John Blumenthal is a former editor at Playboy and he also worked as a fact-checker at Esquire. He has authored 8 books, the last 2 novels What's Wrong With Dorfman and Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour were both published by St. Martin's Press. John is also a screenwriter and he has written 2 movies: Short Time (Fox) and Blue Streak. (Columbia). He currently blogs for Opensalon
The approved design called for concrete replicas of the Seven Dwarfs to grace the top of the building. The architect built them, but secretly positioned the dwarfs in such a way that, whenever it rained, the flow of water would make it appear as if the dwarfs were pissing on the executives as they entered and left the building.
This tale may be apocryphal, but having been tortured by the Mickey Mouse Studio more than a few times, I fully understand the architect’s motivation.
In those days, Disney’s movie development department –- and I’m not talking about their animation division --- worked differently than most of the others in town. And not in a good way, unless you were a glutton for Hollywood Abuse (which may be redundant.)
Here’s how the other studios handled things: If you were a screenwriter or writing team with a track record, and you had a movie idea, your agent would call the head of development at a studio, and arrange a pitch meeting.
If they didn’t care for it, they’d get another team of writers to destroy it. Or they’d sell it to another studio, which would then hire other writers to destroy it.
To compensate for our pitching ineptitude, we were compelled to come up with really irresistible stories. It wasn’t easy, but we were good at that part. In four years, we sold about 10 pitches and had 2 movies made.
But the usual protocol didn’t always work that way at Disney. At Disney, the development execs would often come up with their own ideas for movies.
Mostly, their ideas were just plain stupid. They were not ideas with actual plots. They were simply premises, usually bad ones. An example of such an idea was one in which a skinny model has twins and gains weight. That was it.
Here’s what Disney would do: After they came up with one of their bone-headed concepts, they’d notify agents and put out the word that they were looking for screenwriters to come up with three-act plots for their ideas. For free.
Michael and I eagerly answered the call, along with 6000 other writers. We took a meeting at Disney, during which their development veep explained their “idea.” He thought it was hilarious and laughed heartily as we sat there like two Puritan ministers with hemorrhoids.
But we were whores at the time, so we said we’d give it our best shot. They gave us three weeks to come up with a pitch.
We worked for days until we concocted something that we thought worked. One of us called Disney to tell them we were ready to pitch.
“Sorry, we already assigned it to another writing team,” they told us.
Okay, no big deal, it happens. Like idiots, we answered the next call as well, heard their cockamamie idea, came up with a story and called them.
“Sorry,” they told us. “We decided not to move ahead with this concept.”
By this time, we’d had it, but Disney called our agent again and this time they used flattery, which is usually pretty effective in Hollywood if you’re an idiot.
This time, they claimed that they had a notion that was absolutely perfect for us. So, being the nitwits we were, we went in, we heard their moronic notion, we pow-wowed for three weeks and tried to turn this sow’s ear into something that wasn’t a sow’s ear. Then we called them.
“Sorry, we decided you’re really not right for the project,” they said.
By this time, Michael and I had wasted about 10 weeks working pointlessly on their ideas, and the Disney execs never had the decency to let us know that the status of each project had changed. They left us hanging. They never apologized.
So we gave our agent firm orders to tell Disney we would never, ever work with them again, unless they paid us a shitload of shekels up front and babysat out kids for a year. In fact, we asked him specifically to use the phrase, “go fuck yourselves,” if Disney ever called us in for another moron-meeting again.
And that was the end of
But, to this day, the image of the Seven Dwarfs relieving themselves on the Disney executive’s heads almost softens my disdain for that studio. Almost.