Disneywar: Part 2, Library Edition Info

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DisneyWar is the breathtaking, dramatic inside story of what
drove America's best-known entertainment company to civil war. With
access to both Michael Eisner and Roy Disney, company executives and
board members, as well as letters and documents never before seen, James
B. Stewart gets to the bottom of mysteries that have enveloped Disney
for years.

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204 Ratings






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Reviews for Disneywar: Part 2, Library Edition:


March 26, 2005

I bought this book and returned it. It's that bad. I was ecstatic when I heard that it was coming out, since I'm fascinated with Eisner, Katzenberg, and the other personalities that make up the Disney drama. I don't think Eisner is all bad or all good; I think he has positive traits that made people follow him for years but some very negative traits as well. Controlling, manipulative, all that. But he's a fascinating man, and I was hoping for some insight into his relationship with Katzenberg--if they became such enemies, WHY ON EARTH were they so close for so many years? What drew them together? Why did Katzenberg want Eisner's approval so badly? Stewart has NOTHING on these questions, almost everything he writes about this topic has been said before. Psychologically, socially, culturally, Disney is a fasacinating place, icon, symbol, (and the dramas that took place within its walls make it even more interesting) but Stewart makes no connections about these people, doesn't do anything that lets them rise above the Wall Street-NAZDAQ feel. It's all about money, deals...who cares? To say Stewart, who had unprescedented access to the Disney company (and Eisner--unlike with Kim Masters' Keys to the Kingdom book, he AGREED to be interviewed) missed the boat is euphemistic in the extreme. All the stuff about the making of Pirates, Millionaire, Tarzan the Stage Show is nothing but padding. Can't a writer, for once, take us inside these larger-than-life personalities instead of just skimming the surface with headlines we've heard before? Did he even bother to edit this book? And sticking in an opening chapter about his own experience as a "Goofy" cast member is completely irrelevant and does nothing to broaden the scope of the book. Everything he's said about Eisner's childhood (very little) has been written before--Stewart acts like he's the first person to relate that story of Eisner boxing a bully at camp. Give me a break. Frank Wells, who's never been understood all that well either, is kept in the shadows as that "Saint" figure who never should have died, but Stewart apparently didn't feel much like researching his life either...Stewart basically trashes Eisner throughout the whole book and in the last chapter, almost as an afterthought, he says: "Well, Eisner is very funny and charming and will be remembered." He might think that passes for "nuance", but trust me, it doesn't.All I can say is "UGH!" I still can't believe this man won a Pulitzer Prize. Aside from some trivia, this book is bascially worthless.

November 22, 2016

Much better as an audio book...
Great book but it was so detailed that it was a very slow read. I got about halfway through and decided to do the free 30 day audible trial to listen to the second half as an audio book. It was a great choice, I wish I had just listened to the entire book.

April 19, 2005

Not fun or educational
This was a disappointing book. Not that it wasn't well-written. The author did his homework ... most of it. But the book, for all of its surface detail, was very superficial in really exploring what the last 20 years have meant for the company.

Instead, it's a narrative of the ongoing soap opera in Disney's executive suites: Who got mad, who got hurt, who got double-crossed. For a person who had hoped to gain some actual insight into the mechanics (good and bad) of the operation of an entertainment empire, this was a disappointing re-hash of one petty event after another.

One major problem is that the book dealt only with Disney's very top management. There was little exploration just why Disney's golden age (early '90s) was so successful. There was likewise little discussion of how the goings-on upstairs affected and were received by the rank-and-file of Disney.

The author seems to have an agenda from the beginning of the book: To illustrate the dissolving of Disney's corporate 'magic,' particularly Michael Eisner's. That's fair (I'm not a big Eisner fan), but it's only half the story. There was literally no discussion of the Disney Cruise Line (a successful venture championed by Eisner), or of Disney's unusual collaboration with the Oriental Land Company in Japan ... a venture largely unknown here in the U.S., and very much deserving of a closer look. I didn't feel like I knew Eisner any better after having read it. (Perhaps that's by Eisner's and Disney's design. But still ...)

