With the economy still stuck in neutral for many folks, many large corporations are nonetheless happily sitting on piles of hoarded cash. Then there's the Walt Disney Company, which is increasingly looking like a gigantic, futuristic, yet unthreatening ATM machine.
A recent article in the New York Times provided an illuminating profile of Alan Horn, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Horn is enjoying a professional renaissance of sorts after getting canned from his previous job at Warner Brothers. Actually, the term "renaissance" doesn't accurately portray the breadth of Disney's creative holdings, and with it, what should be another decade awash in cash.
The studio Mr. Horn runs — which includes Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm — recently reported a record $1.55 billion in profit for its last fiscal year, up from $661 million in 2013. And as the article notes, Disney’s pipeline is overflowing with potential blockbusters. The studio will release 21 big-budget movies in the next three years (it released 13 in the last three).
We bring up Disney's success to contextualize recent news out of Los Angeles, where Inner City Arts honored The Walt Disney Company with the Philanthropic Leadership Award at its 2014 Imagine Awards. Founded in 1989, Inner-City Arts "cultivates a sense of possibility within Los Angeles' youth. In partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the organization provides a safe and supportive environment for youth to explore their creativity" — a goal sorely needed in an age where most school districts have yet to recover to pre-recession arts funding levels.
(In fact, if it's a depressing aside you crave, check out our take on Enter Stage Right. Started in 2003 with the modest goal of serving only five schools in the LA school district, it soon grew at an astonishing rate. By 2009 it served 11,000 students at 110 schools, and a year later its funding was cut. Naturally.)
Disney seems to get it, and they used the awards ceremony as an opportunity announce that it would donate another $1 million to Inner-City Arts to support its Creativity Lab, an innovative arts workshop that encourages students to pursue tasks and challenges using creative thinking and creative problem solving. "It's only by expanding their imaginations that our kids will be able to realize their biggest dreams," notedJay Rasulo, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, The Walt Disney Company who accepted on Disney's behalf.
By presenting Disney with this award, Inner City Arts also kept the company's feet to the proverbial fire. It was a friendly and thankful pat on the back that came with the common understanding that the relationship would hopefully continue to grow over time.
As for Disney, we understand that corporate accounting can be complex. But we expect to see more donations like this in the future. After all, their next big blockbuster movie has something to do with a story happening "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."
Maybe that one rings a bell.