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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Next Chapter and Ron Miller Revisited

Having just recently finished Jack Lindquist’s memoir, “In Service to the Mouse, I felt it necessary to come back to my last two posts as I have found things I hadn’t heard or seen before.  As I had indicated in “The Next Chapter,” there is not a lot published on the management period between Roy O’s death and Michael Eisner arrival.  Jack Lindquist’s memoirs begin to address that void, and as a highly placed executive in the organization, instrumental in understand the period.

Probably one of the most significant points in Jack’s book relates to an observation of Ron Miller’s nature.  Jack’s assessment was that Ron was a very shy man, and probably didn’t really have the type of ego necessary to run and company like Disney.  Having had the opportunity to meet Ron, I can say that I can see that shyness in his demeanor.  At a height of about 6’4”, probably closer to 6’6” if I had to guess, and built – still – like the football tight-end he once was, he has what could be called an intimidating presence. I have known a few individuals like Ron, and have found it not uncommon for them to possess a real shyness as a result.  A little side note, give people a chance, you’ll often be surprised how wrong you can be in your expectations, and as said, having met Ron, you won’t find a nicer person, in my opinion.

Another side note:  It occurs to me that some may be questioning my use of first names being a little disrespectful or inconsiderate.  It is not intended to be either.  Walt, himself, set the standard by insisting that people call in Walt, and it has been my experience that this holds true even to this day within The Walt Disney Company and organizations associated with Walt Disney.  I use first name out of the uttermost of respect for the individuals I tell you about in these journals.

So, to get back to Ron Miller…  It is much easier to understand how Ron’s shyness might have been interpreted, viewed, and expressed by some, as detrimental to the company.  As has been expressed by many, successful leaders in most arenas but most especially the entertainment industry tend to be outgoing and with egos larger than most.  I still hold that, had Ron not loaded the bases for Eisner and Wells, they would not have been near as successful in the near term.

As I was reading Jack’s memoirs, I was a reminded of some passages from Bob Thomas book, “Building a Company.”  This book stated that even before Walt’s death in 1966, there was somewhat a division in management, and there were Walt’s boys and Roy’s boys.  The two camps, when encountering an issue with the other, would go to their leader with problems, and then let the brothers work it out.  When Roy passed away, I seem to remember that Donn Tatum as one of Roy’s guys, took over as CEO, with Card Walker (one of Walt’s boy) taking on the role of Executive VP and COO.  However, without the brothers’ dynamic relationship to work through issues and not Walt to advance the creative element, I think management did kind of devolve into a contest between the two camps to advance the philosophies of their respective departed leader.  There was a bit of “What would Walt do” going on, and this seems to be confirmed by Jack’s accounts.  Best I can tell Card Walker was very much Walt’s boy, and this too may have made it difficult for Ron, with his shyness, to exert his presences.  Even when Card retired, he still held a position on the Board, which probably still hampered Ron’s authority.  Jack relates a couple of stories where Card challenged him about raise the admission prices and Disneyland.   Jack also confirmed how much Card was against the creation of Touchstone, and adamant that the Studio remain true to the Disney fair of the past.  So, it is likely in my mind that Disney was struggle as Ron took over CEO position in 1983, and was given very little time to make any course correction before his ouster in 1984.  Shyness aside, Ron served up a company in position for Michael
Eisner to create his quick turnaround.

If Card Walker and Donn Tatum can be inducted into the Disney Legends, then as I have recently heard, Ron Miller should inducted for his contributions, his filmography as a producer alone should assure his induction.  For that matter, Diane should join her Mother Lillian and Aunt Edna in Legends Plaza.  Come on TWDC, isn’t it about time to correct this oversight?

Your comments or questions are always welcome.  If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at

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