Summary of the case study
Some ventures such Euro Disney, new Disney Park in Paris struggled to peak leading to loss, cost cutting and reduction in attendance. The Park experienced negative press coverage so did future of Disney’s America woes worry him. Eisner realized exposed corporate troubles and media coverage on controversy surrounding the park was damaging Disney’s image and threatened to tarnish its reputation of a family-friendly fun and fantasy. With love for Disney’s America concept, Eisner and other executives aimed to build an America History theme park that would tell the story of U.S history following a meeting in southeastern Virginia. Disney identified several locations to build a park based on historical location, before buying a cheap land, based on America concept, location and safety. After buying, the land Disney kept it secret by involving in little activities with the community and local government. With reports of leakage, Eisner acted to avoid the media revelation of its plan to build a theme park in Virginia. He preempted the media by contacting outgoing governor Wilder and governor-elect Allen who agreed to attend the formal announcement.
Following Disney’s formal statement of a plan to build a park in Prince William County, it was met with opposition as critics argued that the park would undermine the upper Piedmont’s heritage and natural look. This was a group of eminent landowners and deliberated on ways to stop Disney from intruding their nature. They came up with a slogan, ‘Disney, Take a Second Look’ to convince Disney to rethink its idea of building a theme park which posed a threat to Piedmont’s natural beauty. This was followed by series of ads and meetings aimed at stopping Disney plan. Disney countered the move by selling its idea to the community and discussing with the relevant authorities on plans to build a park. They portrayed the critics as rich landowners who did not want Disney in their land. Disney got local community backing, negotiated with the National Park Service at Manassas Park and promised to promote and preserve history of the park. While PEC, a group of landowners, mounted a strong campaign, lobbying and public relations against Disney arguing that the park was bad idea for Virginia and asked the state not to fund it. The Virginia state legislature voted a massive tax package for Disney, clearing way for Disney’s America Project. Disney officials were happy though, its opponents would not let it go as they changed tactic. Congressional hearing supported Disney noting that the issue could be handled by the Virginia state. In addition, the hearing generated into a national issue as media and historians wrote thousand stories with the media leaning against Disney. Eisner remain firm and build public support for the project. Faced with enormous pressure to back up amidst vow of not letting go of Disney’s America Project and not ready to upset those who supported the project and the community. Eisner reached a point where he had to weigh the options and make the final decisions on the Future of Disney’s America and focus on other pending business issue.
- What are the key issues that Eisner must consider in this situation from a government relations perspective?
Amongst the key issues that Eisner had to consider include, the location of the proposed historical theme park. Disney executives and Eisner selected Virginia State, due to its environment, economic and features associated with America history. For instance being home to famous America wealthy and influential people, its nature and beautiful parks, and a site to civil war battlefields could attract a number of visitors to its theme park. Another issue was the traffic chaos as result of building the theme park. The park will attract influx of visitors from all corners, leading to gridlock, hence Disney would need to anticipate and envisage ways to avoid the commotion as the highway was already crowded. He needs to plan on alternative way to avoid disorder noting that locals use the highway. In addition, air pollution is an issue that Eisner need to tackle, as opponents feared that the park is likely to spoil its natural and beauty environment. Furthermore, Eisner will have to deal with the opposition, as most people are concerned that the theme park will destroy Piedmont heritage and its natural look. Moreover, there was filling that the project would destroy America’s national symbols of history and replace them with hilarious theme park, raising the question whether; Disney was capable to depict a clear image of America history as most parks uses amusement and entertainment. Finally, Eisner needs to consider economically feasibility of the project as critics argued that the park would generate few jobs of with little pay for locals contrary to the early promise of 19,000 well-paid jobs.
- Where is Disney most vulnerable, from a communications standpoint?
I believe with the continued media exposure on controversy surrounding the park, Disney was at risk of losing credibility and tarnishing its corporate image due to bad reputation caused by bad publicity by its opponents who are determined to stop America’s Disney project. In addition, misinterpretation of the massage by opponents is likely to expose Disney to weakness; a case of where its leader’s announcement and speech is wrongful interpreted and leaked by the media before a formal public announcement is likely to expose them. For instance statement by Bob Weis, “…we want to make you feel what was like to be a slave…” A remark that was met with outrage by critics who alleged that Disney was planning to promote and depict slavery cruel acts as a subject to fun contrary to Weis idea where he envisioned to create a theme park that showcased the visitors ideal picture about slavery. Eisner also, caused stir with his comment while trying to promote and make people believe Disney project by asserting that despite, of reading men books he would understand nothing while attending history classes, this annoyed historians. It worth to note that such plain remarks, quotes or suggestions can be easily misquoted or misinterpreted and capitalized by critics in an event of opposition against an idea such as the theme park.
- How could Disney have better anticipated the opposition to its new theme park proposal?
The article notes that Piedmont had history of opposing local development projects, though I think while planning Disney never anticipated to encounter negative publicity and opposition from the locals. Therefore, for them to avoid this they should have first; met the key stakeholders in Piedmont such as PEC, a rural-preservation group, who were opposed to the project by informing them on its merit. I believe that they feared pollution of their nature and beauty scenery. In addition, the fact that they received local, organization and Virginia state backing they should have reached out to historians and make them understand their vision by involving them in development of the park. Historians were skeptical of their ability to portray American history due to their bias against amusement parks thus; they should have taught them how they will realize the vision. Furthermore, there seemed to be other 32 locations in Washington DC, suggested by PEC, which Disney should have studied before settling for Prince William County as best location. Disney did not realize important of this location to America history and the people, that why he received opposition as most saw the park erasing their history
- What advice would you give Eisner?
Destiny is engaged in battle with the opponents who are not ready to relinquish. At the same time, Eisner is devoted to ensuring that he leaves a lasting legacy with the project amidst media publicity and exposure. He has received support from all quarters after creating the idea of America’s Disney. However, there is continued publicity and negative images painted by both media and critics, which are tarnishing Disney’s long-standing image of family-friendly fun and fantasy. Thus, I will advice Eisner to abandon the project in order to salvage the already tainted image of Disney of family fun. Because publicized campaign against Disney is likely to continue and cause more damage to the Disney’s image by looking for alternative location to build the America Disney’s theme park.