Most disappointing ... the book simply wasn't fun. Even a 'tragedy' can be told with a bit of humor. This book had none. The author seemed only to have a passing curiosity of Disney and the Disney culture, instead of an enthusiasm and deep interest that something so unique demands. It was one dry anecdote after another, and I found it cumbersome to wade through.

This book is probably for some people ... It got good reviews. But there isn't much here for for those who follow business, or die-hard Disney nuts, so I'm hard-pressed to describe who would enjoy it.

April 10, 2019

King Henry VIII of Disneyland
Is it possible a story about Disney executives could produce a drama similar to that of the Tudors? Despite its name, when I started reading Disney War I wasn't expecting to find a Disney King that reigned over a court of unfortunates that feared the Tower and the stroke of the axe. I had visions of starving and forgotten executives languishing in the high turrets of Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom, or chained up in the dungeon of the Pirates of the Caribbean using bones to entice the dog with the keys. A phrase from a Sir Thomas Wyatt poem kept entering my head "Around the Throne the Thunder Roles" which seemed so fitting for anybody at Disney who got close to Michael Eisner. Disney War opened a world I never knew existed. All of a sudden I realized America was a land of kingdoms where ambitious executives fought for a throne, had to hold onto power, keep stability by naming successors and make war on enemies and threats to his crown. Every once in a while a major kingdom even tries to invade another kingdom and take it over in the form of a merger or "hostile takeover." Truly amazing and interesting stuff. A true story of good people and bad people. Your sense of justice will be called upon. I found Stewart to be typically predictable when it came to politics always being programmed to say the politically correct thing as opposed to what he may really feel. You can tell he's moderately biased in favor of leftwing politics, but he thankfully doesn't let it get in the way of the overall writing. he also injects small things here and there like saying people against "Gay Days" at Disneyland are 'anti-gay,' which I think is petty and spiteful because you should be able to give an opinion on something without being called "anti" or :hateful." We need to be free of thought rather than being prisoners of fear. Regardless, the politics doesn't get in the way of the book and isn't an issue.

October 22, 2016

This reader abandoned ship on page 26
I abandoned this book on page 26. When the author recounts a traumatic incident in the childhood of Michael Eisner, I had to go back and read that paragraph a second time. At nine years of age, Eisner's best friend was spending the night at his house. Eisner's mother put them to bed at 9 PM, despite Eisner's protestations that he didn't have a set 9 PM bedtime. 'Oh yes you do!' his mother said, and put both boys to bed. "Michael, feeling betrayed, flew into a tantrum. Years later he asked his mother to recall the episode and correct the injustice by admitting that she hadn't been truthful. By then she couldn't remember what he was talking about. But Michael never forgot the incident."

Are you serious? This is an injustice committed against a child, one that requires some kind of parental apology, years later, when that child is now an adult? I have no interest in reading further to learn more about the life and journey of Michael Eisner, because I can find nothing to admire in a person who considers this incident a defining and traumatic moment in his childhood.

February 4, 2017

Wow, I will never look at Disney the same way again
Interesting and eye opening read. Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth but Disney corporate seemed far from it. I found myself laughing at some of Michael Eisner's antics, although I am sure his former colleagues failed to see the humor. I would have loved to read more about the development of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King. At 620 pp, I wouldn't have minded 20 more pages covering these movies.

January 27, 2017

One bit of misinformation can spoil the whole.
I know this may seem petty but I do not believe I can trust the content of this book. It's not as well researched as many seem to think it is. One little tidbit reveals the carelessness of the research. There is a part that claims in the original Beauty and the beast story Belle was eaten by The Beast. This is not true. I have read every variation of the story that exists in a published form. And the 1740 novel (which had the most influence on the Disney film) most certainly did not have The Beast eat Beauty. Belle's sisters hoped to get The Beast to eat beauty by delaying her return to the castle but at no point did he ever actually eat her. The earliest versions of the story all ended happily. The Little Mermaid and Little Red Riding Hood are the ones that originally had bleak endings. Not Beauty and the Beast. If they cannot get a fact like this right how can I trust anything in the book?

Again, I know it sounds petty but as a Disney fan and a fan of traditional folklore that is a pretty big deal.

