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Jim Hill
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Which brings us back to "Atlantis: The Lost Empire." With an opening weekend gross of just $20 million, most industry wags are now saying that Mickey will be lucky now if "A:TLE" manages to make over $50 million during its domestic release. What do *I* think? I think that that prediction is a bit on the low side. But Disney's really going to have to hustle if the company hopes to recover this film's production and promotion costs prior to "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" 's video and DVD release next February.

As for why "A:TLE" under-performed at the box office this past weekend: I'm guess that Disney is dealing with another case of allegiance erosion. This is a term that Disney executives invented 'way back in the Summer of 1997, when "Hercules" failed to meet the company's ambitious box office predictions. Putting it bluntly, allegiance erosion is another way of saying that consumers have lost their enthusiasm for Disney products.

So how can Mouse House executives hope to win back consumers? Well, the first thing they should do is seek out a solution for the corporation's "sincerity problem." Far too many folks these days seem to be aware of how greedy and jaded the executives who are running the Walt Disney Company has become.

You want proof? Remember all those stories last month in the media about Disney's hoped-for blockbuster, "Pearl Harbor"? Do you remember the key focus of most of those articles. Not that Walt Disney Studios was eager to create a film that honored the memory of the 2,400 men who gave their lives for their country back on December 7, 1941. But rather how the Mouse hoped that this Michael Bay movie would be a "Titanic" -sized success at the box office.

The folks who ran the Walt Disney Company used to pride themselves on being great storytellers. Now - according to his 1999 letter to stockholders in the Disney Company annual report - Eisner wants the company to be best known for economizing. This explains why lightly themed attractions like the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster at Disney/MGM as well as cheaply rehabbed shows like " Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin" are being tossed into the parks. And all the crowing the corporation did last month about how "Pearl Harbor" *ONLY* cost $135 million to produce (plus another $75 million to promote the film).

That's why I hated having to write this story today. I am getting so tired of having to put together articles about how the Walt Disney Company seems to have such screwed up priorities these days. About how the folks running the show nowadays don't seem to be interested in creating quality products anymore. All these people seem to care about is turning a profit.

But then I hear stuff like this "Disney executives distancing themselves from 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' " story or see how the Disney Story is already discounting its "A:TLE" merchandise .. and I know that it's time to sit down at the keyboard again.

Sorry if it seems like I keep telling you the same story over and over, folks. But now -- hopefully -- you have a better understanding of where I'm coming from. And where I fear the Walt Disney Company is currently headed.

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-- Jim Hill

Jim Hill can be reached using the Talkback form below or by emailing him at [email protected].

Jim Hill is this guy who lives 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. (Hey, it's not like he wants to live there. But the Witness Protection Program has got rules, you know.) He has one beautiful daughter and three obnoxious cats. When he's not looking for real work, Jim writes about the Walt Disney Company and related matters for LaughingPlace.com, AmusementPark.com, "Orlando Weekly" and Digital Media FX.

The opinions expressed by Jim Hill, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the past decisions and future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted June 19, 2001

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