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It’s a Disney World, We Just Live In It

The New York Times published a piece about Disney’s consulting division called the Disney Institute. The aim of the unit is to teach other companies and organizations how to behave more like the Disney corporation, and everybody is partaking in the lessons from United Airlines to the country of South Africa:

Desperate for new ways to connect with consumers, an increasing array of industries and organizations are paying Disney to teach them how to become, well, more like Disney. Revenue from the Disney Institute has doubled over the last three years, according to Disney, powered in part by its aggressive pursuit of new business. Over the last two years alone, 300 school systems across the country have sought its advice. Other clients range from very large entities – Häagen-Dazs International, United Airlines, the country of South Africa – to small ones: three Subway restaurants in Maine, a Michigan hair salon, a Boston youth-counseling center.

(Thanks, Rob Kohr)

  • Mac

    Don’t mistake still existing after 80 years to being a model of institutional excellence. Just because the company appears to breathe and eat and shit doesn’t mean it’s a vital company. Like a rotting whale carcass floating through time, it’s riddled with activity. It’s big. Important. Smelly.

    • Sounds like someone is blinded by personal cynicism if you ask me… Disney World remains in the top 10 of worldwide dream places to visit. Why? Because they know what they’re DOING when it comes to making company-to-customer magic. If you don’t like how the rest of their operation runs, no water off my back, but you’d be lying to yourself and everyone else if you said they don’t hit the ball out of the park in regards to Disney World/Land/Parks. Which is what the Disney Institute is all about, really.

      When athletes achieve their lifelong dream and win the Super Bowl, they don’t say about what they’re going to do next “I’m visiting the whale carcass!”

      • Ryoku

        I think that what made Disney great ran dry in the late 90’s, the park itself looks great to me though.

      • Mac

        You’re right, I forgot many parts of “Disney”

    • Sarah J

      Disney seems to be doing pretty well to me. They’ve got a ton of parks, their animated movies do consistently well, and they rake in a ton of cash from their merchandise.

  • I went to the Disney Institute many moons ago when what they taught was animation, and it was fantastic. Learned a ton, and got to hear Eric Goldberg speak (though stupid me, I didn’t appreciate who he was at the time! What an ignorant young teen I was…)

    I have a few books by the DI. They do some great stuff.

    • Paul N

      As a former DI animation instructor, I appreciate hearing that you enjoyed the experience. It’s not always easy to tell if what you’re doing is making an impact, so seeing stuff like this makes me happy, even this far down the road.

      • Absolutely. It was when I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. One evening after a day of production and learning, I was INSANELY exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open and I stumbled back to my room. And I was deliriously happy. It was so, so fulfilling. I couldn’t wait for the next day. :)

  • Ryoku

    I dunno why Chevys having anything to do with this, I already have some advice that plenty of people have been saying for the previous 30 years:

    Make better cars!

  • Pedro Nakama

    “It’s a Disney World, We Just Live In It”

    This is very true. Every woman I meet always wants to know how many “E” Tickets I have.

  • Ju-osh

    Is “Pointing With TWO Fingers” still a post-grad course?

  • GW

    This is the company that’s marketing to babies in the maternity ward. They should be taking advice not giving it.

  • Toonio

    Everybody is doing the Disney thing indeed:

    Repackaging all products and franchises to re-sell them with a premium. (very profitable indeed)

    Screwing with the little costumer as long the bottom line doesn’t go down by a 5%.

    Destroying the competition to assure they’ll be able to rise prices without R&Ding new products (creating jobs stagnation).

    Lobbying for government support to keep their respective monopolies going.

    Asking the government for tax payers $$$ to risk it in their own ventures keeping all the profits. (no new jobs here neither)

    Forgetting the core business and core costumers.

    Sending their profits overseas to reduce their tax load.

    Not to mention on swaying local governments to bend the rules on their favor else they’ll take their business somewhere else.

    And the most important thing:

    Brainwashing their customers into thinking they are the best and no one else.

    • Ryoku

      I think you’ve just saved us a couple hundred bucks! Thanks!

