Folks in Disney Jackets

Philadelphia —For the TV camera crews, it was more opportunity than dilemma.

So many Disney-embroidered denim jackets on one sidewalk. Whose to choose?

Nancy Marakowski’s jacket — emblazoned with “2000” on the back, a Mickey Mouse head replacing one of the zeroes — got chosen by at least one camera and must have gotten serious some screen time on some station somewhere.

She, husband Dan and other members of her family were among the hundreds of people last Tuesday who lined up outside the Loews hotel here in hopes of getting into Roy Disney and Stanley Gold’s dump Michael Eisner rally.

They didn’t get in, although they did get some of the orange plastic goodie bags containing a “Save Disney” T-shirt, a “Goodbye, Michael” bumper sticker and a lapel pin bearing Roy Disney’s image.

“We just want Disney to stay Disney — to keep that mystique,” Mrs. Marakowski said.

Her husband was more blunt, maybe because he works at a bank in Philadelphia, not at a Disney retail store like his wife. “I want Michael out,” the “South Jersey” resident said.

Many of The Walt Disney Co. stock owners who lined up along Market Street said they were there because they love Disney, and you know what they say about that thin line between love and hate.

There’s another old saw that says little things mean a lot, and these Disney lovers (and Eisner haters?) say they’ve seen many little things at the Disney parks that tell them some mystique is missing.

For Dan Marakowski, it was eliminating the marching bands down Main Street at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. “They’re really cutting back on live entertainment,” Marakowski, who said he’s been going to Disney parks regularly since 1989, lamented.

Inside the Loews — but also shut out of the “Save Disney” rally when the room filled up — were Ken and Kathy Gilrain, of Promised Land, Pa.

Ken Gilrain talked of meeting Roy Disney “on the Monorail” in Orlando 18 years ago, and how cast members in the park would tell of how he treated them like family, including when other family members took ill.

Now, Gilrain said, “the people that work there are just beat up. It’s still a good place to go, but not like it used to be.”

For Gilrain, the little thing that changed was the banjo player that used to sit at the entrance to a country store in the Orlando park. His kids — who now range in age from 24 to 18 — had never seen anyone play a banjo, and it impressed them.

The banjo player is gone, Gilrain said; his job eliminated. But he’s not unemployed: He’s plucking strings at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando.

Roy Disney and Gold have issues that run deep and, to judge from their speeches at the Disney annual meeting last Wednesday, are deeply personal.

For the people on Market Street wearing Disney jackets, it’s personal, too, and their votes shouldn’t be ignored by any corporate trustee of any beloved institution.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.