three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-DisneyWarMickey Mouse and Snow White have brought happiness to millions of people around the world. Yet, when Roy Disney, nephew of the founder of Walt Disney Animation, resigned in 2003, he initiated public warfare against ironfisted CEO Michael Eisner. In this expose of Disney’s cutthroat corporate culture, Stewart charts Eisner’s auspicious rise in 1984, which reinvigorated Disney culture with The Lion King, Toy Story, and the acquisition of ABC. Then the feuds with rivals—including Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz—began, costing stockholders millions of dollars. His reputation tarnished after costly battles, Eisner resigned in March 2005. In chronicling this empire’s successes and failures, Stewart not only tells an intriguing tale of corporate back-stabbing, but also calls for renewed corporate ethics and oversight.
Simon & Schuster. 572 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 0684809931

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"[As] the book proceeds, [Stewart’s] voice grows stronger in pointing out executive missteps. He’s particularly critical of Eisner, who is often portrayed as duplicitous in dealing with others inside and outside the company and oblivious to consequences of his own decisions." John M. Moran

Houston Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"That’s why this book is so important: A great chunk of America’s heritage is at risk. … Stewart’s DisneyWar is the archetypal cautionary tale about the executive greed, corporate mismanagement, and board-of-director complacency that lie at the heart of stockholder betrayals in recent years." Alcestis Oberg

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"I believe by any fair measure, DisneyWar is a monumental achievement of in-depth reporting—tough and scrupulous." Bob Woodward

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"For Stewart, the biggest challenge was to take the reader beyond what we already know from the lawsuits Katzenberg and Ovitz filed after their ousters and Roy Disney’s anti-Eisner campaign." David Greising

NY Times Book Review 2.5 of 5 Stars
"DisneyWar, oddly, is a very long book about Hollywood with no sex, no drugs, nor any rock ‘n’ roll, unless we count Elton John’s tuning up The Lion King." John Leonard

Newsday 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] meticulously reported if passionless volume that relies on its characters to supply the small-minded intrigues and large-scale, egomaniacal meltdowns that make for (morbidly) fascinating reading." John Anderson

St. Petersburg Times 2 of 5 Stars
"The fall of Eisner, with its Shakespearean overtones, was not only a business history. It was a character study. … But, somehow, the spark leaked out of this book." David Walton

Critical Summary

Pulitzer Prize-winning Stewart, author of Den of Thieves (1991) about Wall Street insider-trading scandals, and Blood Sport (1996) about the Clintons’ Whitewater caper, offers an "often brilliant" business history and character study with DisneyWar (Washington Post). Stewart, who couldn’t have timed his investigative reporting any better, had inside access to Eisner, who cooperated somewhat. Balanced, informative, and exceptionally well-researched, Stewart provides a compelling tale of Disney’s creative successes under Eisner’s early reign, then his painful missteps (like Euro Disney) and missed opportunities (Lord of the Rings, CSI). Sadly, the details that make DisneyWar so juicy can also make it long, gossipy, and tedious.

Supplemental Reading

Work in Progress | Michael Eisner (1998): Eisner’s memoir recounts his days as a NBC clerk making $65 a week to his leadership at Disney … disasters and all.