Fun with the Head Mouse

Look what came in the mail. It's a brand new, shrinked wrapped copy of “How the Grinch Stole Disney.” I self published this book at least ten years ago or more. It celebrated our twenty plus years with Michael Eisner as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Although most people probably remember the bad, I'll confess there were a lot of good memories for the mouse house studio boss. If nothing else, the guy was never dull or boring.

I first met Michael Eisner outside the Roy O. Disney Building on the main studio lot in Burbank. Having just arrived at Disney, Michael was more like a big kid who had just inherited a wonderful toy factory. Or, perhaps that should be, Chocolate Factory. Think, Willy Wonka of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Michael Eisner was certainly our Willie Wonka full of boyish enthusiasm. Perhaps the eventual grind of running this mega corporation hadn't set in as yet, and the CEO was still excited about all the possibilities of running a place like Disney. I remember how tall he seemed and he still had a full head of hair. As scary as Michael could be at times, this day he was delightful and we chatted like Disney pals. He didn't even seem like the big boss he was soon to become.

Michael was an idea guy, and he came up with several. Often time they were wacky ideas, but you gotta give the guy credit. Eisner was always thinking and planning something new even if it didn't always work out. His partner, Frank Wells continued to run the business side of things giving the CEO plenty of time to brain storm new plans for the then rather stodgy Walt Disney Studio. In short time, things would change and Disney would remain anything but stodgy. Jeffrey Katzenberg left Paramount to become Chairman of Disney's film division and Feature Animation was given a swift kick in the butt. It was all positive, of course. As much as we old Disney veterans resented our new masters, it was clear they would be bringing change and change was definitely needed.

I began to chronicle Michael Eisner's wacky decisions in a series of cartoon gags that I pinned to our cubicle wall downstairs. People would visit each day to see what new gag I had drawn about the CEO. What was Michael up to now, they wondered? They could always keep up to date on Eisner's wacky plans by simply checking my wall as I daily mocked the Disney CEO.

Naturally, my gag cartoons finally made their way to the upper floors and the offices of Michael Eisner. I suppose you're wondering whether I was fired or chastised for my insubordination, right? Well, not hardly. It seemed the big boss was flattered by my gag cartoons and eventually had his minions summon me to the dreaded Team Disney Building. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the Top Mouse wanted me to draw cartoons for a special speech he was giving. There were other assignments as well. It appears I was the perfect cartoonist to mock others in the Disney management. Of course, all this came from the guy who was suppose to fire me.

So, it turns out Michael Eisner had a sense of humor after all. And, that even included jokes about himself. When I finally completed my gag book, “How the Grinch Stole Disney,” I sent the Disney CEO a personal copy. No other top executive has inspired me as much as the Disney chief. Whether you're a fan of Michael Eisner or not, you've gotta give the Head Mouse credit for that.