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Eisner legacy: A bigger Disney - Orlando Sentinel 09/28/05

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  • Eisner legacy: A bigger Disney - Orlando Sentinel 09/28/05

    Article from Orlando Sentinel - September 28, 2005
    Eisner legacy: A bigger Disney

    Theme parks, region flourished during his tenure

    There are no airports named for Michael Eisner in Central Florida. No major roadways or subdivisions. But the outgoing chief of the Walt Disney Co. has left his mark.

    For better or worse, many community leaders say, the area was shaped by the ego and ambition of the company's long-serving chief executive.

    As the top boss at Walt Disney Co. since 1984, Eisner made the critical calls in California that molded much of the economy and culture of Orlando and indeed all of Florida during the past two decades, a range of leaders say.

    "He made the big decisions," said Linda Chapin, former Orange County chairman, now serving as director of the Metropolitan Center for Regional Studies at the University of Central Florida.

    Disney during Eisner's tenure pumped billions of dollars into capital construction in Central Florida with two new theme parks, thousands of hotel rooms and time-share resorts. The building boom created tens of thousands of jobs at what would become the nation's largest single site employer -- Walt Disney World Resort.
    Not everything Eisner touched turned to gold in Orlando. The concept of the Disney Institute, where guests would take classes and expand their minds while on vacation, failed as first conceived. The buildings that housed the institute have since been converted to time-share vacation resorts, although the work of the institute continues in a more dispersed way across Disney property.

    Orlando also was supposed to be an animation hub for the company, but that grand plan collapsed as the company in recent years yielded to economic pressures and changing animation trends.
    Eisner spent a fair amount of time in the Orlando parks, particularly early in his tenure, generally sporting a polo shirt with a ball cap and shades, checking out the rides and chatting with guests. In that respect, he followed in the footsteps of Walt Disney himself, returning time and again to the theme that much of the company's magic was vested in the parks.

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