“The Animated Man” is a Useful Account of the Life of an Important Entrepreneur

AnimatedManBK.jpg

Source of book image: http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/wp-content/e/a336.jpg

I have always believed, and recently increasingly believe, that Walt Disney was one of the most important entrepreneurs of our time.
One of the most favorably reviewed biographies of Disney is Michael Barrier’s The Animated Man. (At some point in the future, I will briefly discuss an alternative biography of Disney by Gabler.)
I have not thoroughly read The Animated Man, but have thoroughly skimmed it. It appears to be a very useful account of Walt Disney’s life.
I did not want to wait until I had fully read it, in order to highlight a few passages that I think may be of special interest. I will do so in the next few weeks.

Reference to the book discussed:
Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

Entrepreneur Sees What Others Do Not See

DisneyWaltMickeyMouseDisneyland2009-09-16.jpg

Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. Source of photo: http://app2.sellersourcebook.com/users/101907/ebay_125.jpg

One of the characteristics of innovative entrepreneurs is that they have the vision to see possibilities that others do not see, and the perseverance to turn the vision into reality.
When I saw the mug pictured above, I bought one. It shows a frumpy middle-aged Walt Disney in an empty black and white Disneyland looking down at a smiling full-color Mickey Mouse.
By chance, this summer, we were present at the birthday of Disneyland. We attended the brief celebration on Main Street. I found myself getting choked up when they played a recording of Walt Disney at the park dedication, saying that Disneyland was intended to be the happiest place on earth.

Government Protects Us from Unlicensed Eight Year Old Lemonade Entrepreneur

DanielaEarnestLemonadeStand.jpgDaniela Earnest at her lemonade stand (left) and in court (right). Source of photo: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_GGAmzDRA_BY/SnvDbYoMpzI/AAAAAAAAHEg/W1BI2XK8DH4/s400/daniela%2Bearnest.jpg

(p. 5A) THE FRESNO BEE

TULARE, Calif. — Eight­-year- old Daniela Earnest made lemonade out of lemons in more ways than one last week.

Hoping to raise money for a family trip to Disneyland, the Tulare girl opened a lemonade stand Monday. But she didn’t have a business license, so the city shut it down that day.
. . .

Tulare officials said they could not recall ever shutting down a lemonade stand before, though such action is not uncommon. Authorities across the nation have done it.
. . .
Daniela found the situation “pretty weird” but said it hadn’t soured her on reopening the lemonade stand.

For the full story, see:
The Fresno Bee. “City puts squeeze on pint-size purveyor of lemonade.” Omaha World-Herald (Sun., Aug. 9, 2009): 5A.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Becker and Farmer on the Economics of Discrimination

FarmerDonnaAndChildren2009-06-09.jpg “ROYAL SUBJECTS; Donna Farmer, with her children, applauds Disney’s efforts.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

In Gary Becker’s initially controversial doctoral dissertation, he argued that those who discriminate in the labor market pay a price for their prejudice: they end up paying higher wages, than do those employers are not prejudiced.
The bottom line is that the free market provides incentives for the encouragement of diversity and tolerance.
Similarly, Donna Farmer argues, in the passages below, that the marketplace provides the Disney company with incentives to have “The Princess and the Frog” appeal to black audiences.

(p. 1) “THE Princess and the Frog” does not open nationwide until December, but the buzz is already breathless: For the first time in Walt Disney animation history, the fairest of them all is black.
. . .
After viewing some photographs of merchandise tied to the movie, which is still unfinished, Black Voices, a Web site on AOL dedicated to African-American culture, faulted the prince’s relatively light skin color. Prince Naveen hails from the fictional land of Maldonia and is voiced by a Brazilian actor; Disney says that he is not white.
“Disney obviously doesn’t think a black man is worthy of the title of prince,” Angela Bronner Helm wrote March 19 on the site. “His hair and features are decidedly non-black. This has left many in the community shaking (p. 8) their head in befuddlement and even rage.”
Others see insensitivity in the locale.
“Disney should be ashamed,” William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, told London’s Daily Telegraph. “This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community.”
ALSO under scrutiny is Ray the firefly, performed by Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Yosemite Sam). Some people think Ray sounds too much like the stereotype of an uneducated Southerner in an early trailer.
Of course, armchair critics have also been complaining about the princess. Disney originally called her Maddy (short for Madeleine). Too much like Mammy and thus racist. A rumor surfaced on the Internet that an early script called for her to be a chambermaid to a white woman, a historically correct profession. Too much like slavery.
And wait: We finally get a black princess and she spends the majority of her time on screen as a frog?
. . .
Donna Farmer, a Los Angeles Web designer who is African-American and has two children, applauded Disney’s efforts to add diversity.
“I don’t know how important having a black princess is to little girls — my daughter loves Ariel and I see nothing wrong with that — but I think it’s important to moms,” she said.
“Who knows if Disney will get it right,” she added. “They haven’t always in the past, but the idea that Disney is not bending over backward to be sensitive is laughable. It wants to sell a whole lot of Tiana dolls and some Tiana paper plates and make people line up to see Tiana at Disney World.”

