Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, Nina Jacobson

By Victoria Chang, William Guttentag, Roderick Kramer
2006 | Case No. EM2
By 2006, 40-year-old Nina Jacobson, described as “lean as a marathoner, energetic, verbal and intense, all sharp angles and elbows,” had become one of the heavy-hitters in the traditionally male-dominated entertainment business, as the president of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group (WDMPG), a division/business unit of The Walt Disney Company (TWDC). As president of WDMPG, Jacobson was responsible for developing scripts and overseeing film production for the collection of movie studio banners under the WDMPG umbrella—Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, and Hollywood Pictures. She joined WDMPG, formerly the Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, in February 1998 and by 2006 had supervised the studio’s production of The Sixth Sense, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Pirates of the Caribbean, amongst other films. Some of her favorite films to have worked on during her tenure at Disney were The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Sixth Sense, Freaky Friday, and The Princess Diaries. Prior to her executive role at Disney, Jacobson was a senior film executive at DreamWorks where she developed movies such as What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Before DreamWorks, she had worked at Universal as senior vice president of production, where she helped develop movies such as Twelve Monkeys, starring Brad Pitt. On top of being an executive at WDMPG, at the time of the case study, Jacobson and her partner had a seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter. Despite her busy schedule and her typical 9+ hour days, she still managed to take one of her children to school most days of the week and put both of her children to bed most nights. By 2006, Jacobson had accomplished quite a bit in the entertainment business and within Disney. She had also developed a personal philosophy for success in the business that centered on candor and honesty, respect and honor, as well as always finding new ways to shift existing paradigms, such as expanding the boundaries of Disney’s live-action (non-animation) movies and helping to focus Disney’s movie business on profitability ahead of market share.
This material is designated for use in specific Stanford GSB classes only. For inquiries, contact the Case Writing Office.