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Observations and Analysis of Disney in the News

News Commentary from August 7 - August 13

Has the Worsening Economy Produced an Unexpected Winner?

Sue Holland

California Adventure on a slow day
California Adventure on a slow day

Nationwide the economy is being blamed for declining attendance at most large theme parks. However, at the same time attendance is reportedly rising at many of the smaller, less- popular tourist attractions.

Several reasons have been suggested for this situation. The supposedly sluggish economy is the biggest scapegoat, with proponents of this theory arguing that people have less money to spend on vacations and consequently are vacationing closer to home. However, with the airfare wars and deep discounts at WDW resorts, it is easy to make the trip for far less money than it would have cost 6 months or a year ago. Gas prices are being blamed also, but while gasoline for your car has increased, airfares are making flying more attractive than ever.

There has been a drop in the number of European visitors in the Orlando area, which is being blamed on the weak Euro. I have not seen any data on whether European visitors are making fewer trips outside of Europe, or if they are just not visiting Orlando for some reason.

Walt Disney World is currently "between" big events, since the Millennium Celebration ended in January 2001 and the 100 Years of Magic does not begin until October 2001. Anyone researching their vacation options may decide to put off the next trip until at least October in order to see more new attractions — whether they are repeat visitors or first-timers.

A day at a major theme park has gotten expensive also, with admission averaging around $50 per person per day, so repeat visitors my very well put more time between visits, especially during a period when no significant new atet media channels back to the back to the broadcast groups. By October it is expected that ABC.com, ABCNews.com, and ESPN.com will all be managed by their respective media parents. The units with be managed using a matrix (duel- reporting) arrangement in which the .com units will also report to Walt Disney Internet Group President Steve Wadsworth.

Disney.com
Disney.com

I don't think that this move will greatly affect either Disney's media or web services. As the Internet evolves, it is being treated as just another channel for reaching an audience rather than as a stand-alone technology that must be managed by specialists. I've seen the same kind of thing when new technology has been introduced in the manufacturing arena. After folks become more comfortable with the new equipment, the technology "experts" move on to something else as the now- commonplace technology is taken over by the generalists. This is really a sign of web-maturity ... not a problem within the company.

Second, AP / Yahoo News has reported that The Walt Disney Company has asked an appellate court to overturn a $240 million verdict. The decision resulted when two Florida businessmen sued the company over the concept of the "Wide World of Sports" complex at Walt Disney World. A year ago, the Orange County Circuit Court found Disney liable in a jury trial for misappropriating a trade secret and conspiracy to misappropriate and fraud.

Sorry folks, but the only thing that I could think of when I read about this one was that it's time to give our nation's lawyer's a job (with my apologies to MousePlaneteer Pat Edaburn, one of our attorneys- at- law). This was a frivolous lawsuit from the beginning and now Disney is being forced to defend itself using any means possible to fend off an unreasonable decision... but we all know there are too many lawyers in Florida, don't we. ;)


Hollywood's Newest Gold Mine

Lani Teshima

Promotional art © Dreamworks, LLC
Promotional art Dreamworks, LLC

If you are a DVD junkie like me, you are probably already salivating over the prospects of taking home the goodie-laden Shrek, scheduled for a November 9 release (See Kevin Krock's Home Theater news update). In an effort to steal some of the thunder from Dreamworks, Disney is releasing a special edition, two- disc DVD set of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs exactly a month earlier, that's touted as containing 15 hours worth of entertainment. Such a feat is a far cry from Disney's initial forays into DVDdom (DVDom?), when you were lucky to get a forced commercial of its other titles.

Why the about face? Certainly, Snow White has been quite lucrative for Disney already through its many decades in existence. Newsweek's August 20 article by Johnnie Roberts, entitled "The Disc That Saved Hollywood", reports that Snow White has been released in theaters eight separate times, and on video twice, and helped earn Disney over $1.1 billion.

Well, as the Newsweek article implies, Snow White may have been able to draw folks into theaters, but there's a lot of money to be made in DVD releases, and Hollywood has finally figured out how good the odds are on these little silver discs.

When I bought my DVD player in November 1999, I think I only knew one other person at work who had a DVD player. But I was sold. The same size and shape as a CD player, I could see these movie discs replacing videotapes the way audio CDs swept across record stores everywhere. I should know; I used to work in a record store back when we sold... records. However I was also there at the cusp of the CD revolution, and it was nothing short of that. Anyone who has dealt with the frustrations of skipping records or tangled tape would appreciate both the audio quality and the ease of use of a CD player, and I felt the same way about DVDs.

However what the ordinary fan of DVD didn't realize at the time was that there was a lot of opposition among movie studio executives because of piracy concerns (echoes of the audio CD), and dissention about things such as format and compression standards ... and it was the guiding force of Warner Bros. home- entertainment boss Warren Lieberfarb that feathers were finally soothed and all the ducks got in a row.

Even with one misleading statement and one rather glaring omission, if you enjoy DVDs but never really knew much about the history behind how it came to be embraced by Hollywood, this Newsweek article is a great read.



ABOUT THIS COLUMN

One of the lesser-known features of MousePlanet is our News headlines in our MousePad discussion forum, where we try to direct you to any important news stories about the entire Disney company.

One thing we can't provide in that resource is an idea as to how those stories, generally about very specific portions of the company, may fit into the larger Disney picture. Towards that end, the Reporter's Notebook provides brief comments on those recent stories that are of interest.

We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all submissions to the Reporter's Notebook become property of this Web site. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site.

Send your questions, comments, and news tips here.

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