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The Disney Touch: How a Daring Management Team Revived an Entertainment Empire

Ron Grover's THE DISNEY TOUCH-How a Daring Management Team Revived an Entertainment Empire (Business One Irwin, 315p.) charts the ups and downs of The Walt Disney Company, the emphasis being mostly on the contributions made by Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, with Jeffrey Katzenberg running third. It's an impressive success story that provides a lot of detail - financial and otherwise - but appears a little short on a critical evaluation of the studio management and its hard-hitting style.

Grover, the Los Angeles bureau head of Business Week, had the cooperation of Eisner and other Disney executives in stitching together the details of the Disney saga, including of course the early beginnings; intermittent "elitist" policies, which often didn't pan out in the light of the evolving industry; and the expansion into the theme parks, including the latest one near Paris.

Amidst the mass of financial and statistical details in the book, a few of them, such as Eisner's mind-boggling and other compensations, are missing. Grover, however, effectively concentrates on the business aspects of a studio which, by the end of 1990, had released 17 new films and more than 100 in development, sending costs spiraling upwards, (to about $140 million) and causing investors to shudder.

The Disney Touch has plenty of good material. It's well organized and written matter-of-factly, a style that perfectly suits the subject. Grover properly devotes a chapter to Walt Disney, but spends most of his time dissecting the policies and accomplishments of "Team Disney," as it forged ahead in many directions.

This is hardly a "neutral" book. The emphasis is on the Disney revival under Eisner, Wells and Katzenberg. Naturally, there are the big hits: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Little Mermaid; Honey, I've Shrunk the Kids; Pretty Woman; and Good Morning Vietnam - and Grover also mentions the misses.

Dick Tracy, which cost some $50 million (but did end up grossing $105 million) is mentioned, along with Katzenberg's famous memo relating to production costs. And Grover goes into the Eisner-originated Disney switch from the Silver Screen partnership to Yamaichi Securities of Japan, the role of Sid Bass, the questions of policy and marketing, etc.

Occasionally, the author livens the proceedings with some personal anecdotes, such as the one when Eisner and Wells, with their wives, checked out a Disney hotel under assumed names.

The Disney Touch makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the logic - or illogic - of the film industry in general, and the inner functioning of Disney in particular.
COPYRIGHT 1991 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Words:413
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