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Work in Progress Hardcover – September 16, 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1964, NBC clerk Michael Eisner made $65 a week. Though he only took one business course in his life--accounting--he did have a head for business: as CEO of Disney, he earned over half a billion bucks in 1997. Though he had no foundation in finance, he averted the bloody dismemberment of Disney by takeover sharks when he took over in 1984, and by May 1998 he earned over $80 billion for Disney stockholders. Not bad for a guy who, on his first day in Walt's old office, met a manager of the film division BVD (Buena Vista Distribution) and innocently asked whether "Disney made underwear."

In his memoir, Eisner doesn't air quite as much dirty laundry as we could hope he'd be dopey enough to do. Still, it is revealing, and since it's unheard-of for Hollywood potentates to spill any beans at all, this book is required reading for anyone interested in America's major export, popular culture.

We learn a fair bit of personal stuff: the crucial impact of Eisner's sternly withholding father, who drove Michael to succeed and made him less than effusive himself in praising underlings; his favorite book in youth (The Catcher in the Rye); his encounters with more madcap Hollywood types; his brush with death from heart disease; the day he got the idea for Beverly Hills Cop by getting physically roughed up by a Beverly Hills cop; his plan to add the naughtier cartoon character Mortimer Mouse to Mickey's family.

Eisner gives us his negotiating secret (be willing to walk), his view of prerelease audience testing of shows ("it's almost worthless"), his management strategy (incite raucous debate within strict institutional checks and balances, then make gut decisions), the key to success in movies and TV (strong two-man partnerships: Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg at Universal, Bob Daly and Terry Semel at Warner Bros., and preeminently Eisner and Frank Wells at Disney). Eisner gives a provocative analysis of why Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz proved disastrous partners for him at Disney, and even confesses to a few screwups of his own (losing his temper and helping to blow the Disney America historical park development). --Tim Appelo

From Library Journal

Recently scheduled for fall?so recently that the book is not yet titled?this memoir covers Eisner's rise from ABC to Paramount to Disney, where he is now chair.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375500715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375500718
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #930,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is 464 pages of boring self-glorification. It also neglects to mention anything negative in Mr. Eisner's life. You get the impression that he views himself as a perfect specimen of mankind and incapable of doing anything wrong. Reading through these 400+ pages of self gratification is also extremely BORING! He doesn't mention anything about the other people at Disney or the contributions they made to build his empire.
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Format: Hardcover
From about 1985 I was the senior executive assistant to Disney's Vice President of Strategic Planning, Lawrence P. Murphy. I therefore read this book with a special eagerness, and I was not disappointed. It teems with the wonderful people who make up the cast of top management at The Walt Disney Company headquarters in Burbank, California.

Mentioned herein are many, but not all, of the bright and driven executives who comprise Michael's well known "Dream Team", those brilliant businessmen and women who increased the company's market value from $2 billion to $75 billion in a scant 15 years. While many attempts have been made recently to explain the magic of Disney management (wouldn't everyone like to succeed this well), Eisner's book reveals a great chunk of the truth: As strategic planner Peter Murphy phrases it at one point, "We are a compulsive culture".

As important as smiling employees and customer satisfaction are, Disney management tests its own mettle on a daily basis, working incredibly long and hard upon every operations detail, research task, acquisition project and growth enterprise that captures its attention. No one can expect to duplicate Disney's success without emulating this crucial aspect of its management work ethic -- its people work tirelessly, passionately and often single-mindedly, and find immense joy and personal satisfaction in achieving the desired results.

This is a fine book and highly recommended for any executive who wishes deeper practical insights into how a brilliant but prudent Disney management team transformed the company's future.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine a multi-million dollar business that revolves around a mouse. How could this be so? Who hasn't heard about Mickey Mouse, who originally was going to be called Mortimer by creator Walt Disney until Brother Roy suggested Mickey.
In Work in Progress by Michael Eisner with Tony Schwartz you get the behind the scenes of the magic of the Disney empire, where he served as head. This book is semi-autobiographical, reflective, and confessional.
Eisner disclaims the rumor that Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen. He traveled himself to the relatively hidden memorial site at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California where his ashes are buried in a tiny, overgrown plot.
Eisner openly discuss his health issues and recognizing his mortality. He shares, "I felt unsettled, close to panic. Moments later, I experienced intense pain, not just in my arms but also in my neck and chest. My anxiety was making the pain worse. The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled into the emergency room. All I could think of was ER, the pilot I'd just watched. Suddenly, I was living it."
This business man is chronicles his climb to the top from television to movies to Disney filled with details of the nasty behind the scenes turf battles. The unexpected death of the President of Disney Frank Wells and how he had to carry the full burden of the company's responsibility.
How many of the icons of the entertainment industry began with a silly idea. For instance on ideas Eisner states, "When an idea can't be articulated simply, crisply and accessibly, there is usually something wrong with it. When I hear a good idea, it has an effect on my mind and body. Sometimes I feel it in my stomach, other times in my throat, still others on my skin- a kind of instant truth detector test."
A bit dated since it was written in 1998, the book does have charm and valuable insight into the entertainment world from someone who had a front row seat.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is very well written and a pleasure to read. If you have any interest in the entertainment industry, the book does not disappoint with vignettes of Eisner's experiences at ABC, Paramount, and finally Disney.
Anyone who grew up in the 70's and 80's will find it fascinating to read about Eisner's early career at ABC and Paramount, and his influence in some of the television programs and movies that shaped our generation. And for the fan of Disney, the book is a must read. You won't be able to put it down.
The only criticism I have of the book is that some of Eisner's stories were too short -- more details about his experiences would have been fascinating to read.
From a business point of view, I found the whole story about Eisner's reshaping of Disney -- his very human experience of seeking the job with the Disney board is well told by he and Tony Schwartz. He doesn't try to compare himself to Walt Disney, but instead relates on how he is trying to continue Disney's dream of what the company could be.
If you are thinking about ordering a copy, do it today! You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
I got this book during my last visit at Disney and I can say I was not disapointed. The book starts with Mr. Eisner's visit to the hospital and then goes all the way back to his summer school years. You might ask, so why is it interesting at all?
Well, the writting is very engaging and all sorts of names start to pop up like rabbits in a very natural way; like if you were speaking of your friends and collegues. The only thing is that your list of partners might not include George Lucas, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, among the several celebrities mentioned.
Eisner, however, details his hits and misses with the apparent upmost sincerity. Like the first time he tried to close a deal and how he got mad because the other party tried to take advantange of the situation at the last minute...
I come from a business background and I have experienced many of the situations that Eisner covers in his book. It is very nice to read his point of view on many topics and affect all business managers every day.
I think his dealing with Jeffrey Katzenberg was debatable and each party tried to get the most water for their own well and forgot to see what was best for Disney. At the end I think they all lost...
The book is very good indeed. Don't think is it another way to spend your money on a Disney product because if it is, you will be getting the best part of the bargain.
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