Monday, September 21, 2009

A Little More of the Magic Gone

I was stunned by the announcement that Dick Cook was stepping down as head of Disney Studios. And of course, it's looking more and more like he was ousted, rather than leaving on his own.

At the 2007 POTC Marathon Event at the El Capitan Theater, in Hollywood, I saw Mr. Cook standing in the lobby as we were leaving. I went up to him, introduced myself and thanked him for staging the event. (Because we all had an absolute ball attending.) He was warm and gracious, and so kind. I indicated how much I love the POTC franchise (it was kinda obvious, since I was dressed in a frock coat, pirate boots, frilly shirt and hat with a huge ostrich feather...LOL). He told me, at that time, that Disney was planning a fourth POTC movie (which warmed that little ol' pirate heart of mine).

Now this was a real big-wig in the entertainment industry. Big Chief (as Cannibal Jack Sparrow would say) of a major motion picture studio...talking to one of the "little people," and doing it with grace and charm, making this little person feel pretty danged special.

A year later I wrote a letter to him, because we were having difficulties obtaining a print of the first Pirate movie for a fundraiser. Within a day or two of his office receiving the letter, one of his Vice Presidents emailed me to follow up. Now that, folks, is class...and a level of customer service par excellence.

This is a regular guy from Bakersfield, who started at Disney by working as an operator on a Disneyland ride when he was 21. Talk about your rags-to-riches, living-the-American-Dream story. After 38 years with the same company, can you imagine the instituional memory and the loyalty that left Disney with him?

Just the loss of a little bit more of the magic that made Disney special.

And it's too bad. When I first went to Disneyland the magic was so there. Today, a lot of it is glitz and glam...and all of it available for way over value. You can deck yourself out in Tinkerbelle undies, sport a POTC ring on your finger (which I do, by the way), outfit your bedroom in Little Mermaid or Hannah Montana, put Cars hubcaps on your vehicle...but you'll beggar yourself doing it, because Disney merchandise ain't cheap...the "magic" costs nowadays.

There's nothing wrong with capitalism, the entrepeneurial spirit...if the market will bear it, so be it. But Walt welcomed the world to Disneyland to experience "The Happiest Place on Earth, not "The Most Expensive, Over-Priced Place on Earth." Dick still had that "happiest place" mentality...unfortunately the button-down, preppie, cold and calculating Robert Iger (now CEO of all things Mouse) does not. He could care less about the joyful smiles on kiddie's faces, he wants to see KA-CHING big numbers on the bottom line.

Good-by, Mr. Cook. You're a class act and a gentleman. You will find other ways to serve entertainment, and find places to share the magic. And we'll be waiting...