Eisner faces new Disney campaign

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The Independent Online

The nephew of Walt Disney has revealed he is to step up his campaign to oust the beleaguered chief executive of the multi-billion dollar company that gave the world some of its most enduring cartoon characters.

Roy Disney, 73, quit the board of Disney last year after a clash with Michael Eisner, the company's chief executive.

The two, who have each made $1 billion (£541 million) from the company, have been locked in a power struggle ever since, with Disney successfully forcing Eisner to stand down as the company's chairman at a shareholders' meeting last month.

But Eisner, who has been blamed for the collapse in Disney's fortunes, remains as chief executive.

Speaking in a BBC3 documentary to be screened tomorrow Roy Disney, who claims in the documentary he was fired, said: "I told them at the time they might be sorry they did that, and I intend to make them sorry they did that."

The programme also quotes him as saying: "The company is rapacious and soulless and always looking for a quick buck, which is leading to a loss of public trust."

The battle between Eisner and Disney is just one of a number of controversies surrounding the company, once synonomous with wholesome family values, covered by the documentary makers who have scoured the last 60 years for the darker side of Disney.

It has produced a programme that contains a mixture of new charges and some decidedly antique ones.

It alleges that lax maintenance at one of its world famous theme parks compromised safety and preceded a fatal accident at Disneyland in southern California.

The programme also accuses the company of using undue influence with Congress with £15m worth of lobbying to pass the creation of no-fly zones over the Disney theme parks.

It alleges the company had to withdraw from a Peter Pan film because it refused to pay a slice of profits to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and that it suggested not calling the police when a seven-year old British girl was sexually assaulted by a puppeteer at a Disney park.

And it paints a picture of the company's founder, Walt Disney, as a hard taskmaster unpopular with staff who then spied on them for the FBI.

Last night the famously litigious Disney corporation was unavailable to comment, awaiting, no doubt, the showing of the programme, on BBC tomorrow evening.

The most serious new allegations concern safety at theme parks. In the summer of 2003, a train on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at the California Disneyland derailed in a tunnel, killing a passenger.

The subsequent investigation found that a vital bolt had come loose, and the BBC film says that the official report criticised Disney maintenance and ordered them to bring in new procedures and re-train staff. Other accounts say that the accident was caused by improper maintenance by outside machinists who did not understand or follow the park's maintenance procedures.

.Bill Melendez, one of Walt Disney's early animators, says the public image of Walt Disney as a lovable figure who could draw brilliant cartoons is inaccurate. "He was a good producer and a good director," says Mr Melendez, "but he was not a cartoonist, he couldn't draw. We hated him."

'Outrageous Fortunes: Disney', will be shown on BBC3 tomorrow at 9pm