After months of painful bottom-up cuts -- layoffs of thousands of rank-and-file workers media-industrywide -- a new, dramatic staff reduction may finally be coming from the very top of at least one media-entertainment conglomerate.
Sources* close to Disney say the company, which recently offered buyouts to 600 executives at its U.S. theme-park division, has seriously considered targeting the heretofore immune "talent." Specifically, says one such source, the company has been "taking a hard look at 'right-sizing' the Jonas Brothers" -- three real-life brothers from New Jersey whose Disney Channel appearances and "Camp Rock" movie helped propel their albums and singles up the Billboard charts.
"If you've ever heard these guys live," says the executive, who declined to go on the record because he's not authorized to speak to the press**, "it's pretty clear singing isn't necessarily their strong suit." Their vocals, he points out, are electronically "enhanced" in the studio, "and it'd be just as easy to make two brothers sound as good -- or as bad -- as the three brothers sound now. It's just a matter of twiddling some dials." The real brand strength of the Jonas Brothers, notes the source, "is their cuteness -- but, let's face it, they're not all equally cute." As for their concert tours, "It's all a blur anyway -- it's mostly about the light show -- and the remaining two brothers probably can just jump around the stage more to compensate."
Though he declined to discuss which Jonas might be at risk, a recent reader poll at teenmag.com suggests that Nick may have the least to worry about; he scored 49% in a recent "Jonesin' for this Jonas" survey, while Joe pulled 40% and Kevin just 11%.*** Similarly, WikiAnswers.com offers this definitive response*** to the question, Which Jonas Brother is the cutest?: "Nick!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! well of course it's nick b/c he has SUCH CUTE curly hair!!!! ohhhhhh soooooo cute!!!!!xD :D!!!!!!!!!"
"Disney has always been a cute-driven company, and this is just about serving the consumer's need for 'cute' more efficiently in a totally fugly economic climate," says one executive**** at a not-nearly-as-cute competing entertainment conglomerate. "And I guess they could argue that in weeding out the least-cute Jonas brother, well, sure they'll save a ton of money, but just as significantly, the remaining two Jonas brothers, with their higher level of cuteness, will now be in a band that is, on average, significantly cuter. So the consumer gets 'super-served' with cuteness."
The potential staff reduction may seem harsh, but it's not without precedent. Before Disney Channel ended the three-year run of its hit series "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" last fall, it reportedly considered laying off either Dylan or Cole Sprouse, the real-life twins who portrayed mischievous brothers living at the fictional Tipton Hotel. "They're both identically cute, so Disney was going to flip a coin," says a source***** familiar with the deliberations. "And then they were going to make it a solo show, like how Fox News changed 'Hannity & Colmes' to just 'Hannity.'"
Cutting high-price talent has become a necessity given that Disney's recent thinning of even its well-compensated managerial ranks "only goes so far toward improving the bottom line," says the executive at the competing entertainment conglomerate. "Besides," he added, "I know a bunch of Disney's theme-park executives, the ones getting downsized, and none of them is cute, really. Well, maybe after a few drinks, but with our recent expense-account cutbacks, these days you mostly have to look at those folks totally sober."