February 24, 2007

The good, the bad, and the ugly - and it's all Eisner
This is the story of a self-annointed entertainment industry mogul, in which Michael Eisner establishes himself as the absolute ruler of Disney (yes, like Louis XIV, to whom Stewart compares him). In the beginning, there was a balanced team of Eisner, the visionary; Frank Wells, the diplomat who smoothed Eisner's rough edges (you could go to him for "redress" and "understanding"); and Jeff Katzenberg, the glorified gopher of enormous talent and potential. When this team took over in 1984, many thought that the Disney empire was teetering on the verge of decline, ripe to be acquired and with an animation dept that was all but dead. The only profitable part was the Disney parks. They began to seek "one- or two-base hits", that is, relatively inexpensive films for modest hits at high profit (e.g. Down and Out in Beverly Hills).

Over the next ten years, this team engineered a series of smashing successes, from a string of hits to the establishment of the Disney stores and the sales of videos. Disney became huge: from a revenue of $1.4 billion in 1984, it grew to $30 billion by 2004; price-adjusted for stock splits respectively grew from $1.33 to $25. By any measure, it was a phenomenal run, unprecedented in Hollywood history and even in terms of American culture. Disney moved into bold new areas of film by establishing a number of production companies of great originality, which Stewart describes competently, if in excessive, yet non-analytic, detail. However, under the surface, there were serious tensions growing: by his lies and senseless slights, Eisner was alienating Katzenberg, an executive of superior gifts and judgment, and was tiring of Wells, who soon died in an accident. Eisner then fired Katzenberg after 19 years of unbelievably productive collaboration; Katzenberg took his gifts to Dreamworks, which many believe is beating Disney animation in both revenues and originality (e.g. Shrek) - that more or less proves it was him, and not Eisner, who was responsible for the golden years of the late 1980s, up to Katzenberg's Lion King.

From the mid-1990s, with Eisner at the pinnacle of his power and (as CEO and CHairman) dominating a meek board, the stage was set for a series of catastrophic decisions that cost Disney billions. This is when his worst side came out, that of an ego maniac bent on maintaining his power and firing anyone who dissented from him: he became erratic, vindictive, and unable to question himself in the worst type of narcissism imaginable. Here, you see the costs of bad decisions: Euro Disney ($1 billion loss, due to a complete lack of understanding regarding the differences between American and European vacationing), the failed internet ventures ($1 billion loss), and the acquisition of Fox family cable ($1 billion loss, due to insufficient commercial analysis and due diligence regarding distribution rights). Even the films became risky attempts at blockbusters (home runs), in accordance with the Hollywood formula of extremely expensive talent and ever more spectacular special effects, though most of them flopped. THen there were the personnel disputes, which Eisner seemed to relish: he refused to settle with Katzenberg's contract-based bonus for $90 million in an Ovitz-negotiated deal, going instead to court and eventually settling for nearly $300 million; picking his best friend, superagent Ovitz, and firing him in one year at a similar price. But the list of lost talent, both execs and animators, is a horrible indictment of an intolerant man who could not question his own judgment. Finally, you get the story of his ouster, after he alienated even his board and virtually all of his creative collaborators, such as Pixar and the Miramax studio brothers (the Weinsteins), who were the independent groups that produced most of the hits that Disney distributed. In my opinion, the book often reads like a hack job by a journalist who essentially disliked his subject, or at least disrespected him; while Stewart strives to sound neutral and fair, it is clear he despises Eisner.

That is about it for the story. Unfortunately, I was looking for more about how Disney was run strategically as well as a view inside the black box of decisionmaking and method. How did it become a manufacturer of popular culture, beyond the original entrepreneur and pioneer of genius, Walt Disney? This is not the book to answer that. Instead, it is more like a score card about battling corporate titans, none of whom are attractive people - and we would be naive to think that they might be - and it endlessly catalogues their brutal maneuvering and sleazy intrigues at the expense of the nuts of bolts of how they engineered their successes and ran their business. You get very little about the Disney company and way way too much of an attack on Eisner alone as a person and secondly as a manager. As such, it is yet another dreary description of a dysfunctional corporate environment, with some irony thrown in about how it is supposed to produce stories that make customers happy. Nonetheless, at the end, I did not feel I understood much about Eisner's deeper motivations or character, or for that matter those of any of his colleagues and competitors. The chronology is also hopelessly confused, the descriptions of innumerable details of film productions seemingly irrelevant rather than enlightening.