For the full article, see:

BROOKS BARNES. “Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sun., May 31, 2009): 1, 8-9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

The published version of Becker’s doctoral dissertation is:
Becker, Gary S. The Economics of Discrimination. 2nd Rev ed, Economic Research Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

DisneyPrincessAndFrog2009-06-09.jpg Movie still of Princess Tiana from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” to be released in December 2009. Source of movie still: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

Past Successful Entrepreneurship is a Predictor of Future Successful Entrepreneurship

DavidowWilliamVentureCapitalist2009-05-31.jpg“William H. Davidow, a venture capitalist, says he would want to know why an entrepreneur’s last deal failed “and what the person learned from it.” ” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

The research reported below, goes against the conclusions of some (such as Christensen and Raynor) that entrepreneurs often learn useful lessons from their failures. However, if true, the research has interesting policy implications.
For instance, if it is true that entrepreneurs who have succeeded in the past, are also more likely to succeed in the future, then it makes sense to allow them to keep the wealth from their entrepreneurship. In that case, the wealth is not only an incentive and reward for hard work, and taking risks. It also provides them the seed-funds for ever-more ambitious future entrepreneurial efforts that have a better-than-average chance of success. E.g., the profits from Disney’s cartoon movies, were crucial for funding Disneyland.
(The Gompers et al research is consistent with one of Edwin Mansfield’s papers, that I think I mention in my review of Mansfield’s contributions to the economics of technology.)

(p. 3) Professor Gompers and his co-authors Anna Kovner, Josh Lerner and David S. Scharfstein found that first-time entrepreneurs who received venture capital funding had a 22 percent chance of success. Success was defined as going public or filing to go public; Professor Gompers says the results were similar when using other measures, like acquisition or merger.

Already-successful entrepreneurs were far more likely to succeed again: their success rate for later venture-backed companies was 34 percent. But entrepreneurs whose companies had been liquidated or gone bankrupt had almost the same follow-on success rate as the first-timers: 23 percent.
In other words, trying and failing bought the entrepreneurs nothing — it was as if they never tried. Or, as Professor Gompers puts it, “for the average entrepreneur who failed, no learning happened.”
This finding flies in the face of conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley, where failure is regarded as an important opportunity for learning. No less an authority than Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, says that in the Valley, “You’re more valuable because of the experiences you’ve been through under failures.”

For the full article, see:

LESLIE BERLIN. “Prototype; Try, Try Again, or Maybe Not.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., March 22, 2009): 3.

The research by Gompers et al, can be downloaded from:
Gompers, Paul A., Anna Kovner, Josh Lerner, and David S. Scharfstein. “Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurship.” Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 09-028, 2008.

PincusMarkEntrepreneur.jpg

“Mark Pincus, who founded Tribe.net and then Zynga, says: “As an entrepreneur, you have to get used to failure. It is just part of the path to success.” ” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

Why Disney Was a Better Artist than Picasso

CreatorsFromChaucerAndDurerToPicassoAndDisneyBK.jpg

Source of book image: http://ebooks-imgs.connect.com/ebooks/product/400/000/000/000/000/035/806/400000000000000035806_s4.jpg

(p. 275) The popularity of the creative arts, and the influence they exert, will depend ultimately on their quality and allure, on the delight and excitement they generate, and on demotic choices. Picasso set his faith against nature, and burrowed within himself. Disney worked with nature, stylizing it, anthropomorphizing it, and surrealizing it, but ultimately reinforcing it. That is why his ideas form so many powerful palimpsests in the visual vocabulary of the world in the early twenty-first century, and will continue to shine through, while the ideas of Picasso, powerful though they were for much of the twentieth century, will gradually fade and seem outmoded, as representational art returns to favor. In the end nature is the strongest force of all.

