Before they were bought out by Disney in 2006, the animation studio, Pixar (the people behind groundbreaking classics like Toy Story) was the best in the business. When it came to 3-D animation, they had the most talent, the most money, the most hits, the most technical know-how. They were like the Michael Jordan of their field. Not even the great Dreamworks could keep up with them (as hard as they tried).
And before that, Disney itself was the best at 2-D animated movies, starting with Snow White in 1937, and countless classics since like the 1960’s Jungle Book, the 1980’s The Little Mermaid, and the 1990’s Beauty And The Beast.
They weren’t just technically superior to everyone else’s, they were just better at making movies in every way. Great storytelling, great songs, great jokes. Great art.
And now? Well some say we’ve gone from “Disney Magic” to “Disney Malaise” in what seems like no time at all.
It’s easy enough to see how:
The second law of thermodynamics states that “The arc of the universe bends toward chaos; entropy in a closed system always increases; things left to their own devices naturally deteriorate over time.”
In other words, Disney may have let “entropy” get the better of them.
Disney had a winning formula for years, but then that formula became… formulaic (i.e a closed system).
We’ve seen it many times before. Take the ancient Library of Alexandria. This legendary library in Egypt didn’t burn down in one great big fire, as the story goes – instead, it deteriorated over time, as people stopped paying attention to basic maintenance. One day, someone realized the library was unusable after a long, subtle, and steady decline (after entropy did its thing over hundreds of years).
So how do you keep entropy from happening to yourself, to your company?
Care about improving, growing, and elevating what matters. Care about maintaining and honoring what matters.
Even with the best of intentions, it’s harder than it looks. As poor Disney is finding out the hard way.