5 Geniuses Ridiculed And Fired For Being Right Too Soon
Some people fail because they have bad ideas. Others fail because their ideas are too good, like that time we had our Super Nintendo taken away because we filled the house with Home Alone traps. That's because great ideas can be unfortunately difficult to recognize but extremely easy to dismiss ... until, of course, it's too late.
Tons Of Channels Turned Down Breaking Bad (For Ridiculous Reasons)
Depending on who you ask, Breaking Bad was either one of the best TV dramas of the last decade, or one of the best ever. Which makes it all the more surprising that the show was originally turned down more times than a bed at an hourly motel. As Vince Gilligan tells it, four networks and six separate executives turned down Breaking Bad, which makes us think that either Gilligan's elevator pitches suck ("It's the dad from Malcolm In The Middle cooking meth in a trailer!"), or most TV executives have the creative instinct of a community theater director.
"Okay, but only if we can reuse backgrounds from old Road Runner cartoons."
FX turned down the pilot script because they figured Walter White was just another male antihero in their already crowded lineup of The Shield, Nip/Tuck, and that one show where Denis Leary pretends to be a firefighter. TNT executives turned the show down because they were afraid of losing their jobs if backed a show that focused on a character who makes meth for a living. Instead, they suggested that Walter White should dabble in a more socially acceptable line of crime, like counterfeiting. Luckily for everyone, Gilligan chose to take his pitch elsewhere, lest TNT inevitably change Walt's cancer into tonsillitis.
"Instead of chicken, Gus could own an ice cream shop Walt goes to during recovery."
But while FX, TNT, and eventually Showtime more or less politely turned down the show due to creative differences, the real surprise is HBO, who rejected it because they simply didn't give two shits about Vince Gilligan and whatever nonsense he was peddling. Remember, this is the network that got the adult TV drama revolution started with The Sopranos -- you'd think they'd have an eye for this sort of thing. But, in a 2011 interview, Gilligan described his meeting with HBO as the worst he's ever had: "The woman we were pitching to could not have been less interested -- not even in my story, but about whether I actually lived or died." His agents tried to follow up with her and she wouldn't take their calls.
Eventually, AMC took a chance on the show, but not because they thought it was a super fantastic sure-fire hit. They were just really desperate for original programming, and no one else was knocking.
"We can help with that."
This, of course, paid off big time: The show became one of the most successful and celebrated series in history, garnering both popular and critical acclaim and a constellation of Emmys along the way. We like to think Gilligan sent videos of himself doing the "Hotline Bling" dance to every executive who passed on the show.
And while we're on the subject of Hollywood not being able to know genius when they saw it ...
Disney Fired Pixar Founder John Lasseter For Suggesting They Should Use Computer Animation
John Lasseter always wanted to work for Disney, making the beloved animated movies that had given children many valuable life lessons such as "Your parents are going to die and there's nothing you can do about it." When he was hired straight out of a CalArts character animation course in 1979, he thought his dream had come true. What he found instead was a group of animators presided over by Disney's famed Nine Old Men -- old-school animators with old-school techniques and attitudes, which is another way of saying "They hated any and all new ideas, as is decreed by the mantle of oldmanhood."
This was a color photo. Any picture you took of them just turned into black and white.
But Lasseter kept on trudging. He had already realized that the place wasn't the creative paradise he had thought, but he believed there was room for change. One day, someone showed him computer-animated sequences for the upcoming movie TRON. Lasseter immediately realized how computers can add 3-D realism to traditional animation. So he approached Ron W. Miller (Walt Disney's son-in-law and then-president of Disney) with a revolutionary idea: A fully computer-animated film based on a novel called The Brave Little Toaster.
Calling this meeting a disaster is like calling Jonestown a cookout. Stories vary, but they all end with Lasseter being shitcanned (some say he was fired within an hour of the meeting). This was partly because nobody liked his idea, and partly because Lasseter refused to take "no" for an answer. He was strangely certain that this CG cartoon stuff was the future. Well, if you recognize Lasseter's name, you probably know how things worked out from there -- he was picked up by Lucasfilm, where he honed his ideas and created a company called Pixar.
