With success came bigger budgets and bigger names. We found ourselves attracting the calibre of talent with which event movies could be made. And, more and more, we began making them. The result: costs have escalated, profitability has slipped and our level of risk has compounded. The time has come to get back to our roots. In urging this course, i recognize that we have some serious disadvantages and some extraordinary advantages relative to when we first started out six years ago. Our biggest disadvantage is that, unlike 1984, when times were relatively normal, a business tidal wave is now hitting Hollywood a tidal wave of runaway costs and mindless competition.
In good times, drift can be tolerable. In bad times, it can prove fatal. Back in 1984, our initial success at Disney was based on the ability to tell good stories well. Big stars, special effects and name directors were of little importance. Of course, we started this way out of necessity. We had small budgets and not much respect. So we substituted dollars with creativity and big stars with talent we believed.william
The current condition of our business is typical enough of American businesses that an entire management theory has been developed to describe. This theory is formally called the Product Life cycle. It holds that businesses go through a natural development process that is comprised of four stages: Introduction. In 1984, The walt Disney studios had already been through the full cycle. We arrived here fresh, energetic and ready to create an entire movie studio from the ground. We succeeded spectacularly in growing a new business and re-starting the cycle. Now, there are ominous signs of the stagnation of Maturity which leads inexorably to the disaster of Decline. This is why, even if there were no recession, i hope that I would be feeling as I do and would still be writing this memo. However, because of the severe economic environment we are entering, this review of our way of doing business is now not only timely, but critically essential.
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We are the current box office champ. But, more important, our underlying philosophy of moviemaking lends itself especially well to lean times. As a result, we are not only in the strongest position to succeed during a time of economic adversity, but we have the potential to establish a very high platform from which to launch into the next round of good times, whenever they may come. Make no mistake about it, ours is a cyclical business and we are once again repeating the cycle. The purpose of this memo is to reaffirm our commitment to our core philosophy, because i am convinced that this is what embodies our key to success in the days ahead.
Interestingly, even if the economic outlook were rosy, i believe we at Disney would still be due for a major self-examination. Since 1984, we have slowly drifted internship away from our original vision of how to run our movie business. Once we had a fairly strict and pretty successful strategy, which we referred to as our Singles and doubles Philosophy. At some point, we seemed to have replaced it with a strategy that might best be called the yes, but Philosophy as in, yes, hes expensive, but its a great opportunity for us or Yes, thats a lot to spend on marketing, but we have. There should always be room for exceptions to rules, but of late the exceptions seem to be the rule. Not surprisingly, our control of our own destiny has been eroded. We are far from unique in this state of affairs something I take little comfort from.
The world Is Changing: Some Thoughts on Our Business, january 11, 1991, the Problem. As we begin the new year, i strongly believe we are entering a period of great danger and even greater uncertainty. Events are unfolding within and without the movie industry that are extremely threatening to our studio. Some of you might be surprised to read these words. After all, wasnt Disney number one in 1990? Yes, but our number one status was far from a sign of robust health.
Instead, it merely underscored the fact that our studio did the least badly in a year of steady decline for all of Hollywood a year that was capped off by a disastrous Christmas for nearly everyone. Although we led at the box office in 1990, our bottom line profits in the movie business were the lowest in three years. Now, added to that, the nations economy is acknowledged to be in a recession a recession that i am convinced will be quite devastating to our industry. Thats the bad news. Now the good news. No one is better positioned to weather the coming storm than we are.
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Extension: 6500, attached is a memo that advantages reflects some thinking that ive report been doing over the past several weeks about our studio. My hope is that after everybody has had a chance to read it that we will sit down together to review and discuss. It is meant for internal use only. Distribution: Michael Eisner, frank wells, rich Frank. David Hoberman and Disney/Touchstone Creative staff. Ricardo mestres and Hollywood Creative staff. Dick cook, helene hahn, marty katz, bob levin. Chris McGurk, bill Mechanic, randy reiss, peter Schneider.
of, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry. The recent release of the big-budget movie had been a disappointment and, as a result, katzenberg was desperate to recapture the magic of old and rid his studio of their extremely costly "blockbuster mentality." This fascinating, highly"ble memo was his mission statement. Its subsequent circulation in Hollywood caused a huge stir. Huge, heartfelt thanks to leah for transcribing this for me; said transcript can be found below the images — click here to be taken. Note: The original memo was circulated 20 years ago, hurriedly by fax, and as a result the image quality isn't great. I've cleaned it up as best as possible. The walt Disney company. Memorandum, to: Distribution, from: Jeffrey, subject: The Attached, date: 1/11/91.
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