So I decided to run down my top ten Disney events of the year. Not in terms of my love of them, but for how I perceive their importance to the company. You will notice that I don’t include anything from ABC or ESPN. This is not because I don’t believe they shouldn’t be on this list, in fact I think the opposite. However, I just felt nothing they did in 2009 deserves to be on this list. I know the rundown will be debatable, but its just one boy’s opinion.
10. Prep and Landing
It’s not every year we get a new holiday television classic. And while a blockbuster television special is not as impressive as a blockbuster film, it is a step in the right direction. It was refreshing for Disney Animation Studios to have the buzz instead of Pixar. The 30 minute salute to all holidays but mostly Christmas got Pixar-like reviews and has be heralded as a Christmas classic. It even got better ratings than Oprah. Only time will tell if Prep and Landing will stand alongside Rudolph and Frosty, but as far as Disney animation is concerned, it might be the turnaround point.
9. Presidency of the Disneyland Resort
Out of the blue Ed Grier retired and was replaced by George Kalogridis from Disneyland Resort Paris. Those of us around for the first “Resort Expansion” remember George as Cynthia’s number two man that was sent back to Florida. While Ed had the reputation of being an absentee president, the verdict hasn’t come out for George yet. Florida veterans claim George is old-school. But will he understand what makes Disneyland inherently different than its Florida counterpart?
8. Disney XD
Disney XD’s launch in February finally gave Disney a voice to boys. Now the success of this endeavor has been debated, but it seems to be headed in the right direction, and defiantly has more of an identity than Toon Disney did. Disney XD will probably play a big role in the Marvel integration as they already air about 40 hours a week of Marvel programming. Ironically, the last program broadcasted by Toon Disney was The Incredible Hulk.
Up didn’t make this list because it was a good movie, (although I think it is). It made it because it proved that Pixar could have a success with anything. Who would have thought that a movie featuring an elderly widower who is joined on an adventure with a Wilderness Explorer would be a hit? It was much more successful than the much more marketable Disney animated princess movie that was also released this year. Pixar is now entering franchise territory with Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, so it looks like Pixar will continue to have hits and be the brand to beat when it comes to animation.
6. Rasulo/Staggs Swap
All the folks at D23 that were using Rasulo as a synonym for bad, wanted him to no longer be in charge of Parks and Resorts, but I don’t think naming him CFO was what they had in mind. For those wanting a bold new direction to Disney Parks, will probably be disappointed. So if its going to be business as usual, I guess all that really matters is how good of a presentation Tom Staggs will he put on at the next D23 Expo. In that regard, lets hope Tom is more Cook than Rasulo.
5. Princess and the Frog
The return of traditional animation has finally come to Disney, and the results were mixed. The box office was weak, but the merchandise has been strong. So Tiana’s long term relevance will be dictated by weather she can become an evergreen princess like Cinderella or Belle. While Winnie the Pooh will be traditionally animated, the expectation of that film is low. It probably won’t be until the Snow Queen is released of whether traditional animation can still be relevant in today’s marketplace.
4. Dick Cook/Rich Ross
I loved Dick Cook, but even I have to admit that his box office performance was lacking. While I will miss his marketing efforts and his connection to the Disney legacy, I will not miss films like Wild Hogs and Old Dogs. We haven’t quite seen what movies Rich will want to produce, but we know what he doesn’t Wedding Banned, the 20k prequel, and Wild Hogs 2 have all been canned. But no matter what kind of movies he makes, we know there will be a change to the way they are marketed and delivered.
Never say that Bob doesn’t listen to those questions he gets asked at shareholder meetings. Disney finally established an official Disney fan club. While the club had its fair share of bumps in the road, the small team was able to put on a large event. The D23 Expo was an amazing gathering of all things Disney. I hope D23 stays and grows in 2010 and beyond.
2. Roy E. Disney
The man who saved Disney twice passed away. All of 2009 would not have been made possible without him. Would Bob have replaced Michael at that crucial juncture? Bob’s innovative leadership made everything else on this list possible. So thanks to Roy this list has Pixar hits and traditional animation instead of direct to video sequels and failed acquisitions.
1. Marvel Acquisition
Lets hope this isn’t a failed acquisition. There has been no doubt that something was lacking in Disney’s portfolio. In a cluttered marketplace, it is hard to create a blockbuster franchise from scratch (pay no attention to Avatar). But with 5,000 characters and the ability to take a second stringer like Iron Man and make a franchise out of it must have been very alluring to Iger. Obviously there will be some awkward moments because of Marvel’s previous deals, but soon Disney will embrace all that Marvel has to offer. And can you get what part of Universal Escape is my favorite?