Makers of the #1 selling desk lamp.
In 1986, Steve Jobs bought Pixar from Lucasfilm. In 1988, Pixar won an Oscar for a short called "Tin Toy" -- the first for a wholly computer-animated short. The short led to negotiations where Disney ended up funding Pixar's first feature, Toy Story. This went on to rake in $362 million on a measly $30 million budget, single-handedly ushering in the era of computer-animated movies and gloriously flipping off a whole host of old-school Disney animators (at least, the ones who were still alive).
Lasseter's karmic retribution-by-career delivered the final blow in 2006, as Disney bought Pixar for 7.4 billion freaking dollars and named Lasseter as their Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney animation studios.
Ford Hated The Minivan And Fired Its Creators
Before Chrysler's famous Minivan rolled along, the only vehicle options for large families were full-sized vans and microbuses, both of which are more commonly associated with the habitual commission of felonies than driving the kids to soccer practice. So you could be forgiven for thinking that car companies were tirelessly toiling away to invent the perfect mid-sized family vehicle. However, this is the exact opposite of what happened. In actuality, the auto industry was actively opposed to the idea, resulting in years of secret development and several firings before the minivan ever saw the light of day.
"It has the sex appeal of a station wagon with the gas mileage of a dump truck!"
In 1973, Lee Iacocca was the president of Ford. Among his other achievements, Iacocca had invented the Ford Mustang, and had thus became the patron saint of overcompensating men across the Western world. That's why he was so interested when he found out Hal Sperlich, one of Ford's top design people, was developing a new type of front-wheel-drive car they called the Wolf. Iacocca loved the concept and began to siphon funds into the project, which was soon tragically renamed the Mini-Max -- the smallest possible car that would still have the maximum possible interior room to stuff a bunch of toddlers into.
Ford CEO Henry Ford II was a hyper-conservative dude who didn't much care for the unorthodox Iacocca, so Iacocca and Sperlich developed the project in secrecy, literally hiding it in the basement. However, by 1976 they finally felt confident enough to present the Mini-Max to Ford. And Ford hated it as hard as he possibly could, which was exactly hard enough to fire Sperlich immediately. Dude did not want to hear one fucking word about minivans.
Keep in mind this was the same dude that approved the Pinto.
Sperlich got a new job at Chrysler, where he spent his first day recreating his minivan concept from memory. Iacocca soon rejoined him as the new President of Chrysler after Ford fired the shit out of him as well. By then, Sperlich had improved his minivan design, and the two men convinced Chrysler to produce it. Ten years later, Chrysler's minivans accounted for more than a quarter of the company's sales. By 2014, Chrysler had maintained a record-breaking market domination of almost thirty years in the minivan category they created, while every other auto manufacturer scrambled to catch up.
As for Ford, their later Chairman and CEO Alex Trotman once remarked, "Lee and Hal had the guts to put the money down and we didn't." We can't help but feel that the original quote had a bit more invective.
Yahoo Failed To Buy Google (Twice) And Facebook When It Had The Chance
There is some debate over whether the future will be utterly dominated by Google (who dominates the basic functionality of the internet and is branching out to tech like self-driving cars) or by Facebook (who owns every detail of every users' personal life and preferences, and is branching out into tech like VR). But in an alternate universe, all of that is owned by one company -- the most powerful megacorporation in human history known as Yahoo!
The exclamation point is the only punctuation allowed on Earth-Yahoo!.
You can laugh. We know we did. But the above scenario came terrifyingly close to reality in the late 1990s, when Yahoo almost took full advantage of its established wealth in the bubble days of the internet to buy the tastiest-looking of its emerging online competitors. First up: A little company named Google.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google, offered Yahoo access to their PageRank system (which was about to patented and was far superior to most of the competition) for roughly $1 million. That's right -- there was a period in recent history during which Yahoo was considering whether or not to buy Google for a million dollars.
