Disney: Why I worry about it.

Imagineer

Let me begin by saying that I have no fiscal interest in the activities of the Walt Disney Company. I am neither an employee or a stockholder. I am strictly a consumer of the products produced by the Company. Finally, as a consumer, I am appreciative of the quality that the Disney name has come to represent. Yes, I easily admit it. I am a fan. Even a Disneyland Premium Annual Passholder.

So, what does that get me? Not much. I can, if I so choose, to give the Company part of my disposable income, contributing to the bottom line; a.k.a. profit.

I have opinions though, readily expressed if sought by anyone. In the overall scheme, they do not count for much. Yet, if enough folks share similar opinions and act in a similar manner, that becomes a trend. Good or bad, trends do tend to draw attention. And sometimes that attention results in action.

Now if I were a stockholder with a sufficient investment in the Company, I might be seriously considering if now is the right time to reconsider that investment. As things go, profits are in line with expectations. Right now, that is. But as one of the Company’s recent acquisitions reminds us, “Always in motion, is the future.”

If one looks at the motion picture projects of the Company in recent times, there is indeed cause for concern. Even with the successes such as “Frozen”, the playing field is littered with some spectacular failures. “John Carter”, “The Lone Ranger” and “Pirates: On Stranger Tides” leading the way. And no one will say it, but even Pixar has seen less than impressive “successes” in “Cars 2” and other projects. The bloom is off the rose, so to speak. Where once was genius, now is just another link coming from the sausage factory that is the world of motion picture production.

If all goes to plan, there are projects in the works that could reverse fortunes. Specifically, projects in the Star Wars universe as well as the Marvel one. Yet, one has to wonder what may take place if these don’t meet the lofty goals set in their paths. Careers stand to be made or broken at all levels.

As part of the entertainment industry, the theme park world is not immune from the future either. The juggernaut that is Harry Potter is coming, to both the east and west coast of the USA. And not at Disney. So, what do the suits in Burbank have to counter? Avatar. Sure, it did numbers at the box office, but it has not joined the pop-culture scene in the ways of the boy wizard, the ways of the Jedi or even where no one has gone before.

I am not saying that Disney should not be concerned about this. No matter what, people still will shell out those monthly payments for Annual Passes; especially those cheaper Southern California Select Passes. Hotel rooms on property will continue to be sold and the typical 4.3 family will continue to make that “once in a lifetime” trip to a Disney resort – be it Anaheim, Orlando, Ko’Olina or voyage aboard a Disney cruise. Because no matter how vocal the many fans may be, they will always constitute a minority in the overall numbers of Disney guests. Face it folks. Disney raises prices not simply because it can, but it does so because guests continue to pay those prices. No matter how large the raises, people keep shelling out the dollars.

Until such time as consumers cease giving Disney their disposable income in sufficient numbers and a sizable drop in revenues rings alarm bells for Accountanteers, the Walt Disney Company will continue right on doing what they have the last few years. Sure, we will see the occasional bone tossed towards the fans. Something to drool over, along with promises. Some to be kept and others just to keep us salivating. Don’t believe me? Look back a few years and you see the path littered with examples. Everything from the Disney Decade to Disney Sea and Westcot all promised. All fan excitement at the moment but not delivered. Even what we did get finally less than expected. DCA 1.0, a shining example.

Okay, all good points. But as long as the consumers continue to give the Company their disposable income, not much will change. Odds are better than good that when Bob Iger sails off into the sunset after his term as CEO, his replacement will continue on the same course. The kind of person who will take the chances and dream the kind of dreams Walt Disney did is not in the cards. You don’t get to the top of a company today by doing those kind of things. People like Walt or Steve Jobs don’t have that kind of freedom any more. Play it safe, increase shareholder value through the tried and true and you will be rewarded with all of the proper stock options.

And if you think the “Save Disney” efforts really effected the Disney Company, think again. It wasn’t the fan base that had any effect. It was the institutional stockholders who made the Disney Board of Directors take the actions they did.

I would love to be proven wrong. But the problem is that folks have come to expect those double digit profits, year after year after year. Not that there is anything wrong with a goal like that. How you reach it should be a matter of taking the chances on quality, not quantity.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney

You know, that’s the trouble. Thinking like that has been replaced by how much the bottom line – profits – can pushed.

 

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