Even if you don't sympathize with Disney
The book details Eisner's various summers at Camp Keewaydin in Vermont. He started going there as a wide-eyed green camper when he was just 7 years old. The formative experiences over the following years turned him into a seasoned camper and, ultimately, a spirited counselor. The book is pitched as an endearing ode to summer camps and the life skills that Eisner learned along the way. But now that the troubled corporate chieftain is having his managerial skills questioned, is this book destined to be drop-kicked into the closeout bin?
Talk about bad timing. The book is about as ill-advised as Enron CFO Andrew Fastow putting out a cookbook or dethroned Tyco
The way individual and institutional Disney investors disappeared from the cheering section during last month's shareholder meeting, and the way key executives have vanished from the company's payroll, causes one to wonder if we're talking Camp Keewaydin or Camp Crystal Lake here.
There are plenty of reasons to give Eisner the benefit of the doubt right now. Things are starting to get better at Disney. But if you will allow me the chance to don a pair of cynical mouse ears for a moment, I would love to share some hypothetical snippets from the book. I mean, who knows when you'll get a chance to read the real one anyway, right? Might as well make some stuff up in the meantime and laugh about it. Here is someone blasted for micromanaging his company, cheating the company's earlier quality standards, and making some bad judgment calls. Yet his memoirs were to be marketed as a how-to guide for managerial excellence.
So let's dig into some of the passages that I would love to see -- though I obviously won't -- in Camp.
On ABC's decision to blow its ratings lead by overexposing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire two years ago...
"I noticed that the camp kids took to Tapioca Tuesday. 'Wow,' they said. 'This stuff is great!' Who am I to argue with that? I went to the camp's cook, Chuck, and ordered him to put tapioca on the menu on Thursdays and Sundays, too. That first week the kids thought they were in heaven. So I figured, what the hey, let's go for four nights a week with the same tapioca. It was a camp favorite.
"Or so I thought. By the following week, the tapioca was clogging up the dishwasher. Apparently the campers didn't want it anymore and the plates were coming back with heaps of the stuff. How could that be? They loved it at first. I was only giving them what they wanted! I figured the kids were ungrateful nuts."
On the fading art of micromanaging...
"Being a counselor often meant taking newer counselors to task. I was told that I was scaring away many of the more promising ones -- that they had moved on to Camp Eisnerhaha down the road or started their own successful summer camp programs outside of Vermont -- but I don't buy that. I would love to work for me if I ever had the chance. Really.
"Anyway, this one time we had a rookie canoe instructor, and she is really blowing it. She's not paddling hard enough. You see the desperation blaring away in her eyes. I ask her to step aside so I could show her up and let the kids know how cool I am. That's the beauty of being a hands-on micromanager at the camp. When things go right, I can take the credit. When they don't, I can shrug, smirk, or blame something like an underling or the weather."
"The girl started to protest. She said, 'Before you go, I think you need to know...' But I cut her off. I take that paddle and I start some nifty rowing. I don't mean to brag -- oh, sure I do -- but I'm a swift one in the open waters. Left. Left. Right. Right. I wave to the campers who are pointing at me and howling. The canoe starts sinking.
"Can you believe it? There was a hole in the canoe! I got soaked. Before the instructor could say, 'I told you so!' I fired her. I replaced her with someone who said my rowing strokes were the work of a genius. Good move, I think. We never lost another canoe. Then again, we never sent another one out because we never got the holes patched up."
On losing Pixar
"Our rival camp hated going up against us in our annual tug-of-war contest. We had this kid named Steve who was strong as an ox. One tug by Steve and the other team went flying into the mud.
"But Steve got greedy. He wanted the top bunk. He wanted bigger portions in the chow line. He wanted credit and control, and that was just not going to happen. So one day, he just got up and left. I figured we would be better off. One thing I learned after that was what mud tasted like."
On the dangers of cutting corners in quality...
"S'mores Night! It was always a popular campfire tradition. But I always felt that the baked bean counters would be happier if we made it more profitable by using cheaper ingredients. I mean, it's a s'more for jiminy's sake! The reputation of our quality s'mores would be enough to carry us through these cost-saving efforts.
"Hershey bars? No way. Too expensive. I outsourced some cheap bars that, I am told, contained traces of cocoa. Graham crackers? Bah! Soup crackers that went uneaten had a habit of getting stale and crispy enough to pass as a replacement. In the dim glow of a raging campfire, you certainly couldn't see a difference! Marshmallows? Do I need to tell you what became of the heaps of congealed tapioca that kept coming back uneaten?
"'These are terrible,' the campers said. How can they be? These are Camp Keewaydin S'mores! It's the pride of Vermont! Those two chunky Ben and Jerry boys thought otherwise and left camp the very next day. The camp turned a huge profit that year.
"The next year there was a dramatic dropoff in kids attending the camp, much less participating in S'mores Night. The savings became losses. I realized the problem. I blamed it on the soured economy."
So much more
That's just the tip of the Eisner-berg. You won't believe the parts where a teenaged Mikey turns on the counselors who first hired him, or when he mistakes poison ivy for mistletoe.
It's going to be a great book no matter what. If Disney's stock is able to inch higher long after the Comcast
Have your own ideas about what's in Camp? Let us hear 'em on theDisneydiscussion board.
Rick Aristotle Munarriz would like to repeat that all of these passages are fictional. He also owns shares in Disney and Pixar. That part isn't fictional. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.