I still remember the Apple boss standing by the door with his foot resting on the box. Inside the un-open box was a gift he had brought along for one of the lucky executives. Being the top boss, he could give away computer notebooks the way we might give away note pads. He was dressed, characteristically in a black mock turtle neck shirt, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers. You probably already know the boss to whom I'm referring. It was Steve Jobs.
Steve made many trips to Burbank and the Walt Disney Studios whenever a Pixar movie was in production. I can only imagine the CEO of the famous Bay Area animation studio wanted to garner Disney's reaction first hand. An animated motion picture goes through many iterations while in production and screenings were held on a regular basis. I honestly doubt Steve was trying to curry favor with Disney. Being a shrewd negotiator Jobs didn't need any extra help to get his way. I think he brought Apple gifts purely as a gesture of friendliness. After all, shouldn't everybody have a Mac Laptop?
The Walt Disney Company once had a Macintosh User Group, and like the Apple CEO we also gave away impressive gifts at special occasions. Not our idea, actually, but a generous gesture by Apple and they regularly donated Apple laptops and desktops for our events. On one particular Disney event that featured the PhotoShop guru, Russell Brown, Apple once again brought down a Macintosh desktop system to be raffled off to one of the lucky Disney attendees. Only this time there was a hitch. And, as you can imagine, I've been steaming about it ever since.
We were all given raffle tickets when entering the room and at the end of the presentation the lucky numbers were to be read. At least that's what we expected. A young Disney executive walked to the front of the presentation room to explain the raffle had been cancelled because giving away “free stuff” was in violation of Disney's gift policy. The raffle was cancelled and the Apple people packed up the “gift computer” and returned to Cupertino. As you can imagine, I was ready to start chewing the furniture in the conference room.
Excuse me? For years Disney executives had been accepting “freebies” and there was never a problem. Yet, when a company offers a prize that would cost the mouse nothing - suddenly there's a problem. The rules, it appears, apply to some - and not to others. I couldn't help but wonder what Steve Jobs would have thought about the goofy situation? And, I wonder if those mouse house executives who garnered free laptops are ready to return them? I would guess - probably not.
I still remember those trips back in the day and I still remember Steve Jobs generously bringing gifts as he made his many trips to the house of mouse. And, I so wish Steve Jobs was still around today if only to slap some sense into the heads of clueless Disney executives.