Is there really an Iger-Lasseter Feud at Disney?

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I’ve been hearing about this for a few weeks and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.  It’s true that John Lasseter was unhappy with Disney’s marketing of John Carter — so was everyone else.  And I think it’s true that Lasseter did not, in general, think highly of Rich Ross and I could see how that could contribute to Ross’s firing — especially when Steven Spielberg and others had a problem with Ross as well.

But now the rumor mill is pumping out stories that Lasseter is in a feud with Disney Corp CEO Bob Iger and I’m having a bit more trouble swallowing that one.   However it’s become more important recently to the John Carter universe because Lasseter is increasingly seeming like the Last Best Hope within Disney to at least potentially champion a John Carter sequel.  Iger has made comments which make it clear that he would never approve such a thing.  Anyway, here is the original link reporting the feud, and here is what it says:

Details are understandably scarce and sometimes vague, but I’ve been able to gather various pieces of information and fit them together. First, it should be noted that Bob Iger, CEO and Chairman of the board of The Walt Disney Company, has already announced his intent to retire and move on to the next phase of his life, presumably as a politician (no, really, that’s what I’m hearing). By March 31st, 2015 an announcement of his successor will take place and the new CEO will take the reigns of the company.

So how could that timeline be accelerated? As discussed on the rumor segment of the DIS Unplugged, apparently Iger, affectionately referred to as “the weather man” by many in the fan community, has been in a feud with John Lasseter. John Lasseter is the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios as well as the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. Lasseter was upset at the marketing plan for the film John Carter, which was directed by his friend Andrew Stanton. When the film flopped due to his perception of sabotage, he threw a huge fit to oust Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross. He went so far as to threaten to leave the company if Ross was not immediately replaced, and sure enough, shortly after John Carter was released and flopped, Disney announced Ross’ replacement, Alan Horn, an outsider with a wealth of film experience.

So what does this mean for the weather man before 2015? Lasseter has apparently also threatened to leave the company if he (Iger) is not replaced before the June 20th, 2013 release of Monsters Inc 2. This is not to be taken lightly, as a shake up of this caliber could have a rippling affect throughout the entire company. If this happens and Iger is removed from power, it is likely he will take either CFO Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Parks & Resorts Tom Staggs, or both with him. Depending on who he takes and who replaces him, others including Meg Crofton could be on the way out too, and there are many in the fan community who would jump for joy if it comes to fruition. I think the best way to describe the resort under current management is what some call “the Rizzo factor.” They’re tooooourists, what do they know? The next time you see empty buildings at Pleasure Island or the missing Lights of Winter, look around at all the people with 1stvisit buttons on, completely oblivious to what once was, and you’ll see just how obvious the Rizzo factor really is. We can only hope that with a change at the top, the Rizzo factor will be significantly reduced.

As noted elsewhere, I just don’t see how Lasseter, however cranky he may be about Iger (and I do believe he is feeling pretty cranky about him) has the horsepower to win such a confrontation.  Lasseter may be the heart and soul of Disney creative — but Disney Corp is ultimately mostly about theme parks and ESPN, representing 93% of the company’s revenue, and those are things that Lasseter isn’t involved with.  I just don’t see where he gets sufficient clout to create a problem for Iger, even if he wants to.  I’m curious if others see more reason to believe this rumor.

5 thoughts on “Is there really an Iger-Lasseter Feud at Disney?

  1. Yes, Disney Corp. is 93% non-movie, but Disney films (particularly animation) inspire the parks. Cars Land at Disneyland is reportedly beautiful and getting record crowds. Rumors say Disneyworld is gonna bring Cars Land its Florida movie park. Disney and Pixar movie characters walk the parks and are in the parades. Also, Lasseter is greatly involved in the amusement park rides and attractions. It’s rumored that a Monster’s Inc. ride will be built in a few years…Lasseter surely had input on it.

    Iger’s public comments on John Carter are just plain dumb for a CEO to make. Even if Iger truly believes what he says about Carter, he has to know how poorly they’d be received. His comments show complete disrespect for Lasseter, the man who brought to Disney Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, Wall-E, The Incredibles, etc.

    I feel like Lasseter “gets” what Disneyworld is supposed. And I think Lasseter “gets” making timeless films. I hope Lasseter gets his wish and Iger’s gone. If that happens, our John Carter sequels may happen down the road.

  2. Lasseter leaving (and with him probably a whole lot of the Pixar guys, if not everyone of them) would have consequences far beyond Disney’s movie division. Sure, it’s only a tiny percentage on the paper, but it generates a whole lot of park attraction, merchandising and perhaps most important, public image! Imagine the mediatic tsunami if the most successful division of Disney (which they spent billions on) became suddenly an empty shell! What would be left? How would the stock market react? Disney is not “Mickey and his friends” anymore, it relies mostly on external input nowadays, be it Pixar or Marvel, with only very few in-house projects. I think Lasseter has far more power than just the weight he has in the financial reporting.

    And I think that, as a movie buff himself, he would just want to see the sequels to John Carter being made.

  3. Might be the reason Jim Morris said that a sequel to John Carter is possible “but not now “. Could it be we wont get a sequel until Iger moves on?

  4. “I just don’t see how Lasseter, however cranky he may be about Iger (and I do believe he is feeling pretty cranky about him) has the horsepower to win such a confrontation.”

    Uh, how about Michael Eisner? His exit was mostly driven by Pixar and Lasseter so I wouldn’t put it past him at this point. And personally I like Lasseter, he’s made some good movies and has at least attempted to turn around Disney’s animation but still if there is any truth to this he’s letting his personal feelings get in the way. Iger should go for running Disney into the ground, not just because (SARCASM ALERT!) poor Andrew ran crying to Lasseter about being mistreated over his “passion” project. A lot of directors get screwed over by the studios so they need to not let it run their decisions or seek some sort of revenge over it. Just keep working and eventually those studio heads get their just desserts.

  5. Who knows? Would someone make up a rumor like this? And why? To sow division at Disney? To grease the wheels of an early exit by Iger? A projection based on the outcome with Rich Ross?

    We might just have to wait and see when Iger ends up officially leaving Disney. If it happens next June or sooner, that would support the idea of someone like Lasseter having ushered him out. If it’s later, we might never learn what did or didn’t work out behind the scenes.

    Whatever is really going on, I just hope that it’ll mean we’ll get clear word sooner from Disney about a sequel, whether it’s a yes or a no.

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