The following is an excerpt from a biography I’m currently writing. Yes, it’s true. I’m working on another book. If there are any publishers out there looking for cool material, now’s the time to give me a call.
I’m not exactly sure I can explain why I returned. In a strange way the Walt Disney studio felt like home. On a cool December day in 1983 I reported to work at the company I had already spent a good deal of my career. My new boss, Greg Crosby hired me as an editor in the publishing unit of Disney’s Consumer Products Division. The first thing I wrote was a silly little story of Goofy buying hi-fi equipment. I was then asked to write some gag ideas for the daily Donald Duck comic strip. In time I was handed all kinds of writing assignments involving the Disney characters. It was clear I had made the right career choice. The work was enjoyable and the people 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 found his way home.
All was not well at the Mouse House, however. The studio had not done well in the post Disney era. The entire Disney board of directors had grown old, stodgy and completely unable to compete in the new Hollywood. While George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were enjoying success as family filmmakers, Disney seemed totally out of touch with the market they had 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. Michael Eisner and Frank Wells arrived at 500 South Buena Vista to rescue Walt Disney Productions from itself. The cure would not be an easy one. The company needed a dose of strong medicine and it was not going to be pleasant. I watched Michael Eisner and Frank Wells as they strolled around the studio lot giving the facility 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. Little family Disney was about to become big time corporate Disney.
It spite of the company turmoil, our little group of writers and artists continued working away in the Publishing Department. We were located in the Roy O. Disney building, a facility that housed our consumer products division. King Features Syndicate still published a number of Disney comic strips and much of the work was done in house. Our boss, Greg Crosby wanted to put together the best creative team at the Disney studio and he came darn close to doing just that. I still consider it an honor to have worked side by side with such talented veterans as Cal Howard, Don Ferguson, Willie Ito, Carson Van Osten, Mike Royer, Tom Yakutis, Bob Foster and many other remarkable Disney artists and writers.
More to come.