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DisneyWar Paperback – Mar 10 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 10 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743267095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743267090
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #238,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Paperback
I'll be honest, I kept putting this one off due to its length despite really, really wanting to read it. It's a poor excuse, but I take the blame for being lazy. After years of delay, I finally read (and finished) it. In short: I should have read it sooner.

After taking a lot of convincing (over a long period of time), Michael Eisner agreed to letting James Stewart follow him for a certain period of time and to write a book about it. The book was supposed to be somewhat biographical in nature, both about him an how Eisner managed Disney day-to-day. As things ended up, the timeframe was during the fall of Eisner's reign, so Stewart landed a goldmine.

With a TON of extensive research and interviews, Stewart gives an inside look at what happened behind the scenes at Disney during their 1990s heyday and then their 'fall' after that. There was a lot of good that came from Eisner's run as Chairman and CEO, but of course there was also some not-so-good things. There is a ton of back stabbing and ego within these pages, but at the same time there is a lot of insight into all of the characters of this story.

It may be lengthy and a time investment, but despite knowing how the story ends it is interesting to get all of these details in Disneywar. If you are a Disney fan, definitely give this one a read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ian Robertson TOP 100 REVIEWER on Dec 28 2009
Format: Paperback
Columbia University journalism professor James Stewart's newest book, DisneyWar, is an excellent overview of Michael Eisner's twenty years at the helm of Disney. All interested in the larger than life Eisner, the Walt Disney Corporation, the entertainment business, and (failed) corporate governance should read this.

The book is methodically researched, primarily from first hand interviews (including with Eisner himself), and from publicly available material, and presented chronologically in a straightforward and engaging manner. Stewart's Pulitzer Prize winning prose flows smoothly. The level of detail leads to a long book - critics might argue far too long - but it also is crucial in providing the definitive account of Eisner, his character, and the personal dynamics that led to the incredible early successes of his reign and the incredible failures of the latter years.

In addition to its focus on Eisner, the scope of the book is epic. Disney executives such as Jeffery Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz - both of whom won staggeringly large judgements against Disney after their separate firings - and Robert Iger who leads the firm now, as well as board members Roy Disney, Frank Gold, and former US Senator George Mitchell are central to the proceedings. Even more interesting is the incredible number of major Hollywood players who enter into Disney's orbit, like a who's who of the entertainment industry over the past score years.

Equally interesting is how little analysis goes into major decisions such as where to locate a Disney theme park in Europe (Paris proved to be a poor choice), whether to purchase a US television network (they grossly overpaid for ABC), or how to integrate the internet into operations (Go.com made barely a ripple in the online world).
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By Rob Nicol on Nov. 25 2006
Format: Paperback
This book has lots of great angles -- a pulitizer prize-winning author, eclectic characters, lots of corporate backstabbing, and the Disney entertainment conglomerate. A real behind-the-scenes look at Disney and Michael Eisner for 20 years. My only complaint is that it is almost too thorough and probably could have been a bit shorter.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 140 reviews
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Fun but feels one sided March 7 2005
By R P - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a huge James B Stewart fan (loved The Prosecutors and Den of Thieves) and an ex-Disney exec (I was there for five of the years discussed) so I was looking forward to this book. My net feeling is that it was fun, not a bad choice for the beach bag this summer, but (a) it takes a relentlessly negative point of view, even more than I think is justified, (b) there are some weird gaps in the story which I attribute to rushing to out to press (but maybe there's some other reason), and (c) finally and most importantly, it fails to rise above the facts it portrays to make any larger point. What does it tell us about or times, about corporations, about America, about the people discussed...? Unclear. Somehow Stewart didn't get enough perspective on it or insight into it to make the narrative into something more memorable and insightful than a solid recounting of some important events in Disney's recent history. That's too bad. I hope that in Stewart's next book he finds some larger meaning.

But, that being said, a lot of the events are nevrtheless quite fascinating:

It's unbelievable how Eisner burned Ovitz straightaway after hiring him. Just completely hung him out to dry when only weeks before he had been the most powerful man in Hollywood. Brutal and horrible.

The details with Katzenberg were awful too. That must have been the worst deal ever made (next to the Ovitz deal). And Eisner's carping about Roth, Iger and Wells behind their backs? He really comes off as a psycho freak you wouldn't want to work for.

Some of his problems were legitimate though. Katzenberg was equally psycho at least. What do you do with an employee who is good at producing animated films, has failed to create a profitable live action motion picture division, advocated a failed strategy of producing 40-50 films per year and now wants to be the President and COO of a Dow 30 company? Developing animated films is no better preparation for being the COO of a major corporation than being an agent is. So what was Eisner to do with this jumped up producer? Tough one. But what he did do was probably not the right choice. Katzenberg is in the right job now as head of a free standing Animation studio.

The parts that are somewhat mysteriously left out are the massive increase in value at the Disney Channel and ESPN. I suppose it doesn't fit the "Eisner is an idiot" theme, but if he's such an idiot how did all that happen? That's why I feel the book is a little unfair. Also, the fact that Eisner didn't lose his *** on some horrible internet deal like Gerry Levin probably deserved more emphasis.

I was surprised at a few negatives that were left out: why wasn't there more discussion of the talent exodus -- Dean Valentine, Gerry Laybourne...? I don't know. Also, what about some of those sketchy investments -- magazines? Professional sports teams? I guess the book could only be so long.

