"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.
Starred Review. The most explosive chapter of this exceptional, much-anticipated book may be its last, wherein Stewart (Den of Thieves, etc.) indicts Disney chief Michael Eisner on multiple charges: "Eisner squandered Disney's assets" [and] "committed personnel and judgment errors which... in the vitriol and publicity they generated, are without parallel in American business history." Eisner, Stewart finds, is a "Shakespearean tragic character" whose fatal flaw is "dishonesty," which in the author's view led directly to the ruptures with Steve Jobs (Pixar) and the Weinstein brothers (Miramax), the Disney Company's most important partners, and to former animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg's successful $280 million suit against Disney for moneys owed upon his firing. Stewart's DisneyWorld is a land riven by naked ambition and its necessary consequence, hubris, as during his reign (1984 present) Eisner left behind "a trail of deeply embittered former employees."One of Eisner's many achievements Stewart tosses his subject petals as well as thorns was the construction of the Team Disney headquarters in Burbank, buttressed by towering models of the Seven Dwarves; but there's no real place for Happy in the Disney world that the author portrays with unflagging precision. Stewart smartly frames his book with personal experience, opening with a description of his difficult training and inept performance in a Goofy suit at DisneyWorld, and closing with several encounters with Eisner (who, amazingly, cooperated with the book in part); at one, Eisner explained to Stewart that "Disney" is a French name, and that a Frenchman would pronounce the name D'Eisner as "Disney." Stewart understands the medieval nature of corporate life and presents business as a clash not only of ideas but of personalities. With a dream cast that includes Katzenberg and fallen beragent Michael Ovitz both of whom come off no worse than Eisner, which is faint praise plus heir apparent Robert Iger and ultimate Eisner nemesis Roy Disney (the book's hero, if there is one), Stewart has an astonishing story to tell. His notable accomplishment is that he tells it so well. The book is hypnotically absorbing nearly 600 dense pages drawing on an impressive array of sources to build what reads like an airtight case against Eisner's leadership. There's much more craft than art here Stewart's prose and approach are meticulous but lack the empathy and deep insight that can make a character truly Shakespearean; this is journalism told not with a novelist's eye but with a master journalist's yet that craft is expert throughout and will help thrust this book toward the top of national bestseller lists. (Feb.)
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Not just for Disney-nuts...
Posted May 01, 2013 by Dave , Los Angeles, CAAs a former Disneyland tour guide, I was very interested in the history of Walt and the park (www.WaltsApartment.com) and to some extent, the Disney Company.
This book intrigued me, as it came out during the time that mike eisnerd and his regime tried forcing Walt's nephew, Roy E. Disney, off the Board of Directors of the Disney Company.
It read like a spy novel. Who did what to whom. When did this person know about that. What was being done behind the scenes to get a certain outcome. For ME, it was all very interesting, even though I didn't know all the players or the history behind the company.
I felt like the writer did a great job of 'reporting' the history and stories and not taking sides.
There's a lot to this book - I made several notes about time frames and people so I could do more reading and research at a later time.
This isn't a book JUST for Disney-nuts... anyone who is interested in how a giant corporation works, or someone who likes 'historic' novels set in our own time should enjoy this book.
Simon & Schuster
February 16, 2005
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Excerpt from DisneyWar by James B. Stewart
Roy E. Disney pulled his red 1999 Ferrari into the parking lot of the Bodega Wine Bar in Pasadena. It was late on a Thursday afternoon, November 20, 2003, just a week before Thanksgiving. Roy loved the Ferrari, one of the few conspicuous indications that the modest, unassuming seventy-three-year-old nephew of Walt Disney was one of America's wealthiest men. The car stood out in the Disney parking lot, where Roy had a space near Michael Eisner, Disney's chairman and chief executive. Because of the car, everybody knew when Roy was at company headquarters.
Roy hated the "Team Disney" building designed by noted architect Michael Graves at Eisner's behest to serve as the Walt Disney Company's corporate headquarters. Though the monumental facade was leavened by bas-reliefs of the Seven Dwarfs in the pediment, Roy felt the building represented everything that was bloated and pretentious in the company that Eisner had created. As he did from time to time, Roy wondered what his uncle Walt would have thought. Walt's office was still there, in the modest old animation building. Eisner had used it as his own office before moving to the new headquarters. Now Roy had moved into it, preferring it to the Team Disney building, so barren and vast that he joked he had to leave a trail of bread crumbs to find his way out.
In recent months Roy's physical separation from Eisner and other top executives had become more than symbolic. Even though he had brought Eisner to the company almost twenty years ago, he now felt deceived and betrayed by him. Eisner had come to Disney after a dazzling career in programming at ABC and in movies at Paramount Pictures. But Roy now attributed Eisner's earlier great successes to his partnerships with others: with Barry Diller at ABC and Paramount; with Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg in the early, amazing years at Disney. Since Wells's tragic death in a helicopter crash in 1994, and Katzenberg's acrimonious departure soon after, responsibility for Disney had been Eisner's alone. In Roy's view, the results had been disastrous. As the financial performance and creative energy of the company ebbed, Eisner had clung to power with a King Lear-like intensity, convinced that he and he alone had the creative instincts and managerial skills to shepherd Disney into a twenty-first-century world of giant media and entertainment conglomerates. Indeed, Eisner claimed the mantle of Walt himself, appearing each week on TV screens in the nation's living rooms as host of "The Wonderful World of Disney," just as Walt had.