Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Walt Disney Productions - 1973

Thirty-five years ago today, an article appeared in Time Magazine entitled "Disney After Walt is a Family Affair." Here are some interesting excerpts:

But the 50-year-old small-family firm, launched on $40 and the scrawny figure of a four-fingered mouse, has grown to encompass two of the country's major tourist attractions—Disneyland and Disney World; motion-picture-and television-producing Buena Vista studios; WED Enterprises, an engineering and design group that is fondly known as the "imagineers" and is responsible for many of the technological wonders of Disneyland and Disney World; several hotels, a travel service, a record company, a music-publishing corporation and a touring company; toy-manufacturing and merchandising operations; the governments of two legally constituted municipalities within Disney World; and, through Disney endowments, the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif.

Only two animated features have been produced since 1966: The Aristocats, already in preparation when Walt Disney died, and Robin Hood, to be released this fall. Disney pictures now tend to be the live-action variety; animation has become prohibitively expensive, and the Disney studio suffers from a shortage of good animators. The average age of the key animation staff is now 55, and energetic recruiting among young artists has not filled the gap. "They're trapped in a cozy formula," complains one disgruntled refugee from the mouse factory. "They're not doing any original work."

Thus far, Walt Disney Productions' belief in its founder's formula—and in what Roy Disney called the "ten-year plan" he left behind —has been enough. The next logical step, says one executive, would be an outdoor recreation facility along the lines of the Mineral King project in California, now suspended because it brought the Disney vision of progress into a head-on collision with conservationists. And always, off in the future, is EPCOT (for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), the perfect city Disney hoped to build adjacent to Disney World, complete with a climatic umbrella to regulate the weather.

Author Ray Bradbury, convinced that only the man who invented Disneyland could organize the urban chaos of Los Angeles, once asked Walt Disney to run for mayor of that city. Disney only smiled. "Why should I want to be mayor," he inquired, "when I'm already king?" The king is not dead; he may live as long as the ten-year plans keep working.