This was a great disappointment to me. I recommend it only to those interested in Hollywood trivia and not to those wishing to learn about how corporations might be better run, though it is an interesting lesson in failed corporate governance.

March 8, 2005

The Enemies Revenge
Disney War is what many will expect, but not much more. There are no new insights offered by James Stewart except for the premise of the book. Stewart suggests his motives were to write a behind the scenes look at the Disney corporation and Michael Eisner gave his blessing with the word, "I have nothing to hide."

However, the description of the book gives away the track that Stewart decides to cover, How could Eisner have so misjudged Ovitz? Why did Eisner so mistrust Roy Disney? How did Eisner lose control of the Disney board? If the author and the contents of the book to be believed then Michael Eisner has done little in his tenure at Disney except make bad decisions about projects and the people who formerly worked for him. Those who have been disgruntled with the leadership of Eisner will find this book as their new gospel, those who are wishing for a more balanced look behind the scenes will go away wanting more. There is only one perspective offered in this extensive work. One might easily conclude that Eisner is a power hungry, control driven, insecure executive with few administrative relationship skills. Yet somehow, the victories, the triumph, and the rescuing of the Disney corporation, if this literary work is to be believed as credible, had little to do with Eisner and much more to do with those who once again are in the news trying to save the Disney corportation. Both extremes are the stuff of fairy tales, there must be a real story somewhere in between.

December 2, 2016

Great book, bad characters
Mr Stewart does a brilliant job in telling the story of the Eisner years at Disney, the writing and journalism are top notch. The only thing is, you come away not really liking anyone involved. They all seem greedy and self-absorbed. Eisner himself comes off as a megalomaniac. After reading this book, I wouldn't cross the road to meet him. If there is a hero of this book it is poor Frank Wells, who died tragically in the middle of the story trying to make everyone happy.

May 13, 2015

Stops a bit early for the curious Disney enthusiast - a later epilogue would be nice.
A good read, and certainly one I couldn't put down (my backlog of daily blog reading suffered over the 3 days to finish it). Lots of details, leading to quite a few changed impressions (and, after only really knowing Ovitz's history as a bit of a jerk in negotiations as an agent, particularly from the Leno-Letterman era, found him to be a much more sympathetic character in this part of his life).

About my only complaint is the moment it stopped, right in the middle of Spring, 2005 - I was hoping for a little more of an epilogue on Iger's successful transition and the subsequent recovery of Pixar (and ultimate loss of Miramax), as well as a bit of a conclusion to the building story of ABC's turnaround and Iger's focus on the parks. While the book talks about Iger's roles up to that point, it does little to connect the dots between his past support for Eisner in all things and his subsequent tremendous success as a leader once out of that shadow, since that hadn't happened at the time of publication.

October 8, 2005

From its jacket blurb, Disneywar promises to be a lively telling of the rise and fall of the Eisner-years of Disney.

Someone got their adjectives confused. "Deadly" is more apropos a description than "Lively." Page after page of he said/he said/he said/memo said/letter said/email said...It wore me out. As page 200 neared I looked in the index and saw that Pirates of the Carribean was discussed at page 399. I skipped ahead and rest the rest of the book. I will never go back and bore myself again with reports from Mike Eisner about Mike Eisner and how Mike Eisner is great.

I don't recommend this book for anyone who wants to stay awake when they are reading.

August 20, 2018

Really interesting
I was surprised by this book. Even thiugh I haven’t finished it, I wasn’t expecting to he caught by all the facts that are oresented in this book. My general assumption about Disney was that they were a flawless organization, just like their image and theme parks. Love what I’m reading so far and this is the first book I’ve read from the author, so I’m definitely looking into his other books when I'm done reading this!

May 3, 2015

Excellent read for those interested in the Disney empire
Stewart does a thorough job of covering the rise and fall of Michael Eisner. His telling of the progress of the Disney empire from 1984 to 2004 is interesting and thought provoking. If you are a fan of the Disney brand and are interested in Eisner's abilities to revilize the company and build the empire, this is worth the time. I found Stewart to be an interesting storyteller and his ability to keep my interest in the business side was exceptional. The last ten years of Eisner's reign is reminiscent of Macbeth, maybe because I happen to be in the middle of teaching the play to my students; but, the parallels are similar and intriguing. The book was written in 2005, so you will be left wanting. I would be interested to see Stewart's take on the rise of Bob Iger and just how he was able to come into a fractured executive environment and be successful.

