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Thursday, August 18, 2011

D23 Expo – Day 1

Here we are at the end of Day 1 of the D23 Expo.  Yeah, I know the expo starts tomorrow, but, I’m counting the travel day as Day 1.  My story… my rules.  J

Day started by hitting the road at 6 AM.  We actually got out 10 minutes ahead of schedule…  WOW, how’d that happen?  To the guy on 101 southbound in the Coyote Valley, who had to apply his brakes rather quickly…  You’ll find that happening frequently when you tailgate 4 feet off my bumper at 70.  Dude!!! Learn to back off.  Other than that, it was clean sailing all the way to Paso Robles and our traditional breakfast stop at Jose’s – damn those sausage patties are big, double quarter pounder has nothing on Jose.

By now you’ve all realized, I don’t use I-5 to make my transit to Disneyland.  I prefer the coast route, as its more scenic, and it doesn’t take me all that much longer.  Besides, my grandparents and cousin resident permanently at Conejo Mountain Cemetery, and as I am the only one the travels south regularly, I use the opportunity to stop, visit, and place flowers on just about every trip.  Love you always Nana, Grandpa, and Sean.  So, score first real bonus of the day…  I stop at the same florist on every trip – Camarillo Flower Shop.  Pam called ahead just outside Ventura and ordered our normal three little bouquets.  While Pam was getting some sandwiches next door, I went in to get the flowers.  The gal that owns the shop was working to today and running a little behind.  So, while she was finishing up we were just shooting the breeze, talking about Disneyland, yup, she knows by now where we’re head, and a recent trip with her young  ones, and how she likes that I take the time to stop a visit the family…  not many people do that these days.  Anyway, as she comes out from the back she hands me the flowers, and tells me these are on the house.  She said she was sorry for making me waiting…  really it was that long, but I really appreciate the gift.  I think a little Mickey and Minnie are going to make a stop on the way home.  AND, if you ever find yourself in Camarillo and in need of Flowers, may I strongly recommend Camarillo Flower Shop, 77A Daily Drive, 805-482-2320.  They’re right off of Las Posas Road.

After a nice visit, it was back on the road to Anaheim, and really uneventful, which when driving is pretty good.  Since I’ve started taking 405 down to Katella, its much shorter, time wise.  Have I mentioned I’m not fond of I-5?  Through the central valley or L.A.!!! J

We get to the Paradise Pier Hotel at about 2:30, get the bag, park the car, and check-in.  After waiting about 10 minute for our room to be finished, we head up to the 8th floor.  Who should get on the elevator right behind us, but ¼ of Mousetaglia, truthfully, it was 2/5’s.  It’s always a pleasure to see Becky, and little Button looked to be plum tuckered out.  But, it was great to see them.  After resting for a few minutes, we headed over the Convention Center to do our Premiere ticket check-in and check out the shopping.  DreamStore was a bit of a bust because we weren’t schedule of admittance until 5:30, and I, nor the girls, want to hang around until then.  So, I trucked it up to the 2nd floor and checked out the Archive Treasures Store.  Not a couple of nice things.  If anyone shows any interest, I may down a pictures page for the blog???  As I was headed to the escalator, I ran into Don Iwerks.  How do I know this?  I’ve seen him a few times up at the Walt Disney Family Museum.  Very Cool!!!

Just finished watching World of Color from our room, couldn’t see any of the projections, but the fountains and lights are really color sync’d to the music pipe in to our room.  The one thing that stuck me was how amazingly well timed the music is to the water show.  It escaped me when I first saw World of Color, but, seeing it from up high and not seeing the projections made it very apparent, and very cool!

Something new at the Paradise Pier Hotel, maybe at the others too, but, I’m just noticing it.  The shower has a rotating head on it.  As you stand there, the water spray kind of massages your body, again… VERY COOL!

Well, I’m off to bed to get rest for a very busy day to tomorrow.  I’ll try to post as the Expo progresses, but, may well be too tired after very full days.

Hope everyone else is having as Disney-rific days as I am experiencing.  J

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
You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Disney Fan Community

In just a few short days the 2nd D23 Expo will take place, again at the Anaheim Convention Center.  The D23 Expo is a Disney event for the Disney Fan, so I thought it might be fitting to have a little discussion of the Disney Fan community.  The Disney fan community is much like any other special interest community, a microcosm of society in general.  It just seems to be more vocal than most.  

