ride of a lifetime

bob iger's 2019 memoir of +15 years as Disney's CEO.


May 28, 2020 → Jun 20, 2020


Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, Bob Iger, John Lassater
Jan 24, 2006

  • Shanghai Disneyland cost about $6 billion to build. It is 963 acres, about eleven times the size of Disneyland. At various stages of its construction, as many as fourteen thousand workers lived on the property. We held casting calls in six cities in China to discover the thousand singers, dancers, and actors who perform in our stage and street shows. Over the eighteen years it took to complete the park, I met with three presidents of China, five mayors of Shanghai, and more party secretaries.
  • Stu could dissect a script so quickly—“His motivations aren’t clear at the top of Act 2…”—and I’d look back through the pages on my lap, thinking, Wait, Act 2? When did Act 1 end? Based on a literal back-of-a-napkin pitch at a restaurant in Hollywood, ABC’s head of drama had given the go-ahead to a pilot from David Lynch, by then famous for his cult films Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, and the screenwriter and novelist Mark Frost. It was a surreal, meandering drama about the murder of a prom queen, Laura Palmer, in the fictional Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks. David directed the two-hour pilot, which I vividly remember watching for the first time and thinking, This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and we have to do this.
  • I had an idea unrelated to Pixar, though, that I thought might interest him. I told him I was a huge music lover and that I had all of my music stored on my iPod, which I used constantly. I’d been thinking about the future of television, and it occurred to me that it was only a matter of time before we would be accessing TV shows and movies on our computers. I didn’t know how fast mobile technology was going to evolve (the iPhone was still two years away), so what I was imagining was an iTunes platform for television. “Imagine having access to all of television history on your computer,” I said. If you wanted to watch last week’s episode of Lost, or something from the first season of I Love Lucy, there it would be. “Imagine being able to watch all of Twilight Zone again whenever you wanted to!” It was coming, I was certain of that, and I wanted Disney to be in front of the wave. I figured the best way to do that was to convince Steve of the inevitability of this idea, “iTV,” as I described it to him.
  • After the cinema, I received more calls and notes than I’d ever received about anything I’d been associated with in my career. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington and Gayle King reached out. I’d had a production assistant deliver a copy of the film to President Obama, and when I spoke with him after, he told me how important he believed the film was. Oprah sent a note calling it “a phenomenon in every way” and adding, “It makes me tear up to think that little black children will grow up with that forever.” There may be no product we’ve created that I’m more proud of than Black Panther.

  • After the funeral, Laurene came up to me and said, “I’ve never told my side of that story.” She described Steve coming home that night. “We had dinner, and then the kids left the dinner table, and I said to Steve, ‘So, did you tell him?’ ‘I told him.’ And I said, ‘Can we trust him?’ ” We were standing there with Steve’s grave behind us, and Laurene, who’d just buried her husband, gave me a gift that I’ve thought about nearly every day since. I’ve certainly thought of Steve every day. “I asked him if we could trust you,” Laurene said. “And Steve said, ‘I love that guy.’ “

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