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Disney’s 1999 begins with video recall, Eisner bonus cut

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–For The Disney Company, 1999 began with a costly recall of 3.4 million copies of a children’s video — the first in company history — and news of CEO Michael Eisner’s bonus being cut nearly in half.
Additionally, in a three-page letter to shareholders, Eisner said of Disney’s disappointing year at the box office: “… in too many instances, profits did not materialize from the revenues achieved by our films. Stated more bluntly, either the films and marketing cost too much, or the audience rejected our ideas. Whatever the reason, we’re glad fiscal ’98 is over in this area.”
Disney plans to release more family oriented films in 1999, according to reports in Reuters news service Jan. 6 and USA Today Jan. 7. Reuters quoted Eisner as envisioning “a renewed emphasis on Disney family films.”
In another initiative, Eisner told shareholders that Disney’s cornerstone characters — mouses Mickey and Minnie, ducks Donald and Daisy and dogs Pluto and Goofy — will be “put back to work doing what they do best — entertaining their fans on the big and little screen.” The new “MouseWorks” features will first appear in theaters and on video and then become a TV series, Eisner wrote.
Disney’s first-ever video recall — of the animated “The Rescuers” — stemmed from two frames, among 110,000 in the film, which according to the Associated Press showed a photo of an unclothed woman. The images cannot be seen at the video’s normal speed of 30 frames per second, according to a Reuters report.
The company previously has rejected claims of objectionable images in various films, including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Eisner’s bonus for 1998 of $5 million was cut from 1997’s $9.9 million, a subject Eisner did not address in his letter to shareholders. The cut was reported in Disney documents filed Jan. 6 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Disney’s net income rose only 4 percent in fiscal 1998 and its stock fell 5.6 percent, according to Bloomberg Business News. Eisner receives a base salary of $764,423.
Eisner, in his letter to shareholders, said a key factor for the revenue decline stemmed from investments such as Disney’s new Animal World in Orlando, Fla.; the new Disney Cruise Line; a national radio network; a new ESPN classic sports channel and magazine; and the refurbishment of Anaheim Stadium, home of the Disney-owned California Angels baseball team.
The ongoing boycott of Disney is another factor, said Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, which initiated the boycott against the entertainment conglomerate in 1995, citing a decline in moral and family values from the days of founder Walt Disney.
The boycott has since been joined by the Southern Baptist Convention (in 1997), Focus on the Family, the Assemblies of God, Concerned Women for America and other religious groups.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also launched a boycott in 1995 after the release of the Disney/Miramax film, “Priest.”
“The boycott is on target. It’s on schedule,” Wildmon said, recounting his prediction that it will require three to five years to affect changes at Disney.
As to the video recall, Wildmon commented, “It shows that what we’ve been saying all along is true, that they have been doing this for a long time.”
Last fall for the first time, Disney’s involvement in the nation’s largest soft-core pornography cable channel, Viewer’s Choice, was revealed in a new book, “Disney: The Mouse Betrayed.” Husband-and-wife authors Peter and Rochelle Schweizer reported Viewer’s Choice officials would not disclose Disney’s ownership status, but the officials said no other company holds a larger stake in the channel.
Among earlier concerns raised by proponents of the Disney boycott are the Disney-owned ABC initiative to make “Ellen” the first sitcom with a lesbian lead character on network TV; other ABC series, such as “Nothing Sacred,” depicting traditional Christians in an unfavorable light; films of objectionable violent and/or sexual content, such as the Miramax subsidiary’s “Pulp Fiction” and “Kids;” cooperation with homosexuals holding “Gay Days” at Disney theme parks; extending health benefits to partners of homosexual employees; and the Hyperion subsidiary publishing of books promoting homosexuality, such as “Growing Up Gay.”
The SBC boycott resolution in 1997 noted, “… this is not an attempt to bring The Disney Company down, but to bring Southern Baptists up to the moral standard of God,” because: “Everything Christians possess of time, money, and resources is given to them by God as a stewardship for which they will give an account before a holy God … .” The resolution urges “all Southern Baptists to graciously communicate the reasons for their individual actions to The Disney Company and other companies,” noting Disney “is not the only such provider” of morally objectionable movies and televisions programs.