Not too long ago, Disney announced they would be merging the Walt Disney Internet Group with Disney Interactive Studios which would create a new segment of the company called Disney Interactive Media.  It was announced that Steve Wadsworth, who was heading WDIG would be the new head of this enlarged group.  This left many questions as to how this new segment would structure itself.  Many of these questions were answered today through an internal memo sent out by Steve.  Graham Hopper will continue to lead the Disney Interactive Studios as its Executive Vice President and General Manager.  Paul Yanover will remain in charge of Disney Online.  Both folks will manage their respective businesses globally.  Mark Handler, who ran the Walt Disney Internet Group International business is retiring after 24 years of service with The Walt Disney Company. 

One interesting piece of news is that Lane Merrifield, the co-founder and Executive Vice President and General Manager of Club Penguin will handle the development of virtual worlds.  What I find interesting about this is that they are letting an “outsider” run the part of Disney Online that Disney has become very excited about.  Letting someone new to the Disney fold run such an important business is a little unusual.  Then again, Bob Iger was an “outsider” from ABC, and now he is doing a pretty good job of running the entire Walt Disney Company. 

Over the next 60 days we will be hearing more about this new business structure.  It will be interesting to see how it develops and if Disney can become a leader in the digital space just as they have become a leader in the movie, theme park, and television space.  Only time will tell.   

Quick Takes:

Media Networks: Disney and Starz were in the news today.  First of all, Disney won an extra three weeks to prepare itself for a lawsuit being pursued by Starz.  Starz believes that Disney breached their contract when they started allowing it’s movies to be downloaded from iTunes.  Interestingly, on the same day Starz and Disney announced that Starz will be showing the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds concert film on 2D as it airs in 3D on Disney Channel.  Starz will also show the film in 3D following the Disney Channel airing.  All of this proves that Miley Cyrus can cure any rift, as long as she is wearing her seat belt. 

Parks and Resorts: Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be closing the “Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends” show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Three words: addition by subtraction.  I hear that it is closing because guests have been telling the park that they are looking for more family-friendly shopping and dining.  I wonder if they will be installing a big balloon?

Consumer Products: The LA Times has a story on how children are not getting designer clothing.  This is so silly?  Who would want to wear non-Disney clothing anyway? 

Studio Entertainment:  Disney is developing a comedy called, “"Synchronicity", about male synchronized swimming.  And you thought Beverly Hills Chihuahua sounded stupid…. 

What to Watch: At 7:55, Disney Channel will show Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream.  In today’s episode, Jo Bro go on a health kick and through all of their junk food in to….THE TRASH CAN!!! 

Video of the Day: The trailer for Swing Vote is online.  This film is about Bud Johnson, an apathetic, beer-slinging, lovable loser, who is coasting through a life that has passed him by. The one bright spot is his precocious, over-achieving twelve year-old daughter Molly. She takes care of both of them, until one mischievous moment on Election Day, when she accidentally sets off a chain of events which culminates in the election coming down to one vote… her dad's.  Suddenly “Synchronicity” doesn’t sound so bad. 

News from Around the Web:

ABC News:  ABC News looks at the alliance Hasbro made with Universal to make films based off their games.  This alliance highlights that the importance of having a branded film has to today’s audience.  While many might view this reliance on established properties to be a bad thing and is evidence of Hollywood’s lack of originality, I look at it as a good thing, because who has better brands and established entertainment properties than Disney?  The it’s a small world movie has got to be just around the corner. 

NY Times: In a shocking turn of events, the New York Times is reporting that Anheuser-Busch is in talks with InBev for a friendly takeover.  This comes after months of hostilities between the two companies ever since InBev first offered to purchase to company.  Once again, it will be interesting to see what happens to the theme park division?  Will Shamu still get a free six-pack with every paycheck?  These are the important issues of the day. 

USA Today: According to USA Today, California is tourism is fighting fires too.  The wildfires that are raging in Northern and Central California have taken a toll on the local tourism market.  I have a suggestion for any would be travelers, go to Disney’s California Adventure which is far removed from the blazes that are north of the resort.  That way you get everything you need from a trip to California in just 55 acres of Disney magic.  Who needs an entire state when you have a theme park? 

LA Times: It looks like the guy Disney sold the Ducks to has gotten himself in to a little hot water.  Henry Samueli has plead guilty to lying to financial regulators.  He has been suspended from playing any role with the team at least through his sentencing.  UC Irvine and UCLA are looking at removing his name from their engineering schools.  I also wonder if he will get to keep his star on the Anaheim Walk of Fame.  Losing that would probably hurt the most, well not including the $12.2 million in fines.  That probably hurt the most. 

Orlando Sentinel: Disney is suing a Clermont couple that entertained as Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger too at children’s birthday parties.  Is this “Take Advantage of Disney Week”?  First folks are selling Fast Passes on Ebay and now people are shamefully violating Disney’s intellectual property rights.  What did Disney ever do to these people?  Why can’t they just leave Disney alone? 

Variety: SAG has formally rejected the AMPTP’s final offer.  I am not sure where that leaves us, but SAG lost a lot of its bargaining power when it failed to defeat the AFTRA deal.  Since a strike is unlikely, many studios may return to production.  But since a new contract doesn’t seem to be in sight, is this a risky move?  How long will the actors work without a contract?  With the tough economy, many feel the actors do not want to strike, but if they do decide to strike, they could always make some money on the side by violating Disney’s intellectual property at birthday parties.