Sep

30

 One 's first thoughts upon a trip to Walt Disney World with a four year old son (and the 5 and 7 year old daughters of some very good friends) is that the magic and happiness trumps everything with the little boy and the parents settling into the rhythm of creativity, joy, excitement and healthfulness of the experience. The attractions are beautiful and modern, the cast is friendly and helpful, the little girls are all dressed in their princess costumes and the boys are screaming with delight at the thrilling rides, the parks are filled with an up to date diversity of fun and educational events, teenagers are reveling in their favorites shows and games, and the guests are a cross section of the world that makes you jump for joy at the down to earth enjoyment they can take in something this good, and their productivity in being able to afford this delight.

Particularly heartwarming is the effort taken to give the ubiquitous handicapped memories and undoubtedly the happiest times of their life. The parents were also pleased with all the modern efforts to provide healthy foods, with toffuti, hummus, fresh fruits, and sugar-free commestibles available at almost all locations.

I have 7 kids and all of them have been to Disney multiple times. They look back on their vacations there as among the best and most formative experiences of their life. The four year old boy at first was frightened by all the noise and the discordant notes of all the music, and scariness of the rides and the long waits. But after a few days, he settled into the rhythm and he particularly enjoyed the parades, the Jungle Cruise, the moving sidewalk, the movie ride, the circular garden dinner and fountains at Epcot.

 And yet, I was seething after visiting the Hall of Presidents. The show is narrated by Morgan Freeman, one of the 2 or 3% of the visitors there of his color. The history of the presidents presented would be something you'd expect from Russia in the 1970s with a skip from George Washington to Andrew Jackson and then to the two Roosevelts, with lionization of their efforts to stamp out monopoly, save the country from greedy businessmen, and attempts to take from the rich and powerful and give to the weak permeating and enveloping the whole thing. Particularly loathsome was that the talking was at least 50% devoted to the current president and FDR, the two most agrarian Presidents in history. The collectivist bias of Disney in this show was consistent with the anti business movie that Disney just released about Wall Street, the well known anti business attitude and ego mania of its previous president, and the scary remake of Alice in Wonderland that made the whole show a roller coaster ride of scary escapes rather than the coming of age and creative, thoughtful adventures of a girl trying to cope with the world of the original.

Walt Disney himself, after hatching the idea for Disney World in the 1950s, arranging the financing to buy 40 square miles of swamp land, planning every detail of its infrastructure, managing to buy the land through dummy corporations so that all the land holders were happy to sell out for a song the swamp land they bought in 1912 from the Munger corporation for 5 bucks an acre, never lived to see Disney built. Mrs. Lilian Disney said that he would have been happy to see how it turned out. But how he would turn over in his grave to see the anti business, collectivist bias of the executives who have taken over his idea and made it consistent with the idea that has the world in its grip. (It is interesting to note that Eisner refers to his partnerships with Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger as helping him climb the ladder of success at Disney).

Of course, the Disney parks are a mere 25%, of the total Disney revenue of 40 billion a year, and an even lower 15% of profits. Disney itself is mainly sparked by its 100 million cable television subscribers that accounts for 60% of its profits. When they bought ABC, Eisner admitted in that self deprecating mien of the chronic egomaniac that the top guys didn't even know what ESPN was. But now they do, and the analysts that follow Disney and their capital expenditures of 10 billion here and 5 billion there to develop content make the company a play on the public's addiction to sports. Not to be gainsaid of course is the incredible feat of their movie division to have two billion dollar + revenue producers in one year in Alice in in Wonderland and Toy Story. And they continue to follow their mantra of making all their movies for 1/2 the price of any other company, and then tying it in with every aspect of their operation from parks to gifts to licenses.

Indeed, Disney is the very model of a perfect modern corporation. Its stock at 33 is near its century high of 37. It's up some 3500 % from its offering of 1.3 in 1981. It's near its all time high of 43 from 1997, and its revenues and profits this year are up at least 15% in all areas except theme parks. You have to admire the way this company like Apple has adjusted to modern times, and captured the idea that has the world in its grip, and the things that animate kids of all ages in our current generation.

Tim Melvin adds:

 The best trip I ever took to Disney was in early 2009 with my adult children. They still thrilled at the spectacle but were able to appreciate the effort and industry that goes into the enterprise that is Walt Disney World. Thankfully the hall of Presidents was closed or odds are my Ayn Rand loving daughter would have gotten us all arrested. Disney will always be on my buy-in-a-crash list. My sum of the parts for this stock is right around $38 bucks and when it drifts below $20 in a melt down (this has happened twice in the last decade) it paid off huge on both occasions for those who saw the merits of the mouse at such a level.

Steve Ellison comments:

In the Disney parks, everything is part of the show. I was at Disneyland in 2000 watching Honey I Shrunk the Audience when suddenly the action stopped, and I heard an announcement: "We have had a power outage. Please exit through the doors on the right." I assumed it was part of the show and wondered what would happen next. It was not until the doors opened and people started walking out that I realized there really was a power outage (one of many in California after the failed attempt at partial deregulation of electricity). 

Anatoly Veltman writes:

I take my kids via motorhome every Winter and Spring breaks: can't beat this destination weather-wise. I don't deem them mature enough for busy Disney Parks; ever since my first visit in 1980, I always thought of Epcot (and later Studios and Animal Kingdom) as a prime education destination. Smaller kids love watery fun of Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Caribbean, Coronado, Saratoga, Boardwalk, Orleans, Key West, Swan/Dolphin. You can access all these via comp buses, boats, monorail. The only resorts really limited to guests are Beach and Yacht Club. Feel free to quiz me for hints, or read up some more general wisdom at MouseSavers.com

Vincent Andres adds:

The picture on DailySpec triggers some analogy. The river is fake and the little boat moves only thanks to a especially built Deus ex machina. Our occidental "capitalist" world is also, for long, a true Disneyland. The main Deus ex machina are our debts and all what our master fakers are able to do with our "major" currencies. But if the debt flow slows down, we'll soon have our little businesses/boats slowing down also.

We though we were good car sellers, but was it really this difficult when our customers get /in fine/ there money thru loans or money printers ?

I'm confident our master fakers are doing all there possible for our deus ex machina to continue to work properly, but it seems the Mississipi debt river is now slowly founding more fertile soils to irrigate. (Spain just downgraded by moody's.) Let's hope our second fake motor will not also have problems.Little boats and there passengers begin to stamp.


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