Iger: Creativity, technology, globalization will drive future

By Scott Powers

April 7, 2006

Walt Disney Co. chief Robert Iger's mantra of creativity, technology and globalization means the company should focus on fewer but higher-quality entertainment projects compared with before he took over last fall.

Iger is at Walt Disney World to celebrate today's grand opening of Expedition Everest, the new roller coaster ride that unofficially opened six weeks ago at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

On Thursday, Iger and two other top Disney executives laid out their plans for the company -- and the area's largest employer -- for about 150 Central Florida community leaders who gathered at one of Walt Disney World's resorts.

Disney's executive triumvirate, including Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo and Parks and Resorts President Al Weiss, largely stuck to the messages that Iger has repeated often, most notably at the Disney corporate shareholders meeting last month: Disney must and will return to its creative roots. Technology is rapidly creating new ways for Disney to deliver its goods. The global market is the key to growth.

And with a renewed focus on quality creativity, less is better, Iger said.

Iger repeated the criticism he leveled last month when, while explaining the company's purchase of Pixar Animation Studios, he said that Disney hadn't made a good animated movie in 10 years. This time he called the recent movies' performance "erratic."

"We really believe we are poised to enter another renaissance period for Disney animation," he said.

But this time Iger tried to make sure he didn't sound specifically critical of his predecessor, Michael Eisner, insisting that Eisner's reign brought a number of great animated movies, from The Little Mermaid in 1989 to The Lion King in 1994.

Iger called the movie business and the theme-park business the company's most important divisions, despite its enterprises ranging from television networks to Internet, cell phone and MP3 player programming. And he called Walt Disney World one of the company's most important businesses.

"If Walt Disney World is successful, the Disney Company will be successful," Iger said.

Among other statements:

Parks and Resorts Chairman Rasulo said the theme parks' current promotional campaign, tied to Disneyland's 50th anniversary, has "exceeded all expectations."

Weiss, who temporarily remains Walt Disney World president even though he was promoted last fall to president of the division overseeing all 11 Disney theme parks, said the new attractions -- Expedition Everest, Lights, Motors, Action! and Soarin' -- should keep attendance strong once the anniversary campaign ends next fall. But after that, he said more new attractions will be needed every year, saying all four parks have plenty of land for expansion.

"You're going to want to continue to reinvest in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. And the reason for that is such a high percentage of our guests are repeat guests . . . they want to see new things when they come back,"

Weiss would not say when a new president would be named for Walt Disney World.

"It's certainly months away. I don't have anybody in mind, and I don't have anybody, and I don't have anybody on tap right now," Weiss said.