I also wish that Stewart put more data in the book. If Eisner's reign was a failure, let's see a bar chart with actual cash flow. Why not? There was essentially no data, which I thought was odd for a business book.

But, again, I wish that Stewart had gotten some insight out of all this. Let's just stipulate that Eisner's a smart guy who accomplished a lot. So why did he make all these horrendous difficulties managing other people? That 'Rosebud' answer is what we don't get here.
121 of 146 people found the following review helpful
An Odd Story from a Burbank, CA Bookstore Feb. 10 2005
By William Marshall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I live in Burbank, CA, just up the street from the Disney corporate headquarters. When I heard the DisneyWars was coming out today, I rushed down to the local bookstore to get my copy. As I was making my purchase, the cashier mentioned to me that earlier today, the Disney Company had come to the store and bought out their entire stock of the book. There were a lot of copies on display, so it must have been quite an effort. But then a couple of hours before I came to buy my copy, they returned them all. What strange behavior. The must be afraid of what the Stewart wrote. Their apparent paranoia made me even more eager to read the book.

From what I've read so far, they should be afraid. It's quite a scathing expose. So far, it is proving to be an excellent book. What Walt Disney accomplished through the power of his genius and ability to tap into the genius of others is simply amazing. But this book is a stark revelation of the damage the current management has done to the Disney Company. If you are a Disney fan, I HIGHLY recommend this book.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Insightful! Aug. 11 2005
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer prize winner James B. Stewart paints a portrait of Michael Eisner that has more in common with a totalitarian dictator than with most CEOs. Stewart is careful, though, to trace the Walt Disney Company's growth and success under Eisner, even though he was really running Disney for the benefit of just a handful of people - including himself. And, just as carefully, Stewart traces the company's spiraling internal chaos. The pluses: the author tells an instructive, intricate corporate saga in intriguing detail. Minuses: He is no expert on the film industry and the narrative doesn't build much momentum. Frustratingly, although no doubt for sound reportorial reasons, he also mostly refuses to draw conclusions until the short final chapter. We recommend this troubling portrait of corporate excess and misbehavior to all managers and to students of entertainment and media as a lesson on the pitfalls of untamed corporate politics and unbridled CEO power.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
The Corporate War For The Walt Disney Company Feb. 20 2005
By C. Hutton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For the reader who has been to any of its theme parks or enjoyed any of the Disney films over the past two decades, this book is required reading. James B. Stewart has won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the corruption and hubris of the business community (for Mr. Stewart's writing at its best, see his "Den of Thieves"). "Disneywar" is his history of the 20 year reign of Michael Eisner as CEO of the Disney Company, culminating in a corporate high noon showdown between Mr. Eisner and Roy Disney.

Though the book could have been trimmed a bit, Mr Stewart presents a thorough account of how the finished Disney product that the reader knows (whether it is "The Lion King", the theme parks, et al) came to be. Why Mr. Eisner should granted such unprecedented access to Mr. Stewart is still unclear to me, for his public image will take a further tumble with the release of this book.

The reporting is impressive, the writing is clear and the behind the history tale is interesting. It is a fun read with the financial details make understandable for the non-MBA reader. A prequel of sorts is "Storming The Magic Kingdom" by John Taylor (1987) which tells the story of the corporate raiders who attempted to take over the Disney Company in the early 1980's.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Schadenfreude at the Corporate Drama Feb. 19 2005
By dave-o - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Having grown up in the eighties and remembering first-hand movies like "The Little Mermaid" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and whats more gaining an affinity and admiration for their creators I plunged into DisneyWar. Having landed a job while in college at The Disney Store just after the Ovitz fiasco I first learned of the darker side to 'Uncle Eisner' that Disney character that played himself on T.V. Sunday nights.

Stewart's book is a juicy chunk of details involving Eisner and his (in his mind) bit players including Katzenberg, Ovitz, and Roy Disney. Each of these men in their rise within the Disney corporate structure and the chance at the coveted presidency threaten Eisner. A cycle of corporate double-speak and false promises ensues and with each one cost face and money. Michael Ovitz' record severance package, Katzenberg's infamous 2% clause that Eisner disputed and delayed to the tune of $280 million. Ovitz' hiring was among scores of conflicts of interests of which include the offering of a seat on the board to a fundraiser for the Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall. (Eisner wanted her to stop asking the company for money to help pay for it. Eisner himself never personally donated any money for it.)

That none of the characters are infalliable and essentially it comes down to battle of the millionaire's egos is not suprising. It is daunting to learn of Eisner's perception of power. True, he revitalized a dying brand but since then he has allowed pettiness or just plain lack of innovativeness to control his decision making. How else to explain not acquiring Pixar when he had multiple occasions? To pass on various projects such as 'Lord of the Rings'? Worst of all, to think that his ideas have a place anymore in creative places such as his embarassing 'Pomp and Circumstance' suggestion in "Fantasia 2000". The book itself reads like a listing of facts with no particular voice...like a Vanity Fair article turned into a book. It spends a little too much time on the ABC acquisition and not enough on animation. For a book on a man that controls a company with such vast departments Stewart does maintain a good balancing act of addressing Eisner's approach to each. Indeed it becomes clear that Eisner's inability to see that he may be overextending himself and thus impair his judgement (especially after his heart surgery) is Machivellian to say the least.

Ironically the conclusion is that he is the kind of executive that he hates...he creates bad publicity and is risky in the wrong places. Disney movies, particularly animation continually lose money and the brand itself is tainted: the name synonymous with greed. Read the book and see just how the magic faded.

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