This fan community is populated by a vast array of individuals, from the casual to the fanatic.  Interestingly, fan is a shortened variant of fanatic…  You’ll find those who know a little about Disney, and those who are very knowledgeable. You’ll even find a few sycophants and conspiracy theorists thrown in for good measure.

As part of my research, I spend a part of my day perusing some of the Fan sites looking for tidbits of information or ideas to pursue.  In doing so, I do find those occasional little tidbits of gold to mine, but, I also see a lot of comments, often based on false or inaccurate information.  Like IRL (in real life), opinions are all too often formed regardless any real consideration of facts, or in the absence of facts.  Also like IRL, we often think our opinion is the only one that is correct or important, regardless of any facts presented.  The Disney fan community is no exception to these rules that guide society, but, the Disney fans do take their experience of the magic very personally.  There is one thing I have discovered; for the most part Disney fans are very friendly and not afraid to share their views.

An unsolicited (well, I am usually in my Disney regalia when it happens) question I get frequently is where Walt Disney was a Mason?  If you look out on the internet, you’ll find many claims that Walt was a Master Mason and an “illuminatus.”  Of course, these are what I consider conspiracy theory sites that take a fact or two to skew a story to the ridiculous.  I’ve written some of this in previous postings.  The other myth that keeps resurfacing is whether Walt was cryogenically frozen after his death. I heard that the question was even asked at a recent presentation at the Walt Disney Family Museum.  No one has ever presented on iota of evidence to support this claim, yet it continues to flourish, most because some people will believe anything told to them.  But one of my absolute favorites was a conversation I had with a “fan” at our local Costco.  Pass down one isle, I passed a gentleman sporting his Disney regalia, we acknowledged each other and move on.  As we approached each other again a few isles later, we stopped and talked for a bit.  I started looking for an exit as soon as he informed me that he had actually met Walt Disney as a kid in 1965 as he was sitting next to the Partners Statue in the Hub.  I was polite and didn’t exclaim it out loud, but in my mind, I was screaming, WTF!!!  The Partners Statue was not installed in the Hub until 1993.  There is no way this guy met Walt sitting next to that Statue.  But, instead of created a confrontation, I simply thanked him and said I really had to go.  Always interesting to hear the stories - really or imagined - that Disney fans have to share.

There are some fans who are more informed than others, and I think it behoove anyone with an interest to do a little more research before just accepting someone view as fact.  To that end, I have recently had the please and honor to begin to develop friendships with a special group within the Disney Fan community; The Disney Historians and Authorities.  Walt Disney is truly such a global Icon, and created an organization that inspired so many other talented individuals, that he has, in turn, created a cottage industry of individuals exploring the various impacts of his life and talents.  No matter what your interest in Walt is, you can find someone, somewhere, who has or is researching it, and is willing to share his or her efforts.  One other great bonus, I’ve yet to me one of these individuals who isn’t one of the nicest people you’d want to meet.  The Walt Disney Family Museum has been one the greatest sources for expanding my Disney knowledge, and meeting some of these Disney authorities.  And, of course, the Museum’s staff and volunteers are the greatest.

One of my new favorite places to hit every couple of days is the Disney History Institute.  The site is run by Paul F. Anderson and Todd J. Pierce.  I got the chance to see Paul present at the D23 Destination D: Disneyland 55 last September, and more recent at the Walt Disney Family Museum (without his spear).  Paul is a very funny guy, but more importantly, very knowledgeable and a great speaker.  Todd, I have not met yet, but, hopefully some day soon.  Another very helpful blog the Walt Disney Family Museum’s storyboard.  They publish interesting articles that coincide with the current months activities and presentations.  Some of the other blog sites that I check regular are; 2719 Hyperion, Disney Dean’s, The Disney Blog, MiceChat Blogs,, and to keep up on what’s happening currently at the parks The Disney Parks Blog.  There are so many more, but, these are some of my favorites.  There are many other sources for the Disney aficionado, in books, videos, and especially on the internet.  Just be careful on those site the claim truth to some of the more absurd myths and legends, remember I did say there are a few fans out there that fall into the conspiracy theory realm.  J

So, no matter what your Disney interest might be, there’s a source of information out there for you.

