The Sudden Change

It was December 1983. Once again, I found myself unemployed and it was time to search for a job. However, I was in for a surprise because this time around the jobs came searching for me. Before I could put my portfolio together the phone calls began. Several animation studios around town had heard I was available and wanted me on their team. After years of making the rounds hat in hand, I suddenly found myself in demand. Who knew? I received a number of offers, but the one I eventually chose paid the least amount of money but was the coolest. I accepted a job at the Walt Disney studio as a writer. After years of bouncing around town I knew it was time to settle down. What better place than the same studio where I began my career several years ago. I’m not exactly sure why I decided to return. In a strange, special way the Walt Disney studio felt like home. On a cool December day in 1983 I reported to work at the Disney Burbank campus. The campus where I had already spent a good deal of my career. My new boss hired me as an editor in the publishing unit of Disney’s Consumer Products Division. Unlike the world of motion pictures, an editor in publishing does not cut film, so it took me a while to get used to that title. My initial assignment was to write a silly little story about Goofy buying hi-fi equipment. Once the story was well received I was then asked to create gag ideas for the daily Donald Duck comic strip. I think the regular writer (Bob Foster) of the Donald Duck comic strip was on vacation. In time I was handed all kinds of writing assignments involving the Disney characters. It became evident I had made the right career choice. The work was enjoyable and the staffers were talented, friendly and funny. I was given a name tag, a silver pass to Disneyland, and a parking space on the Disney Burbank campus. The prodigal son had finally found his way home.

All was not well at the Mouse House, however and the studio had not done well in the post Walt Disney era. The Disney board of directors had grown old, stodgy, and completely unable to compete in the new Hollywood. Walt Disney’s son in law, Ron Miller had been promoted to CEO and struggled to revitalize the studio. Sadly, Miller met nothing but resistance as he tried to move the company forward. While George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were enjoying phenomenal success as family filmmakers, Disney seemed totally out of touch with a market they once owned. Green mailers were hammering at the studio gates and for a time it looked as though the house that Walt built might be dismantled. In the company’s darkest hour a ray of light shown through. One quiet afternoon, Michael Eisner and Frank Wells arrived at 500 South Buena Vista to rescue Walt Disney Productions from itself. It was clear the cure would not be easy. The company needed a massive dose of strong medicine and it was not going to be pleasant. I observed Michael Eisner and Frank Wells strolling around the Burbank studio lot giving things the once over. It was evident that things were about to change and I warned the faint of heart it was time to take cover. Overnight, whole departments that had been around since the thirties were dismantled. Employees who had been with the company thirty years or more were given their pink slips. There was even a name change. Walt Disney Productions was now the Walt Disney Company. Little family Disney was about to become a big time corporation and I had no doubt things would never be the same.

Things looked pretty much the same at the eighties Walt Disney Studio. However, massive changes were on the horizon.

Things looked pretty much the same at the eighties Walt Disney Studio. However, massive changes were on the horizon.