"Seriously, we're willing to take payment in Ramen."
So why did Yahoo walk away from the deal? Well, the decision was made at least in part because they thought Google's search engine was much too effective. It answered user questions by sending them immediately to other people's websites. Yahoo's search engine philosophy was all about designing their directories to keep people on the site for longer. That way, people would see more ads and thus make the company more money.
Of course, this tactic proved to be a costly mistake, and Google's method found broader appeal and became exponentially more successful than that company that gave you your free GeoCities homepage. Thankfully, Yahoo learned from their mistakes, so when they somehow acquired another opportunity to purchase the now super-valuable Google in 2002, they immediately went all in.
Ha ha, nope! Once again, Yahoo thumbed its nose in the face of the universe, and tried to lowball Google by offering to buy the company for about $2 billion less than its estimated worth.
"Eh, screw those guys. Who needs them when we got this hot AltaVista action happening."
Because for some reason the winds of fortune were content to continue giving them chances to succeed, Yahoo found itself standing in the path of e-history one more time when, in 2006, they had the chance to purchase Facebook. Facebook was barely making a profit at the time, and Yahoo swooped in with an undeniably attractive offer to buy the company for $1 billion.
Or what Facebook ended up paying for Instagram.
Facebook founder, CEO, and legendary douchenozzle Mark Zuckerberg resisted the deal, but other investors intended to force the sale if Yahoo upped the offer to $1.1 billion. Yahoo refused, stubbornly keeping their offer at $1 billion, and the deal never went through.
Today, $1.1 billion is less than 2 percent of Facebook's total value. Search-related advertising makes $15 billion annually and is growing rapidly; Google controls nearly 70 percent of that market. Meanwhile, Yahoo is still trying figure out how smartphones work. But considering how the past ten years went for them, the pendulum of chance will probably swing back around and give them the opportunity to invest in fucking space farms or something.
"Good news everyone! Yahoo turned us down and our stock price tripled!"
George W. Bush Fired His Economic Adviser For Advising Him That The Iraq War Would Be A Financial Disaster
During the 2002-03 run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush sat down with his key economic advisers and asked a simple question: "How much will this cost us?" Advisors like Paul Wolfowitz promptly assured both the president and the congress that although going in to, uh, reconstruct Iraq would be mad expensive, it would also practically finance itself. After all, the U.S. would surely "secure" Iraq's oil fields in no time at all. Andrew Natsios, another dude the Bush-Cheney administration entrusted with fiscal issues, coolly assured the president that the war would cost less than $1.7 billion, which is apparently a fucking bargain as far as international conflicts are concerned.
"I mean at that price, we can't afford not to ..."
But not everyone agreed on these figures. One adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, looked at the numbers and, instead of blowing a bunch of happy wind out of his ass, decided to apply actual math to them. Lindsey started digging into the costs of the Vietnam War, and using them as a model, soon estimated that invading Iraq would cost the U.S. up to $200 billion.
This created a problem for ol' Dubya. Lindsey was the only adviser presenting such a pessimistic (a term here meaning "realistic") figure to him. Who could he trust? The answer, of course, was "The advisers who told him he could invade Iraq basically for free," and Lawrence Lindsey got turbo fired.
Bush gave him his exit interview with a megaphone as Lindsey was running from the hounds.
To be fair, Lindsey's predictions were way off. The total price of the Iraq war came in at close to $2 trillion, because Lindsey couldn't have guessed in a million years that the Iraq involvement would last a full goddamned decade. But hey, freedom isn't free.
Britni Patterson writes traditional mysteries when not researching obscure trivia or watching RuPaul's Drag Race. Or eating Nachos for Science. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website. Mordecai reviews new music here. So if you're looking for something fresh to listen to come on by and check it out!
For more people who didn't get their rightly-deserved props, check out 5 Iconic Performances (That Everyone On Set Hated) and 6 Great Novels that Were Hated In Their Time.
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