If you happen to be in the San Francisco area, definitely take the opportunity to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, I have yet to meet a fan there that I would not want to include in my circle of friend, and have actually added a few.  As for the rest of Disney related venues, I have rarely met a fan that I did not enjoy meeting and talking Disney.

So if you’re a fan and you want to learn more about the Disney magic, find a reliable source or sources of information, there are plenty out there...  It’ll make your Disney journey a much more enjoyable experience.

And, I’ll be publishing my thought about the D23 Expo in a couple of weeks.  In the mean while, have a Disney-rific day!  J

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
You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB

Monday, August 1, 2011

Laying Siege to the Castle, Part II

Laying Siege to the Castle, Part II – July 18, 2011

When last we met, I am sure to some, even many Disney fan, I committed blasphemy!  To most, I laid responsibility for the attempted hostile takeover at the feet of Disney Legend Card Walker.  Even more blasphemous, I intimated that even Walt and Roy’s management style were somehow to blame, or that Ron Miller is somehow faultless in these activities.  Nothing could be further from the truth…  While all of this contributed to the ultimate come of 1984, none it is directly responsible.  It was the culmination of many factors that led to the hostile takeover attempt of Walt Disney Productions, as well as many other corporation of that time.  The following is a synoptic generalization, these are topics that can, have and will continue to fill volumes, and here it is just a primer to build a foundation it is in no way conclusive.

I am continually amazed at the number of people who believe that any corporate board is a collection of logical, unemotional, and egoless individuals with absolutely nothing more than the best interested of the company at heart.  So, so, so wrong a perception.  I have worked with executive management teams and a few corporate boards throughout my career.  I have seen as many illogical, emotional, ego-driven decisions enacted in these executive offices and board rooms, as in life in general.   Anyone with any experience will tell you that the corporate board room is nothing more than a microcosm of life in general.  Also in as a general rule, most shareholders in corporation have no real emotional attachment to the company or management.  It’s about making money.  Where in nature the motto is “Survival of the fittest,” a concept many believe applies to business, the axiom there would be “Survival of the Smartest,” or maybe “Survival of the Quickest.”

While trading in corporate securities had been going on for many decades, centuries even… it was generally an activity reserved for the wealthiest in society.  After America successfully emerge from the Great Depression and World War II, a revitalization of the American middle class began to take hold, and a relatively untapped resource for the capitalization of American business presented itself.  As this new resource began to be exploited, vehicles such as mutual funds, first popularized in the 20’s, resurfaced as an investment opportunity for the smaller, and normally less informed, investors – generally the middle class investor looking build a nest egg for the future.  These smaller investors put their faith in the mutual fund institutions to monitor and protect their nest eggs; they had no tangible attachment to the companies being held in the fund.  The Wall Street analyst, and financial performance, became the unemotional arbiter of corporate success.  Starting in the 60s, as the public’s changing desires for entertainment choices, business was undergoing a change as well.  The focus was changing from long term growth, to short term profits to judge executive management effectiveness.

So what does all this have to do with our beloved Disney?  Well, the board and management of Walt Disney Productions failed to recognize and address the changing environment in which they were operating.  Disney’s management, like so many of us – individually, being resistant to change, chose rather to hold fast to what they believed represented the value that had allowed their co-founders such success.  Instead of embracing creativity and the change it requires, they tried desperately to imitate Walt’s creativity.  A laudable idea, but, a truly impossible effort to accomplish, there is and has only been, or will ever be one Walt Disney at the The Walt Disney Company.  Success is only going to continue by understand the man and his creative process and philosophies, and find ways to embraces those philosophies and continue that creative process in the changing world we live in.  That is in fact what Roy and Walt did to build The Disney Brothers Studio, and then Walt Disney Productions.

Now let’s explore some of the more current events of the period that contributed to the Siege.

