James B. Stewart
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"When You Wish Upon a Star," "Whistle While You Work," "The Happiest Place on Earth"—these are lyrics indelibly linked to Disney, one of the most admired and best-known companies in the world. So when Roy Disney, chairman of Walt Disney Animation and nephew of founder Walt Disney, abruptly resigned in November 2003 and declared war on chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner, he sent shock waves through the entertainment industry, corporate boardrooms, theme parks, and living rooms around the world—everywhere Disney does business and its products are cherished.
DisneyWar is the breathtaking, dramatic inside story of what drove America’s best-known entertainment company to civil war, told by one of our most acclaimed writers and reporters.
Drawing on unprecedented access to both Eisner and Roy Disney, current and former Disney executives and board members, as well as thousands of pages of never-before-seen letters, memos, transcripts, and other documents, James B. Stewart gets to the bottom of mysteries that have enveloped Disney for years: What really caused the rupture with studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, a man who once regarded Eisner as a father but who became his fiercest rival? How could Eisner have so misjudged Michael Ovitz, a man who was not only "the most powerful man in Hollywood" but also his friend, whom he appointed as Disney president and immediately wanted to fire? What caused the break between Eisner and Pixar chairman Steve Jobs, and why did Pixar abruptly abandon its partnership with Disney? Why did Eisner so mistrust Roy Disney that he assigned Disney company executives to spy on him? How did Eisner control the Disney board for so long, and what really happened in the fateful board meeting in September 2004, when Eisner played his last cards?
Here, too, is the creative process that lies at the heart of Disney—from the making of The Lion King to Pirates of the Caribbean. Even as the executive suite has been engulfed in turmoil, Disney has worked—and sometimes clashed—with a glittering array of stars, directors, designers, artists, and producers, many of whom tell their stories here for the first time.
Stewart describes how Eisner lost his chairmanship and why he felt obliged to resign as CEO, effective 2006. No other book so thoroughly penetrates the secretive world of the corporate boardroom. DisneyWar is an enthralling tale of one of America’s most powerful media and entertainment companies, the people who control it, and those trying to overthrow them.
DisneyWar is an epic achievement. It tells a story that—in its sudden twists, vivid, larger-than-life characters, and thrilling climax—might itself have been the subject of a Disney animated classic—except that it’s all true.
Anthony Zuiker, who’d grown up in Las Vegas and had driven a hotel tram. He’d sent several scripts to Bruckheimer, who liked Zuiker’s tone and sensibility, and called to ask him if he had any ideas for television. Zuiker spent weeks trailing forensic detectives in Las Vegas, and his vision for a crime drama jelled. Las Vegas seemed the perfect setting: flashy, photogenic, running twenty-four hours a day, with 30 million visitors a year, an inexhaustible source of stories. The idea also tapped
about the potential tax savings. Another staff member declared that “this is one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard of.” But, he added, “You’re never going to get this. It would mean going to the board and saying our valuation was wrong.” The timing was especially bad, since Gold and Roy were now rigorously criticizing the Family deal. In March, staff members were notified that the project had been terminated before the outside firm completed its work. When they demanded an explanation, they
consequences for Disney. More than any other single factor, what Steve Jobs and the Weinstein brothers considered Eisner’s dishonesty accounts for the failure of the important Pixar and Miramax relationships. Katzenberg was so angry and bitter—and willing to sue—because he believed he was lied to and felt betrayed. Like so many others emboldened by power, Eisner ultimately sealed his fate by overreaching. He lost a critical ally when Sid Bass, humbled by the post–September 11, 2001, collapse of
was dubious. As he described the meeting in another letter to Russell, he confided, “When Frank and I tried to show him [Katzenberg] how badly he had done over the past three or four years in live-action films, he simply said it is all fixed. ‘This year we are going to make $250 million in live action…. Frank had tried to point out that our success came to an end after he pushed me out of the process and on top of that his desire to release 60 films. Whether that is true or not, Jeffrey displayed
the news. He was the number three executive in the company; Eisner hadn’t spoken to him, and yet he had already convened a board meeting. Katzenberg tried to turn his attention to his work. As always, there was plenty to do. Beauty and the Beast was about to open on Broadway; Lion King was in the final edit; Lasseter and the Pixar people were trying to schedule a screening of Toy Story. Finally, at about 11:30, Martin called, and Katzenberg’s expectations rose again. But it was just to say that