August 4, 2005

Terrific book on a major icon of the entertainment industry
Disney is a justly revered name in the world of mass entertainment. Few of us don't hold a special place in our hearts for one Disney character or film (even if we won't admit it in sophisticated company). James B. Stewart has written a terrific book documenting the reign of Michael Eisner over that empire. Stewart quickly covers how Disney came to be and how it stagnated after Walt's (and Roy's) death. This book really gets underway when Eisner, Wells, and Katzenberg arrive on the seen and begin ten years of phenomenal success and growth.

Things changed drastically when Eisner broke with Katzenberg, Wells died in a helicopter crash, and Disney bought ABC. The network became a drag on Disney rather than an engine for growth. Eisner advocated the need for ABC to protect Disney from a hostile takeover. Others never really bought that notion. Some have seen Eisner has trying to recapture his early success in TV, but times had changed no matter what Eisner thought of his ability to make the network successful. Whatever the reason, the integration of ABC into Disney has not been smooth or seamless. The overpriced acquisition of Fox Family and the failed scheme of repurposing ABC programming on ABC Family was also an anchor to earnings and growth.

However, this book is much more than a narrative of actions, acquisitions, and numbers. In fact, there are very few numbers. It provides rich insights into the politics, maneuvering, and outright fights between the many managers and directors involved in this story. The cast of characters the author provides at the front of the book is a real help in following the machinations of the people who make up the fabric of this tale of ambition, greed, betrayal, and boardroom war. The three main sections of the book tell the arc of the story: The Wonderful World of Disney, The Disenchanted Kingdom, and Disney War.

I found the background story of how certain programs got on the air, how movies were greenlighted and then backed or abandoned all fascinating. The way failure was assigned to people often had nothing to do with their actual culpability, but rather the need to get someone off the plank and into the sea so that another's career ambitions could continue. It was also fascinating how Eisner's ego never lets him be wrong even when he so clearly was. As his power grew, and he carefully groomed its growth, his identity of self with this public corporation became not only odd, but also a bit creepy. It is clear to me that the board of Disney managed the company for their own benefit and their egos rather than for the benefit of all shareholders. However, I am sure that Eisner and others on the board do not see it that way. One of the many strengths of this book is that the author does not take sides or make anyone out to be a villain (or a hero). In fact, he often points out contradictory accounts of certain conversations and actions. Stewart provides a balanced account that is very clear and lets each character speak for himself (or herself).

For me, the saddest part of the story is the really bad behavior at the highest levels of management in the way they treated not only each other, but the employees they were managing. One person said that Eisner liked to put six pit bulls together and see which five died. Since Eisner was above the firing line, it was easy for him to keep rivals from becoming a threat to him by keeping them tearing each other apart. One of Eisner's methods of staying in power was keeping the board afraid that he would leave because there was no one left who could run the company. Just as a possible successor would appear, something would happen to undermine them and drive them away. All coincidences.

The epilogue does a superb job of analyzing Eisner and his time at the top of running Disney and noting that even though it appears Eisner is through in 2006, that it might not be so. This is a book that should be widely read and I strongly recommend it.

January 1, 2012

And I should care because?
I'm not that far into this, but I'm quickly losing patience. In view of the very serious challenges faced by America (and American business), the backroom machinations of a bunch of overprivileged, petulant, egomaniacal one percenters are less than enthralling.

I suspect the prime audience for this book is Hollywood executives, who will pick it up, flip to the index to see if they're mentioned, and if not, put it back down.

May 23, 2017

Very good...as far as it goes.
This is a very thorough history. My only regret is that it didn't continue through the end of the Eisner era and tell the story of Eiger's ascension. This is a case for a 'live book' that the author could update (at least a Kindle edition)!

May 25, 2019

Impressive and Engrossing
So, to start off, just the sheer amount of research needed for the book is astounding. The number of interviews, the amount of notes read through, the court documents, I would have quit after that. The fact that this book is so readable based on the sources is baffling.

