Category Archives: Success

Best Overnight Success stories from modern pop culture. Success stories from TV, Movies, Books and Music.

Star Wars: The force to be reckoned with

Star Wars.  THE ultimate space opera.  THE ultimate franchise.  THE ultimate business builder.  Star Wars is THE ultimate success story of all time.  Unless you are living under a rock, you know by now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be opening to just about every theatre on the planet this week (official trailer is below).  This is the latest installment in the greatest franchise of all time.  Star Wars isn’t just about a few movies, it is in itself a galaxy of connected businesses.

According to Box Office Mojo, the six Star Wars movies have earned a total of $4.5 billion in ticket sales worldwide, including $2 billion in the U.S. The films have generated an additional $20 billion in merchandise sales, making George Lucas, the franchise’s creator, a multi-billionaire with a net worth of $3.25 billion.

Now, Disney enters the picture, after buying the rights to Star Wars (and Lucasfilm) from Lucas for a hefty $4.05 billion.  They are poised to ring in the new year with this year’s blockbuster, and next year, they are counting on the Star Wars brand to invigorate their theme parks.  Going to Disneyworld soon?  You can meet Chewbacca, among other things.

Meet Chewbacca
Meet Chewbacca

With the expectations high, this is one franchise that will deliver as promised.  Marketers everywhere are in on the action, and betting big this holiday season.  The old standbys such as the toy companies like Hasbro and Mattel are joined by car companies like Fiat to promote their brands.

Star Wars Fiat Ad
Holiday Fiat Star Wars-themed ad campaign

They’re far from alone.  In Japan, Nippon Airways has taken a bolder action, and have branded their planes.

R2-D2 Nippon Air
Fly with R2 to Japan

As we all are anxiously awaiting the final trilogy in this epic masterpiece, there will be plenty of Star Wars to go around for many, many years to come.  Many, many more billions will be generated by this machine, or is it more fitting to be branded an Empire?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer (Official) on Disney Video


Harrison Ford: promising carpenter’s career cut short

Harrison Ford was at a crossroads.  He could continue to be a craftsman, and build decks for the rich and famous, or he could throw that all away and aspire to be an actor.

He chose the latter.  Or rather, it chose him.

As has been widely accounted, the story of Harrison Ford’s meteoric rise to stardom came from a serendipitous event.  He was doing a masterful job fitting a door for Francis Ford Coppola at his American Zoetrope studio, when Coppola saw that his co-founder, George Lucas, needed someone to read lines to the actors auditioning for a campy space opera called Star Wars.  Lucas remembered Ford from their time on the set of Lucas’ previous film American Graffiti.  He also remembered the brash Ford asking for $15 more per week above the $485 Lucas offered him for his role in said film.  Ford told him that it made up for the money he would lose by not doing carpentry work.

Harrison Ford, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.
Harrison Ford, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.

That story has been told already.

Little do many know, however, what a craftsman Ford really was.  Ford took to carpentry to salvage a fixer-upper he bought in the Hollywood Hills.  Just like acting, he had no previous training.  That said, he was no slouch with a hammer and nails.  His first carpentry job was to build a recording studio for Sergio Mendes.  He admittedly had problems.  He once said that he was standing on Mendes’ roof with a textbook in his hand.  Luckily, he didn’t hurt himself.  He also made a sun deck for Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H, Back To School), and cabinets and furniture for Richard Dreyfus, John Gregory Dunne and Valerie Harper.

It wasn’t until the release of Star Wars that Ford finally hung up the tool belt.  That was a banner day for woodworkers everywhere.


John Lasseter: a return to glory

2006

John Lasseter is a Disney success story very much like the movies that he oversees. If you don’t know who John Lasseter is, he’s been the one behind every major Disney animated movie since 2006.  Before that, he was the creative force behind Pixar.  He is now the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

He was also fired from Disney.

A visionary, he began his career at Disney working behind the wheel of a Jungle Cruiser at Disneyland when he was a student at CalArts in the 70’s.

He was the second student enrolled at the CalArts character animation program, created and taught by longtime Disney animators. While at school, he produced 2 animated shorts, both of which won him the student Academy Award for Animation.

Those shorts caught the eye of Disney animation. When he graduated in 1979, he got a job at Disney as an animator beating out over 10,000 applicants.  After they completed the work on 101 Dalmations, Lasseter thought there might be more ways to add new dimension to animation, a longtime dream of Walt Disney himself.

He was turned on to computer generated imagery (CGI), seeing some of the first sequences of the lightcycle in the original Tron.  He knew that CGI would be that new dimension he was searching for.

Unfortunately, those in charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation didn’t like that idea too much. So, after Lasseter completed a test project of Where The Wild Things Are, he was fired from Disney.

