? Yeah. We're thinking about taking over Comcast."

Of course Comcast's efforts to buy Disney ended up being very weak sauce. However despite that failure Comcast did manage to get into the theme park business -- albeit on a much, much smaller scale.

From Bryce McGibeny
Posted April 23, 2013 at 7:44 PM
Anything to try to spark a Universal vs. Disney debate. No hard feelings, but I just don't see why that was necessary. Though I am loving some me some Comcast right now after all that they've been doing. Woot woot.

Anyways, I'd say that Eisner's legacy was primarily, for the most part, sort of, I guess, sure, yeah.. Positive. I'm just glad that DCA has been changed.

From Dominick D
Posted April 23, 2013 at 8:14 PM
Even though Comcast is doing good in theme parks it sucks elsewhere. In fact, they made 3rd place this year for worst company in America behind EA and Bank of America. EA deserved the win though, because they SUCK!

From N B
Posted April 23, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Right on Bryce... I don't fall for the bait anymore.

From TH Creative
Posted April 24, 2013 at 5:21 AM
(Chuckle)

What debate? There's no room for conflict. During Mr. Eisner's time at the helm Comcast made an attempt at taking over Disney -- an attempt which was laughed off by Mr. Eisner in his conversation with reporters at the shareholder's meeting.

And (factually speaking) Comcast did eventually get into theme parks on a much, much smaller scale. They run half as many parks as Disney, with total worldwide attendance (if you believe TEA/AECOM) that's only about 28% of Disney's.

It's not an evaluation of Disney vs. Universal. It's an objective measurement that's just ... well, it is what it is.

Also (within the context of the thread's topic) if we are evaluating Mr. Eisner's tenure at Disney, it seems reasonable to consider the way he dealt with Comcast compared to Mr. Iger's efforts.

Several on the site believe that the Comcast parks have come to represent genuine competition with Disney's parks. Under Mr. Eisner, Disney had little or no concerns about Comcast nipping at its heels.

From N B
Posted April 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Disney / Universal attendance figures... boy, who knew that was coming in a passive agressive post?

I sure did........

From TH Creative
Posted April 24, 2013 at 12:41 PM
And total number of theme parks too.

But I am pretty sure that in terms of scale, Universal still outpaces Disney in the amount charged to hotel resort guests for parking.

(Chuckle)

From Bryce McGibeny
Posted April 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM
... Anyways. (Bustin' my gut)

Was it Eisner who decided to not go through with Westcot or the "DisneySea" concept and instead build DCA?

From Anthony Murphy
Posted April 25, 2013 at 8:01 PM
I think that Eisner will end up having a negative legacy because he was the one that closed down the Animation Studios and messed up the Pixar deal. Not to mention he sold off the Disney Store to the Children's Place.

Closing down the animation studios was a terrible move and I think he will be remembered for that.

I think one of Iger's legacies was righting the wrongs of the Eisner years.

From Mike Rhodes
Posted April 26, 2013 at 5:32 AM
You know, when you consider all the developments and new things during is time, he certainly had drive and energy and you have to give him a positive for that. But more isn't always best. Being an every few years visitor to Disney Florida (have also been to CA, Paris and Tokyo), I think four parks in Florida have come at a cost. I love AK, the newest one, but at the same time I look at some of the really dated rides in the other three - Great Movie ride, Backlot tour, jungle cruise, the list could go on and wonder would it not have been better to focus more in keeping the three with new and up to date rides rather than building a fourth park. Epcot hasn't had any major development since I worked there 20 years ago -other than soarin, space and testtrak (that's not much in 20 years)and two buildings stand empty and no development in world showcase.

I agree with Rob Pastor - Euro Disney should never have been in France. The french are probably the least best at friendly service - the opposite to Disney culture - and the Spanish site was in a much better climate. I know part of the reason for choosing Paris was its more central location, but flights around Europe are cheap and plentiful - especially to spain.

From N B
Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:38 PM
I'd rather pay $100 a night for parking at Universal vs setting one foot on a Disney property ever again. All that money and time... wasted on mediocre vacations in packed theme parks with two hour lines for every ride.

From TH Creative
Posted April 26, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Goodness gracious.

From Dominick D
Posted April 26, 2013 at 2:17 PM
NB, if Universal stopped giving out free Express would you still go? You didn't take advantage of Fastpass and use a touring guide, so it's your fault.

From Bryce McGibeny
Posted April 27, 2013 at 6:25 AM
N B, that's a little ridiculous.

Maybe you should visit one of the smaller resorts (since I assume you're talking about WDW here), such as Disneyland Resort or Tokyo Disneyland Resort. Tokyo DisneySea appears to be the best park in the world.. Even better than our Islands of Adventure or Epcot.

From N B
Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:14 AM
Watching you two cheerlead and feed off each other for moral support is priceless. (Not you, Bryce).

And yes, it is quite ridiculous, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.

From James Trexen
Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:19 AM
Maybe I need glasses, but I'm fairly certain this was the thread about Michael Eisner.

From TH Creative
Posted April 27, 2013 at 4:35 PM
(Chuckle)

From Dominick D
Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:23 AM
NB, please explain.