And the book is very readable; Eisner's reign is recounted expertly. There was a long period of time during the Katzenberg debacle where I didn't want to put the book down.

I should say, the book uses some... Outdated language surrounding transgender people a couple of times. It was jarring and pulled me out, so if that will be an issue for you, do be warned. It's not frequent, it only happens a handful of times, but it is there.

I recommend the book a lot. If you like biographies and histories, pick this book up.

March 29, 2019

A Harrowing Corporate Tale
Michael Eisner was bored at Disney to save the company back in the 1980s. And during the beginning of his tenure, he helped usher a turnaround that’s laudable, though in large part due to changing times and technologies. Over his 20+ year career there, his ego seemed to grow, and he was forced out by the Disney heir and a board who were long afraid to do anything. This book has all the intrigue of political drama, art in the “happiest place on earth”.

August 22, 2018

Great book, hope there's a sequel
I love books about corporate drama and this book scratched the itch. Eisner comes off as ruthless and extremely paranoid. Eisner contributed heavily to Disney's success but It was fascinating to read about Disney rising from the ashes almost in spite of Eisner's manic paranoia at times. The book ends in 2004 when Eisner submitted his letter of resignation to the Disney board. In the interim 12 years, Bob Iger has replaced Eisner and bought Marvel and Star Wars, would love to read a sequel about Iger's tenure. If you liked Shoe Dog or the Jobs biography, you will love this book also.

June 30, 2018

More Corporate, Less Disney
This book is more about corporate warfare than about a Disney War. The prize was the soul of Disney and this was ultimately protected and won by nephew Roy E. Disney. The vast majority of the war was over corporate egos, greed, salaries, and stock options. The first 500 pages are very detailed and very well researched; suitable for business school studies. The last 30 pages (Epilogue and Afterword) nicely summarize the good and the bad of the 20 years of Eisner's egomaniacal reign. I kept waiting to see how the good guys of the Disney family would win. Thankfully they did, by the very exhausting end of the book.

September 27, 2005

Does this book have a logical thesis?
Beginning this book with the knowledge that it is a bitter account of a bitter affair, I was stunned by the lack of fairness or logic to the book's treatment of Disney's Michael Eisner.

The only points I have come away with are that an aggressive CEO micromanaged his (successful) operation, and that in his position of power, Eisner grew increasingly distrustful of those around him. Who wouldn't, I wonder.

Michael Ovitz, portrayed as both an innocent victim of Eisner's plotting and an ineffectual weakling unable adapt to Disney or to read the handwriting on the wall, is way too flat in this account to resemble a real or sympathetic person.

The successes of Eisner, by and large, are attributed to his heads-up inner circle, while his failures are his alone; more often than not, his failures are attributed to a psychic malaise upon which never Stewart never sharpens his focus.

August 27, 2019

Great Book, Weak Audiobook
Perhaps "unabridged" means unedited? It was seemingly never reviewed before being released to the public. Narrator Patrick Lawlor stumbles over words, repeats sentences, and even makes some confusing mistakes (saying CBS instead of ABC when the text says otherwise, as just one example). Sloppy audio for an excellent book.

The book itself is a fascinating tale of how hubris, greed, and determination created the films that raised a generation of kids in the 1990s. Nobody ends looking "good" in this book (though it does portray Bob Iger as an underdog). I do wish the book had been re-released after Eisner officially left Disney, since it was published between the time he gave his notice and the time he left.

November 25, 2018

Entertaining and informative in doses
Average to slightly above average read. A lot of the historical moments covering several decades of Disney corporate life, are interesting and well written. The drama and he said / she said, transactional coverage of politics is dry and long winded. This theme is a bit over baked. Decent book, but not worth a subsequent read.

October 18, 2016

Overall not a bad book but if you're looking to read about the ...
An interesting behind the scenes of corporate Disney but deals very little with the Walt Disney World Resort. The author tends to drag a certain subject out longer than necessary such as the discontent between Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg. Also the author seems obsessed with the word "testified"..seems every page has such writings a s "Eisner testified"...."Ovitz testified"....:Katzenberg testified". That makes for difficult reading. Overall not a bad book but if you're looking to read about the Walt Disney World Resort then pass on this book.

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