Disney is not what it was when Bob Iger left. Does he have the magic touch to turn it around? The latest signs show the company is trying; there are new characters and, of course, plenty else—but it’s still not enough.
“It’s the only company that could do what Disney did in the ’60s and the ’70s, which is pull people from the mainstream and say, ‘We’re not going to do the mainstream, but we’re going to do something different,’” says Jeffrey Katzenberg, who ran Disney’s film division during his two-year run (2003-5). “That hasn’t happened yet. So we’re kind of still in a holding pattern.”
Iger was put in charge of the Mouse House in 2005, a time when the company was struggling under an uninspired slate of popular releases in the summer months, and when most of the top execs had left or were retiring. At the time, there were few signs of change. Then, on Mar. 30, Disney Chairman Bob Iger took his place behind the desk of the studio, as cofounder Bob Iger’s son Jon Iger sat beside him.
The executive team had been meeting since Jan. 25, 2004, a year into Iger’s tenure. In the lead-up to the meeting, there had been speculation about the future of the company’s live-action division, which was beginning to show signs of life. “I think the thing that struck me [most about the meeting] was the idea that every single person on the board, in every single department, had to be represented,” Katzenberg says. “None of them said, ‘We don’t know how to do this, therefore don’t do it.’”
This meeting was not about making changes, Katzenberg says. “It was not a business decision that we were going to lay off people, or start laying people off. But the idea that everyone on the board had to know what we were going to do and had to be represented on the board was a big part of it.”
Over a six-month period (April 2004 through January 2005), an ad hoc group of executives and a handful of key