With 2015 coming to a close, we wanted to share our list of the 10 most fascinating Disney personalities of the year. While we are saving our number one pick for our Person of the Year which will be revealed in the coming days, here is our list of the remaining nine. Do you agree with our results? Who else should we have included? Who should we have dropped?
Ever since Bob Iger announced his impending retirement, the question has been who will take his place. While nothing is certain, we appear to have an answer, Thomas O. Staggs. Ever since Jay Rasulo and Tom swapped places in 2010, it was perceived as a try-out as to who would be named heir apparent. As we end 2015, Tom is Chief Operating Officer and Jay Rasulo has departed.
Tom joined Disney from Morgan Stanley in 1990 as Manager of Strategic Planning. In just 8 short years he was named Chief Financial Officer. Controlling the company’s finances during the tail end of the Eisner era did not always place Tom in the finest light among Disney fans, but after the Iger initiated role swap Tom, he's gained popularity through a good presence at the D23 Expo and good cast relations. Stories of Tom asking for Imagineering to think bigger on various projects ranging from Disney Springs to Avatar Land to Star Wars have instilled hopes that he may be more than a numbers man.
If Tom does succeed Bob, which man will we get: The fiscally tight controller of the purse strings of the Eisner era or the creative leader of the Iger era? While his main accomplishment since becoming COO has been to lead Disney Consumer Products during its leadership transition and combination with Disney Interactive, it is hard to determine what a Staggs reign would look like. No one expected Iger to turn out the way he did. It will be fascinating to see what kind of leader Tom ends up being.
Patrick Osborne was born in Ohio and earned a degree in computer animation from the Ringling College of Art and Design in 2003. It was in 2008 when his first Disney work hit the screen as an animator on Bolt. But he won his way into our awareness with the success of his short “Feast” that premiered in front of Big Hero 6 and featured the adorable dog Winston.
With Osborne taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Short, his career has been placed into overdrive. He is now attached to direct Fox Animation’s Niomna and the live-action/animation hybrid Battling Boy for Paramount. He is even working with Adam Goldeberg of ABC’s The Goldbergs on a pilot for a hybrid series entitled Imaginary Friend. While the pilot was ordered by ABC, the potential series will be produced by Sony.
What makes Osborne interesting is that he is leaving the Disney fold. It's hard to remember a high-profile Disney animator that found success after leaving Disney, with the exception of John Lasseter. What makes it even more striking is the amount of work coming Osborne’s way following the success of one short.
But with Disney’s continued success, these kinds of defections are inevitable. There are only so many slots for Disney animated features and with successes such as Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen, the Disney Animation establishment is not going anywhere anytime soon. Those wanting to continue rising in the ranks may have to seek opportunity elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Osborne is able to find success outside of the mouse.
Despite the success of Star Wars, Disney’s stock has been tempered due to concerns with ESPN. Falling subscriber numbers combined with rising sports costs have caused the worldwide leader in sports to layoff staff members and part with on-air talent. Perhaps the poster boy for this year’s departures is Bill Simmons.
Bill Simmons desperately wanted to be a sports writer, so much so that he begged AOL’s Digital City Boston to give him a column, which was called Boston Sports Guy in 1997. His writing gained a following in 1998 once it was available on the web, resulting in 45,000 hits per day. His success gained the attention of ESPN which offered him a job in 2001. His popularity continued to rise as he was given more avenues to share his perspective. He got his own section of Page 2, a column in ESPN: The Magazine, hosted ESPN.com’s most popular podcast, joined NBA Countdown¸ hosted his own basketball television show, and he was even given his own fiefdom in Grantland; a sports and pop-culture blog of which he was editor-in-chief. He even conceived ESPN’s hugely popular 30 for 30 documentary series which continues to air to this day.
His relationship with ESPN has been tense at times, as Simmons has been suspended several times. Most recently he was suspended three weeks for criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence issue. Nine months later, Simmons and ESPN parted ways.
Was Simmons' departure a cost-cutting move or a result of his frequent differences with ESPN management? We may never know the true-answer, but there is no doubt that ESPN lost a key voice as they both try and stay relevant to sport fans. Bill Simmons joined HBO and will launch a weekly talk show in 2016. ESPN pulled the plug on Grantland five months after Simmons’ departure.