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The Interview that Never Was XXIX

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By MichaelRead
December 8, 2003

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The Interview that Never Happened XXXIX

MichaelRead interviews Walt Disney

MichaelRead: "Where do we start. Walt? The movies or the company and the recent defection of your brother from the board?"

Walt Disney: "Michael, They're intertwined. I have to ask: is the objective to make money or to make money the way we have made money?"

MR: "You'll have to explain that, Walt. The company has made money and it has done this by making movies that people want to watch. Look at the success of Pirates of the Caribbean.

WD: "No doubt it's a good movie yet it's PG13. How many children will see it with their parents? Possibly on DVD but not in the theaters and even on DVD it's a scary movie that some parents won't want their children to watch."

MR: "But, Walt, you've had scary moments in the movies you made."

WD: "Manageable moments, Michael. All manageable and in context. A child may be scared yet he or she can interact with a parent. All good fairy tales had a wickedness that was expressed yet was thwarted. Fairy tales were to be read by an adult to a child and even at the scariest the child could rely on the adult being there."

MR: "So you're upset that Disney is making money but not in a way you would have done?"

WD: "I know you saw Toy Story and its sequel. I know you enjoyed them but you were not our market. Yes, sure, that you approved of them sufficiently to send copies to your grandchildren yet will you do the same with Pirates of the Caribbean? Pixar made what I call my movies: children's movies that a family can enjoy."

MR: "So, as I hear you, you think that Disney Studios has lost sight of what you created in a rush to gain income?"

WD: "You answer me this, Michael. What would you want to watch again?"

MR: "Walt, I don't think that's the question. Pirates of the Caribbean is going to make a lot of money for Disney Studios. So it's a different demographic than, say, Sleeping Beauty yet it cannot be denied that with Pirates the income can be used for projects such as Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast."

WD: "Yet that income can be used to make pictures that are as Pirates and then where? What then does Disney stand for? Does the studio, on the success of Pirates make Pirates of the Caribbean 11 with more that will make it again PG13? Or why not take the leap into making Disney Studios into a filmmaker that produces slasher movies?"

MR: "Walt, I think you're exaggerating."

WD: "Would you, ten years ago, [have] predicted that Disney Studios would produce at PG13 movie? Michael, in that area are movies no parent would take his child to. Do you realize why Toy Story was such a success? To be sure, it was a fine movie but more than this it was a relief to all other movies being shown. It was a movie that was loved by child and parent alike � and enjoyed simultaneously by both. It was a movie that parents could take their children without qualms. That's my argument, Michael, that Disney Studios has taken the route of making money at the loss of what made people look to Disney Studios."

MR: "Yet the stockholders are happy."

WD: "But at what cost? Do you know, as fact, that the next Disney movie will be suitable for your family? Or will you have to rely on the revues or have to prescreen it? This is not what I ever wanted."

MR: "Your brother, Roy, quit the board. Was this his reason?"

WD: "I know it. There's so much invested in theme parks and almost all that go to them are families. So how does it help to alienate families with movies that are PG13? Moreover, if the direction of the company is in increasing gross receipts, does it matter what the theme is of the movie? I say it does. Obviously, the present management says it isn't."

MR: "We are running short of space, Walt. As is the custom at The Interview That Never Was, you have the last word."

WD: "I started making cartoons with Steamboat Willie and I progressed into full-color animation. All along I made films that featured story and always a story that a family could share. Maybe that's an old-fashioned view yet I think it a long-lasting view. People will be viewing the movies I made into many generations. They are classics because all tales that can be shared by the whole family are classics.

"Families have a dearth of such movies. Television offers much in Sesame Street and Blue's Clues and children enjoy them tremendously. But, to take a theme and make a movie of it is different. Don't take me wrong, Johnny Depp in Pirates is excellent. In fact, it's a well done picture. Yet, is it Disney? Or is it another competing in the PG13 market?

"Michael, Disney carved a niche and I see that niche broadening and it disturbs. All right, you cannot argue with success yet if that success is at the cost of your core then what is the success? I can see a Toy Story 111 whatever it is named and it continues in a pattern it created and that's of a good story well told and acceptable from grandparent to grandchild. What if Pixar then made a movie Toy Story: Lolita Meets Buzz Lightyear? It would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

"My concern, Michael, is that we are destroying that which made us successful by seeking success in areas we should not have trod."

MR: "Thank you, Walt. Do you think that Eisner should step down?"

WD:"That's the Board's decision, not mine. All I say is that Disney Studios is capitalizing on a genre that created a family acceptance and they will dilute this hub through not hewing to it."

MR: "Thank you again, Walt. Will you sign my copy of The Little Mermaid?

WD:My pleasure. Just tell me, Michael. How many of these have you bought and sent to your grandchildren?"

MR: "Five."

WD: "Point made."

MichaelR


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