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Why the Most-Hated Disney CEO of All Time Wasn't Actually That Bad

6. Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Image: DisneyThe Walt Disney Company operates six themed gates in North America. Including The Oriental Land Company’s two gates, there are 12 in total at the six Disney theme parks around the world. As the totality of this list indicates, six of these gates opened during Eisner’s tenure. He was responsible for the extension of Disney’s theme park reach.

Without Eisner’s influence, we’d have only Epcot and Magic Kingdom in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim. There would be no European or Chinese presence of the Disney Parks brand. You’d have only half as many options as theme park tourists.

Image: DisneyDisney’s Hollywood Studios is derided for its struggles over the years. Critics who make these assertions miss the forest for the trees. This place is where you could find The Great Movie Ride for almost 30 years. It’s the place that transported guests to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Guests who wanted an intergalactic Star Tours ride or the limo treatment on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith visited here. And the shows have always been the best at any American Disney park.

For all of the park’s faults, Hollywood Studios has delivered more than 30 years of high-end entertainment for guests. Eisner gets the same credit for the park’s successes as he does for its failures.

7. Disney California Adventure

Image: DisneyLook, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Disney California Adventure (DCA) was a debacle from BEFORE day one. Disney cut so many corners on this project that the only things that they really got right from day one were Soarin’, California Screamin’, and Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa. Everything else was either mediocre enough to diminish the Disney brand or an abject failure.

Why does DCA deserve a spot on this list? To his credit, Eisner understood the hidden benefits of Disney's corporate mandate to plus everything. Many cast members fall somewhere between evangelists and crusaders for all things Walt Disney. I include the developers of attractions in this. When something hurts Disney's reputation, these employees will work tirelessly to overcome any obstacles on the path to greatness.

Image: DisneyAs was the case with Hollywood Studios, EuroDisney, and Hong Kong Disneyland, DCA improved over time. The huge advance happened with the introduction of Cars Land, a dazzling recreation of Radiator Springs from the Cars movies. Then, Disney repurposed one of its themed lands into Pixar Pier and began the conversion of other property into a Marvel section. DCA remains a work-in-progress, but it truly qualifies as better than ever at the moment. A couple of years from now, it’ll seem that much better.

So, Eisner does deserve credit for having the vision to double the potential parks and traffic to the Disneyland Resort area. For everything that Iger has done masterfully, we haven’t gotten that oft-rumored fifth gate at Walt Disney World during his tenure. Eisner doubled the number of gates at Disneyland and Walt Disney World alike. We’re all in his debt for that, no matter how we feel about his overall job performance at Disney.

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