Blogging from LA today

Down here trying to put out fires about the Pixar options mess. Maybe you saw the story on A3 of the Journal this morning? Here’s a synopsis. Big scoop. Back in 2001, I gave John Lasseter a sweet deal to stay with Pixar. Folks, the guy is the greatest animator of our time. Our deal gave him a huge bonus, a salary of $2.5 million per year, and a million stock options which were dated back a few months to make them a little more valuable. Point is, who cares? Would anyone argue we did the wrong thing in paying Lasseter huge amounts of money to stay on board? Have any shareholders been harmed? Mother of God.

Better story is the one about why I’m down here in the first place. Iger calls me last week and says Michael Jackson is shopping around a superhero movie based on an original script. I’m like, Dude, we’re not gonna buy that, are we? He says of course not, but can you imagine the pitch meeting? He tells me he’s got guys willing to pay to sit in on this. Mark Cuban has offered half a million to watch from behind a one-way mirror. So I arrive. There are like a hundred Fruit of Islam dudes outside Disney HQ. Inside, Iger says to me, Hey, Steve, you wanna use the men’s room before we begin? I tell him I’m fine. He says, Steve, I really think you ought to use the bathroom. I go in there, and, no lie, there’s Michael Jackson and Tito standing at the mirror. Michael’s in tights and a cape and — I swear to God — he’s got no nose. Just a hole in his face. Like Lon Chaney in the Phantom of the Opera. He sees me and just goes, in that little girl voice of his, Oh, hi Steve Jobs! How are you doing? I swear to God I almost gakked. Then he turns to Tito and says, Tito, give me my nose. Tito opens a case and pulls out a nose. Michael goes, Damn, Tito, not that nose! My bidness nose! Tito’s like, I thought this was an audition. Michael says No, it’s a business meeting, and I need my bidness nose, and dammit, Tito, I swear I’m gonna smack you, you know that? So there’s this elaborate process of sticking it on his face, and the whole time Michael is just totally calm, asking me about the iPod. He says, Steve, now tell me, don’t you guys also make computers? I tell him we do and he turns to Tito and says, See? I told you! Tito says that’s a different company but I said no it’s all the same. Dammit, Tito, I’m really gonna smack you, you know that?

Weirder still is the meeting. There’s like 20 Disney execs sitting around waiting and then Tito does this big introduction, where he goes, Ladies and gentlemen, I give you … Holy Man! And in comes Michael in his superman suit with an H on it. And he tells us the plot, which is that he plays this Holy Man character who is born on earth but is really a divine being from another planet and at some point discovers his superpowers and is called upon to save the earth from an evil villain. Iger, totally with a straight face, says, Michael, um, since the character’s name is Holy Man, how would you feel about having the costume have holes in it? Wouldn’t that make sense? Michael’s all exasperated and says, Bob, it’s not that kind of holy, okay? It’s holy as in, you know, like God. Like holy. People are snickering and kicking each other under the table. Michael appears not to notice. Iger goes, Oh, I see, okay, my bad. Sorry. Continue.

Michael says he knows this will be the biggest movie of all time, and as a result he wants fifty million dollars, cash, up front, before shooting begins. And he wants twenty percent of the gross receipts. And he says, Look, you white devils, don’t even try to start negotiating with me or whatever, because I tell you what. I grew up in this business. I know all your dirty white devil tricks. If you won’t meet my terms I’ll just walk across the street to the other batch of white devils and get my money from them. Understood? Good. You have twenty-four hours to give me an answer.

Then he snaps his fingers and his little crew of bodyguards take off in formation after him, with Tito trailing along. Next thing I know Mark Cuban comes out from behind a wall and says, You know what? It’s crazy but it might work. I’m serious. Everybody else just shakes their head and goes back to sitting in their offices pretending to check email or make phone calls or whatever.

This is what they do down here. They play practical jokes on freako Michael Jackson. This is what passes for “work” in Hollywood. God. And they have the balls to give me grief about options? I can’t wait to get back to the Valley.