James, yes, this thread was about Eisner, so IMO him impact was positive.

From William Clark
Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:27 AM
NB, wow that is a shocking statement regarding Disney. Disney is quite simply and far and away the finest theme park operation in the world. I have been there countless times and regard Walt Disney World as the gold standard against which all other parks are measured, without exception they all fall short. Busch Gardens comes closest but Universal? Really? I've seen Disney just about as packed as it gets and I've still gotten my rides in. Plus you can always get on one of the boats and tour the property, eat some lunch, take some pictures,
go to the stables, walk the Boardwalk. That is indeed an off the wall observation NB.

From Bryce McGibeny
Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:33 PM
I think the division on these forums between Universal and Disney is just too much. Is it so hard to love both? I think we should count ourselves lucky that we are able to even step foot in resorts as awesome as Disneyland Resort, Universal Orlando, etc.

Ugh.

From William Clark
Posted April 27, 2013 at 3:19 PM
The parks that I truly love are few in number and can be counted on one hand. Magic Kingdom first and foremost. Epcot, Busch Gardens Tampa and Seaworld Orlando round out my list. Out West; Disneyland.

From Dominick D
Posted April 27, 2013 at 4:29 PM
You said it Bryce. Unfortunately, Disney vs Universal is just like Marvel vs DC or Star Wars vs Star Trek.

From TH Creative
Posted April 27, 2013 at 4:56 PM
Getting back to the subject of the thread: One of the contributors to the iconographic status of the Walt Disney theme parks is that the company's bedrock remains in place. Disney has been owned by the same institutional hierarchy for 90 years. In a 21st century corporate world of shifts and uncertainty, the company's ownership has been remarkably consistent.

I imagine it would be more challenging for a parks division (a model that is arguably the most labor intensive entertainment medium) to assert any positive long term contribution to the bottom line, when its ownership is constantly changing -- unfamiliar. For example, since its opening the Universal theme parks have been owned by MCA/Universal, Rank, Blackstone, Vivendi, Seagram, NBC/Universal/GE and now Comcast.

Certainly Mr. Eisner can be credited with maintaining the company's consistency in ownership. Indeed he probably drew from the experience of the failed hostile takeovers that occurred just before he came to Disney. That experience must have helped him shut down Comcast's rather half-baked takeover attempt.

Related: Comcast eventually acquired its second choice in theme park entertainment.

From Jack Partridge
Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:29 AM
My view: 65% Positive. I know, a weird number, but hear me out. His contribution to DIS, in my opinion, was incredible for the first ten years, fell off in the next 5/6 and hurt the company in the last 3/4.

The Animation division was tremendous in the Renaissance, bringing joy to children across the world. But, in my opinion, after Hercules, the studio began to flounder and lose it's core values - the art form of hand-drawn animation. I think it speaks volumes when the Home on the Range was the "last hurrah" for hand-drawn features.

His timidity in the parks, after Disneyland Paris, was detrimental to the outlook for the Parks and Resorts. Look at Shanghai. It will be half-full - by comparison to 10-15 years down the line - but the entrance, theme, and lands will be wonderfully decorated that entice customers. Over time they can plus this park by adding new attractions and features. By comparison DCA was built on the cheap, and didn't have the basic Disney park features - such as a well designed entrance to match Main Street - which further enhanced the "tackiness" of the park. Only now is the park operating sufficiently. On the plus side, Eisner recognised that WDW should be a true Vacation Kingdom, adding in 2 parks, 2 water parks and a multitude of resorts. Furthermore, the Disney Cruise Line was a great initiative which is the most profitable segment of the company.

The focus of, and I'm paraphrasing here, "we can do it ourselves" in regards to an online portal, cost Disney a ton of money, but Eisner thankfully rejected an AOL merger. He knew that AOL's ballooned stock price, and other web companies, was toxic, so plaudits to him for keeping them away.

In many regards however, Eisner himself initiated a toxic attitude in the management levels. This is something which still negatively impacts the company, with pencil pushers - especially in the Resorts division - continuing to have no idea what the product they are selling is.

The $19B acquisition of CapCities was perhaps one of the greatest acquisitions of all time. Who knew that ESPN would be such a gold mine for Disney? This single acquisition continues to help Disney weather bad days, stock-piling up money that can be used to build new attractions at the Parks.

So overall, I view Eisner as a positive impact on the company, perhaps even the greatest CEO that Disney has ever had. But he overstayed in the chief role, thus reducing my positive view of him. Iger has managed to fix plenty of the errors of his previous Boss, and brilliantly mended the bridges with Pixar. But his errors are now coming to light with his heightened focus on brands.

From Jack Partridge
Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:34 AM
Mr Holland writes: "Comcast eventually acquired its second choice in theme park entertainment."

I respond: I don't recall Comcast ever wanting to purchase Disney for their Parks and Resorts. If I remember correctly, Comcast wanted to buy a Media Conglomerate to gain their TV and Cable assets. Disney had Disney Channel, ABC and ESPN so naturally fitted with Comcast's use for the acquisition. The Parks would probably have been spun off into a separate company, much like what I believe Comcast are doing now with Universal. They aren't in the theme park entertainment business, and I don't expect them to be in the next ten years.

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