Die-hard Disney fans saddened by takeover bid news
The "Happiest Place on Earth": Comcastland?

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, February 11th, 2004

Die-hard Mouseketeers gnashed their teeth and rent their three-fingered white gloves on Wednesday amid fears that the Magic Kingdom that Walt Disney built could be overrun by a cable TV giant named Comcast.

It was the latest chapter in the unfolding corporate drama of Walt Disney Co. -- home of Mickey Mouse, a top film studio, broadcaster ABC, sports network ESPN and several theme parks -- which received a $50 billion takeover bid from cable operator Comcast Corp.

One fan on a Web site said the proposed deal would only make things worse at beleaguered Disney, further threatening the rule of embattled Chief Executive Michael Eisner.

"I don't like Eisner but this hostile takeover by Comcast has me on the brink of tears," said the fan on a Web site called MousePlanet. "It feels like they just killed the dream, magic and (founder) Walt (Disney). Will it still be Disneyland next week or Comcastland?"Comcastland??  VOTE with your opinion!!

Eisner, already under fire from Disney founding-family shareholders bent on ousting him, personally turned down the deal on Monday.

Another fan wrote on MousePlanet that while it was time for a change of the guard at Disney, a corporate sale to Comcast would be "un-American."

"Eisner needs to go, there's no question about that. He was wonderful in the beginning, but he's developed tunnel vision," the fan from Arkansas wrote.

"But the sellout to Comcast would be going from bad to worse... The Walt Disney Co's an American institution. Selling it would be un-American. Old Walt must must be spinning in his grave today," the fan said.


Indeed, many people with lifelong and emotional ties to Disney expressed the view that a change was needed, but fell short of endorsing a sale to Comcast or a change in ownership.

"I am concerned about the future of the company for many reasons and not just because of the discord between Roy and Michael," said Michael Broggie, author of "Walt Disney's Railroad Story" detailing Walt Disney's passion for trains.

Broggie's father, Roger Broggie, a studio machine shop manager and "Imagineer," help build a railroad in Disney's backyard, which along with his fascination with detailed miniatures and mechanical animation inspired his "Magic Kingdom," according to Broggie, who rode the train as a child.

"I'm concerned as a lot of people who work in the company and a lot of people who have a vested interest in the future, like stockholders and cast members are concerned," he said.

Broggie is also a Disney shareholder and founding chairman of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, a group aimed at preserving the Disney legacy, comprised of about 500 families, including some Disney relatives.

"The company has been in a state of steady decline in terms of revenues, direction and theme park quality," he said.

"Disney represents the cultural fabric of this country. It's more than just an investment. It established a standard of family entertainment and quality and a lot of people who evaluate the Disney performance determined the company had lost its direction," he said.

About 100,000 people each day ride on steam engine trains at Disney theme parks around the world as a testimony to Disney's passion for railroading, which is also evident in much of his animation, exhibitions and other works.

"Certainly the name Disney conjures a lot of things," said Paul Hammond, director of marketing for the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento, which last year hosted an exhibit centered around Disney's home railroad.

"The Disney that Walt created had a very personal touch, which has been gone for decades," he said. "I don't think it would have been possible for Disney to remain goody two-shoes and non-corporate because of the marketplace," he said.

"It's inevitable these things happen and that the ownership will transfer from one media giant to another," he said.