Lasseter, unfettered, connected with the folks over at Lucasfilm. They had a little division called Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group.  They worked on a revolutionary short film called The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. that would change animation forever as Lasseter, who only wanted to use CGI for the backgrounds, ended up using CGI for the characters as well.

In 1984, George Lucas was forced to sell his fledgling division, now named Pixar Computer Graphics, to fund a financially crippling divorce (don’t worry about George, I hear he’s doing okay these days). Steve Jobs (Mr. Apple) became the majority shareholder of the newly spun-off Pixar.  Over a period of ten years, the company’s identity changed from a computer company that did animation on the side, to a computer animation studio, with Lasseter overseeing all of their projects.

You may have heard of some of their films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Fast-forward to 2006. Disney animated movies haven’t had a great run for several years.  They had been getting beat at the box office time after time with their traditional hand-drawn animated films versus the new CGI-based films.  In 2004, Disney attempted talks with Pixar about a new distribution pact, but tensions ran high, and talks broke off.

A groundswell of activity from former Disney execs (started by Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney’s nephew), called “SaveDisney” forced then-CEO Michael Eisner out, and put Bob Iger in place. Iger wasted no time as the new CEO, he promptly resumed broken talks with Steve Jobs, and on January 24, 2006 Disney announced they would acquire Pixar for $7.4 Billion.

On January 25, 2006, John Lasseter returned to Disney on his white horse, and to much heralded fanfare by his new employees and Disney fans everywhere.

Fade out.


Anthony Zuiker: what drives him

 

CSI. CSI: New York. CSI: Miami.  CSI:Cyber.  Even CSI: The Experience.   All of these are the brainchild of one Anthony Zuiker.

Anthony wants to be the best. He wants to have it all.  Known to have an infectious whit, full of energy, Anthony is a “take-no-prisoners” type.  He sees greatness ahead.  Why wouldn’t he?  He’s single-handedly built an empire for CBS: The CSI Empire.  He’s now worth over $100 million.

That’s a far cry from where he was at the beginning of his career.

Anthony moved to Vegas when he was 3. His parents were both in the hospitality business (fitting, being they lived in Vegas).  As an only child, he had to keep himself entertained so he created board games: over 500 of them.  After college, he worked at the Mirage Casino as an $8 per hour tram driver. He made the most of that opportunity.  He took that time to learn from his international passengers how to say hello and how are you in their native tongues.  He was able to nail 20 languages during that time.

Holding down an inauspicious day job, he immersed himself in his writing. He caught a lucky break, selling his first script for $35,000.  A princely sum for an $8 an hour worker.  The film itself was forgettable, but being a Vegas guy, he parlayed that success to an opportunistic pitch session with Leonardo DiCaprio.

He got the gig – writing a script for DiCaprio, beating out Oscar nominated writers. Unfortunately, that film never saw the light of day.  Not dissuaded, he doubled down and turned that opportunity into another one.  He got a call from Jerry Bruckheimer.

He liked Anthony’s writing style. He asked what Anthony might like to do for television.  Inspired by a show he just watched with his wife on TV, The New Detectives, he said, what about a show about a forensic crime team.

The rest, as they say, is history….

Sylvester Stallone: The Ultimate Underdog

 

Sylvester Stallone, American icon, one of the most well-known actors in Hollywood’s history, was once unknown and broke.  He was so broke, that he sold his beloved bull mastiff, Butkus, for $50.  That same dog appeared in Rocky, the movie that launched his career.  How?

Stallone did what all wannabe actors/writers wanted to do and still want to do today; he was able to negotiate the deal of a lifetime and got to star in the first movie he wrote.  He was able to beat out stars the likes of Burt Reynolds (coming off a box-office hit in The Longest Yard) and Ryan O’Neal (coming off an Academy Award nomination for What’s Up, Doc?).  He received $35,000 for writing Rocky, then went back to the guy he sold Butkus to, and bought him back for $3,000!

Oh, about that little-known film, Rocky, there are many accounts of the underdog actor making it big.  Here’s another.  Stallone was working odd-jobs, attempting to keep his dream alive, even with a pregnant wife at home.  He was determined.  He was able to land a highly-coveted meeting with a producing duo that were at the top of their respective games, Irwin Winkler (not Fonzie) and Robert Chartoff.    If you’re scoring at home, their movies have combined to win 12 Oscars and 40 nominations.

He pitched them the story about a Philadelphia club fighter vying for the heavyweight championship of the world.  They loved the ending.  Even when United Artists (one of the hit-making studios of the time) offered him over $250,000 just for the script, he stood his ground.  Nope, “Bob Chartoff and Irwin Winkler promised me I could star in it, and I believe in them.”

Good choice.  Score one for the underdog.