Source:
Johnson, Paul M. Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
(Note: I am grateful to John Devereux for telling me about Paul Johnson’s views on Picasso and Disney.)

At Pixar, “Storytelling is More Important Than Graphics”

PixarTouchBK.jpg

Source of book image:
http://bp2.blogger.com/_Sar8IPNlxOY/SClPS33oTxI/AAAAAAAAB_0/B8GjajHtetY/s1600/PixarTouch.jpg

(p. A19) One of Mr. Catmull’s other inspirations was to hire computer animator John Lasseter after he was fired by Walt Disney Co. in 1983. (He had apparently stepped on one too many toes in the company’s sprawling management structure.) Then again, as Mr. Price reports, in the world of computer animators, workplace comings and goings seemed to be part of the job. Mr. Lasseter himself had already quit Disney and then returned before being fired. In the creative ferment of computer animation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, what mattered most was the work itself: Never mind who signs the paychecks – what project are you working on now?
. . .
One of Pixar’s first projects revealed a truth that would point the way to success: Storytelling is more important than graphics firepower. The company created a short film, directed by Mr. Lasseter, called “Tin Toy,” about a mechanical one-man band fleeing the terrors of a baby who wants to play with it. “Tin Toy” made audiences laugh in part because it turned established themes on their heads. The story was told from the toy’s-eye view, close to the floor. The baby, doing what babies do, seemed like a gigantic, capricious monster. “Tin Toy” won the 1988 Academy Award for animated short film.
The upside-down “Tin Toy” point of view seems to fit much of what happened at Pixar afterward. The company made a deal with Disney in 1991: The little animation outfit would produce three movies, and the entertainment behemoth would distribute and market them. With the outsize success of the first movie in the deal, “Toy Story” – it grossed $355 million world-wide – Pixar and Disney were perhaps on an inevitable collision course over control and profits. Mr. Price adroitly depicts the clashes between Mr. Jobs and his nemesis at Disney, chief executive Michael Eisner, and captures the sweet vindication of Mr. Lasseter as the projects he guides outstrip the animation efforts of his former employer.
The sweetest moment in the Pixar saga came two years ago, when Disney bought the company for $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal – one that gave Pixar executives enormous power at their new home. Mr. Jobs sits on the Disney board and is the company’s largest shareholder. (Mr. Eisner left in 2005.) And Mr. Lasseter became the chief creative officer for the combined Disney and Pixar animation studios, where Mr. Catmull serves as president.
The day after the sale was announced, Mr. Lasseter and Mr. Catmull flew to Burbank, Calif., to address a crowd of about 500 animation staffers on a Disney soundstage. “Applause built as they made their way to the front,” Mr. Price reports, “and then erupted again in force” when the two men were introduced. “Lasseter was welcomed as a rescuer of the studio from which he had been fired some twenty-two years before.” In one of their first moves, Mr. Price says, Messrs. Lasseter and Catmull “brought back a handful of Disney animation standouts who had only recently been laid off.” Redemption, after all, is essential to any story well told.

For the full review, see:

PAUL BOUTIN. “Bookshelf, An Industry Gets Animated.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 14, 2008): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

Reagan’s “Crazy” Speech Inspired Lessig to Pursue the “Impossible”

 

Mr. Lessig has become the standard-bearer for those who see copyright law as too protective of original creators and too stifling of the artists who follow them. That position has made him the darling of those who want a relatively unfettered Internet, whether it be music sharers or online poem reprinters.

But it has also made him an opponent of many big media companies, including the Walt Disney Company, whose signature creation, Mickey Mouse, would have passed into the public domain years ago if not for a series of well-timed extensions to the law.

. . .

. . . , it might surprise many of Mr. Lessig’s supporters to find that his inspiration for his copyright work was Ronald Reagan.

“I heard George Shultz give a talk in Berlin on the 20th anniversary of Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’ speech,” Mr. Lessig said. “It was very moving to be at this event. Many of the Germans in the audience were moved to tears. They said that at the time this happened, it was impossible to see this change happening.”

In recalling his thoughts on the possibility of communism falling, he said, “When I heard Reagan’s speech, I remember thinking, ‘boy, he is crazy,’ ” he said.

It is fair to say you can quote him on that.

 

For the full story, see: 

NOAM COHEN.  "LINK BY LINK; Taking the Copyright Fight Into a New Arena."  The New York Times   (Mon., July 2, 2007):  C3.