Disney CEO is starting to talk about John Carter and what he has to say, first in a Fortune/CNN Money article, and now in Bloomberg, is extremely interesting, particularly coming now, publicly, the day after the Q2 financials were released.  Iger is interviewed by Bloomberg’s Carol Muller.

Iger: They’re all our babies and we root for all of them to do well….we’re relatively realistic about the prospects of our film when we see enough of each film…i mean, you get a good sense if you’ve been in the business long enough whether something is going to do well or not, before it comes out, research aside — it’s more…it’s an instinct.  There was a point before Carter came out that I had a very strong sense that it was going to be very challenging……

Muller: But at that point you were just too way in, right?  you have to run with it?

Iger: Yes. we weren’t going to not distribute it.  nor did we really run away from supporting it fully because i felt that given the size of the investment, we owed it to ourselves, to at least give it the shot that it deserved.

Muller: And you never know…..

Iger: No, you never know…..but we had a strong sense…i was very worried about it … not that I wasn’t cheering for it …..but I was worried about it.

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COMMENT:  I initially posted this with no comment because, frankly, I had to go compose myself after reading this.  It is astonishing to me that there is no acknowledgment whatsoever of any failures other than those of the film-maker.  What about the marketing team  Mr. Iger?  What about your production executives charged with overseeing the production?  Here, at a minimum,  is what you should have said. This is not a sarcastic jibe — this is what you should have said.

“You know, sometimes a film comes along that is hard to figure ut how to market. Andrew Stanton …. the director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo is a very, very unique film-maker. Now here he was, a unique film-maker, with unique material, and our marketing team worked hard to get synched up with the material and how to present it in the marketplace in a way that would resonate with the potential audience of 2012. Quite frankly, we just never cracked the code. It was a learning experience, and a painful one. Is the film perfect? No. But we culd have done better with it.”

Additionally, two more points:

  • It is very, very well established that the film tested well, first in the Oregon test screening in June 2011 and then in multiple Nielsen test screenings in November and December 2011.  Note that Iger says “research aside, it’s more — it’s an instinct.”  What he is saying is that, in fact, the testing was positive — but his infallible “instinct” told him it would fail.  Yet Disney’s actions regarding the film were those of a company who knew it had a marketing problem — not a problem with the movie itself.  Remember, Disney scheduled dozens upon dozens of advance screenings in an attempt to have these help overcome the poor marketing.  You don’t do that with a turkey — Iger knows that.  With a turkey, you keep it under wraps until the last possible minute; you limit access for reviewers, you embargo them right up to the last couple of days before release, etc, etc, etc.  So …bottom line, Iger’s comments are inconsistent with the actions Disney took.
  • If, as Iger says  when “we see enough of each film” we know — and in this case we knew, then why: 1) Did no alarms go off? You had a first time live action director and in December 2011, 14 months before the scheduled release, you didn’t like what you saw.  If that’s the case, did you not have a fiduciary responsibility to your investors to step in with a firm hand and right the ship?  Did you do that? Or anything approaching that?  And if you didn’t — if you knew from your “instinct” that it was a flop, but you did nothing to force the issue with the film-maker and get the film on track, how do you explain that ?