When Walt Disney Co. asked publisher Dan Vado to make a series of comic books based on its Haunted Mansion theme-park ride, he worried that the empire built on the likes of Snow White and Tinker Bell would reject his brand of creepy humor.
Vado gave Disney skeletons dangling from nooses, scattered corpses and a ghostly poodle that says "crap." To his surprise, Disney signed off on his vision.
"Everything we did was really strange," says Vado, founder of San Jose, Calif.-based SLG Publishing, as in Slave Labor Graphics. "The interesting thing about Disney is, for a company perceived as being stodgy, they do a good job of reinventing themselves."
Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger, 59, is on a spending spree at the world's biggest media company to transform his film studio, amusement parks and stores. In fiscal 2009, net profit fell 25 percent to $3.3 billion — the worst annual performance in Iger's five-year reign — and was almost flat in the first quarter of 2010 compared with a year earlier.