The two individuals who remain somewhat enigmatic adversaries in all this are Ron Miller and Roy E. Disney.  Since Roy is no longer with us, unless his family allows someone access to his personal archives, we will never know what he was thinking as all this was transpiring.  Likewise, unless someone can get Ron to sit down and talk about this period in Disney’s history, we are not likely to hear his thoughts on the matter.  As I have observed, in my rather limited interact with Ron, it’s going to take much encouragement to get him to open up.  While I would love to be involved in either endeavor, there are certainly more qualified individuals out there, and I hope they are successful.  I will look to seeing the results of their efforts.  But, to accomplish my efforts to understand this wonderful and sometime strange history that is The Walt Disney Company, I must delve into an examination of these gentlemen with the information I was available to me now.

I don’t know exactly how tall Ron Miller is, but from my perspective at 5’9”, he is at least 6’4”, and at first look has what can be expressed as an intimating appearance.  Not surprising he played football professionally.  But, he never completed college, so the impression by some at the studio was that he was there, because he married into the family.  Include the professional football, and a somewhat menacing presence, could easily foster the notion that he was nothing more than a “jock.”  A characterization that he acknowledged bothered him.  Having met him, I have no problem imagining a younger Ron Miller, developing into a shy and reserved person to compensate for the intimidation some would feel from his size.  I have seen more than a few of my taller friends develop similar traits.  By all reports I’ve seen, Ron is always described precisely as a I conclude, a gentle, shy, and quiet man.  I have even heard the Walt Disney himself would get frustrate when his protégé and son-in-law would fail to speak up for himself in meetings. 

In an earlier time Ron Miller might have made an excellent corporate leader, he was, after all, mentored by a creative genius.  But, in the shark infested waters of 1980’s corporate leadership and investors, his lack of business experience place him at a serious disadvantage.  This situation was further exacerbated when he was promoted to CEO.  While I am sure he felt he could do the job, it could not have helped his confidence when Card Walker, himself concerned about Ron’s experience, approached Raymond Watson about becoming an “interim” Chairman of the Board act pro forma CEO, while Ron obtained some additional experience.  The top leadership position of a major U.S. corporation is not an appropriate environment for on-the-job training.  I am sure that Card had the best of intentions, and was trying to be loyal to the family of his mentor, but his appointment of Ron to the top management positions in the manner he did it, further weaken Disney in the eyes of the stockholders and Wall Street.  Given time Ray and Ron could have very easily become as effective a management team as Walt and Roy O, but, there was already blood in the waters, and the sharks were circling.  There was no time to be had.  Even though Ron’s tenure at the helm was short, he still demonstrated an understanding of the changing movie business and the need for the studio to reassert itself.  As I said in my last article, the creation of Touchstone Pictures and the first Silver Screen Partners under Ron’s leadership demonstrated the need for the Disney Studio to change, and laid significant groundwork for his successors’ early achievement.  But it was not to be, for Ron – with only a few allies on the Board, and even fewer among the larger minority interest shareholders… including his cousin-in-law Roy E. Disney, the clock had run out almost as soon as it had started.

Sitting across the board room table from Ron and Ray was Roy E. Disney – the son of co-founder Roy O. Disney.  Roy E.  Remember the Card Walker claim of Walt’s view of his nephew?  Well, I betting Roy as well and many of the board members were aware of Card’s claim, as well.  Apparently, from the details I’ve culled, Roy, much like his cousin-in-law – Ron, had a somewhat timid personality.  While he was active on the board, and often made strategic management recommendation, his input was apparently never considered.  Where Card’s focus as Chief Executive appeared to be on the park operations and expansion, Ron seemed more focused on the studio’s live action products, and Roy’s focus on animation.  All three, laudable points, but with all vying for attention and resources, and with the Disney movie offering not doing well at the box office, the studio operations began to take a back seat to other operations.  Roy showed concerned about losing one of the company’s founding cornerstones, didn’t seem to have the pulled or personality to push his point as hard as the others.   He wound up choosing to leave the board, and pursue changes in other way.
If Ron and Roy had been able to get in a room and discuss the situation without the perception baggage they both seemed to be carrying, I think they would have found that they had more with which ally themselves then their apparently adversarial relationship would seem to allow.  Regardless of how they were family, the two as allies would have made a formidable pair, as the founders’ family.  But, that was not to be, as much as people would like to think that running a company the size of Disney would be mechanical and unemotional, it is never that easy.

In Part III of “Laying Siege to the Castle,” we’ll explore the actions and activities that led to the arrival of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells.

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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