    • I have traveled a lot in my life and have yet to find a theme park/vacation experience that is better than what Disney puts together. I don’t think it’s so much “brainwashing” as “they know their stuff.”

      How exactly do they brainwash people, if I might ask?

      • Ryoku

        He’s talking about Disney as its is right now, not the park.

  • Andrew

    Disney’s secret is simple. They have billions of dollars and the trust of every parent in the world.


    No seminar needed.

    • axolotl

      What a terrible thing to say about my folks!

  • 1st rule: Perpetuate your copy-rights to the End times.

    2nd rule: Hire an army of lawyers to ensure compliance of 1st rule.

    3rd rule: Have a money vault big enough to swim in it.

    • Ryan

      Congratulations, you’ve lvl‘d up to Scrooge McDuck!

      • wever


  • dbenson

    With all due respects to the many artists, innovators and front-line employees who still try to deliver “Disney magic”, I suspect a lot of this is just residual goodwill from when the company was much more committed to training, treating and even paying their staff better than the competition. Likewise, the original culture was Walt in charge with Roy worrying about making creativity profitable. Now, figures and precedents are more powerful than new ideas.

    I’d compare this to the current Hewlett-Packard execs offering classes in “the HP Way”, or KFC opening a cooking school.

  • My first impression of the Disney Institute when I first saw it some years ago was, a bible college.

    Then again, it is a religion, isn’t it?

  • AJ 2010

    I’m not a buisness expert but putting all your money into a big project that may fail (Snow White) is a bad idea to me. Though nowadays they almost completly own the Winnie the pooh franchise so they can afford to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks for years to come.

    • I think you make a great point that needs to be really SEEN: As a business decision, doing what Walt did with Snow White was SO, SO STUPID. That’s the point, though, isn’t it? The reason Disney exists today is because he did such insane, “dumb” things. He didn’t play it safe. Interestingly, if you look at 99% of the big companies, they also did not play it safe. They took leaps of faith as well, and prepared to fail hard. Is it the only way? No. But it is a great way to spark innovation.

      In fact, the reason Disney of today isn’t as great as it once was, I’d argue, is because they STOPPED doing stupid things like Walt did. Crazy ideas that might bring it all crashing down. And the more they try to “not lose” the more they lose. Walt never tried to “not lose.” He tried to win, even if it MEANT losing was possible.

      • dbenson

        While a willingness to risk the farm is foolish on the face of it, we should remember that “Snow White” was NOT a reckless gamble. Walt Disney was not foolish or self-indulgent, even at his most seemingly quixotic.

        Disney knew there was limited money in short cartoons no matter how good or popular they were — the real money went to feature rentals, even if the cartoon was the real draw. A “smart” businessman would have focused on lowering his costs, or shifting his attention to merchandising, or even moving into another business. Disney decided to break through into features, where the real money was. It was an extremely sensible move when you consider the studio’s long-term future — at least as an entity where Disney could profitably do what he wanted to do.

        The actual making of the film may have been a nailbiter, but it was hardly reckless. Everybody was acutely aware of the problems and worked to address them. It’s worth noting that the while the BIG decision looked crazy — in the short term, at least — the decisions to realize it were exceptionally sane and intelligent. The same pattern holds with such later follies as television, Disneyland and (to a large extent) Disney World.

  • Gerry

    The real reason Super Bowl winning athletes always shout they’re going to a certain theme park is that they are PAID to say it. Disney is a frame of mind, a religion and, most of all, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Scarabim

    The sad thing about Disney these days is that it’s no longer about innovation or creativity, but about branding. Branding is all Iger knows. That’s why he bought Marvel, (which I admit now seems like a smart move, what with the stupendous success of “The Avengers”, even though Disney didn’t actually make that film) and bought the rights to Avatar to make a theme park attraction; apparently, an attraction based on actual Disney characters just wasn’t good enough. :P I’ll be so happy when he leaves the company. I wish to HELL Disney would get a CEO that actually understands and believes in Disney, instead of seeing it as just a giant generator of merchandise. By exploiting the Disney “brand”, past CEOS have actually cheapened the Disney “brand”, and turned Walt’s studio into a genuine (you should pardon the expression) Mickey Mouse company. :(