Monday, January 19, 2009

futureprobe lingo: Eisner

Eisner (verb): To "improve" upon a cherished masterpiece through a series of artistically tone-deaf changes that have the net effect of ruining said masterpiece. Named for former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, because of the many such changes to classic Disney attractions that occurred during his tenure.

Usage: "I used to really love EPCOT before it got Eisnered."

Michael Eisner is widely reviled among hardcore Disney fans because of his apparent strategy of financial success through creative bankruptcy. To be fair, Disney is a huge company and when Eisner was there he wasn't the only person making decisions. However, the ruining of many classic Disney attractions during his tenure reminds me of the kind of corporate boneheadedness that produced products like New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, and the Pontiac Aztek. In his book Dave Barry's Money Secrets, humorist Dave Barry comically relates how newspapers always attempt to lure readers by Appealing To Young People, which results in an ill-concieved makeover of the newspaper by people who have no idea how to relate to a young audience, and in the end the newspaper not only fails to appeal to the audience it was designed to reach, but the changes also drive away its longtime readers.

You definitely see this kind of decision-making process at work at Disney World since about the mid-1990s. Consider: the Enchanted Tiki Room was seen to be an old-fashioned and insufficiently hip. The Eisnerian solution? Insert Iago the Parrot, voiced by the most grating and annoying voice in human history, Gilbert Gottfried. Because today's kids loves them some Gilbert Gottfried, right? Of course, nowhere is this kind of stupidity more evident than at EPCOT. By the mid-90s, Future World's early-80s flavor was met with cynical disdain by jaded teenagers like, well, myself circa 1995. The obvious solution was to give Future World a thoughtful update that would raise awareness of the problems we face today, while highlighting the kind of world that the 21st century could bring. So that is not what Disney did. Instead, Future World's pavilions were haphazardly altered in a series of ill-concieved attempts to appeal to toddlers and snotty teenagers. Textbook corporate decision-making. Classic Eisner.

And so, even though all the negative changes at Disney World in general and EPCOT in particular aren't Michael Eisner's fault (especially since he's no longer with the company) his impact was such that, whenever I talk about an alteration to EPCOT that was made purely for financial expedience without regard for any kind of creative vision, I'll just say that it got Eisnered.

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