Last week a group of friends and I traveled to sunny Orlando, Florida to do what most normal college kids do over Spring Break; we went to Disney World. I love Disney; I grew up watching Disney movies, singing Disney songs and wanting a pet monkey named Abu. It wasn't until I got older, however, that I became interested in the man himself: Walt Disney. For those of you who don't know much about Walt Disney, who think he taught little girls that they need to wait for their prince to come save them or that he created stupid little kid movies, you're missing out on a very innovative and inspirational man. I have never even met him (and obviously never will) yet I feel connected to him. He has taught me countless things, some of which I can't even put into words, but some I will try to explain:
Always keep moving forward and never give up on your dream
Walt Disney was completely broke for much of his career. He didn't come into fortune from his family but instead worked and took chances along with his business savvy brother Roy. Among his many early accomplishments was a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit which was the Disney brothers' main source of income. However, while he was in New York Walt learned that the rights to Oswald and all of Disney's animators were stolen from them in a contract loophole. They were left with nothing, but instead of being beaten Walt drew a sketch on the train ride home of a mouse named Mortimer. His wife, Lillian, thought the name Mortimer sounded too pompous (thank God) and in a moment of true defining fate suggested the name Mickey. Mickey and friends of course became wildly popular and subsequently provided the funds for Disney's future endeavors. Mickey Mouse is a household name and iconic figure worldwide, yet he may never have even existed if Walt had reacted to his trials with negative feelings of dejection instead of continuing to roll with the punches and keep moving forward.
Surround yourself with brilliance
Walt Disney wasn't perfect; he admitted himself that he was no business man and didn't know how to read music. In order to remedy this, Walt chose to rely on the talents of other intelligent and passionate people, such as his brother Roy and the Sherman brothers, who wrote most of Disney's early iconic songs, in order to help him where he was weak. He wasn't too proud to admit when someone else could do a job better than himself; rather he inspired others to be their best in order to produce a collaborative masterpiece. Disney created a cooperative work environment that fostered creativity rather than one of a single man dictating an army of engineers. Because of this, his reliance on others didn't undermine his creativity and leadership in the slightest. In fact many of his animators, directors, musicians and others involved in the creative process chose to come to him whenever they felt stuck or were not sure what to do. Disney would then lead them in the right direction by providing suggestions and directions that they had never even considered before. For example: when the story writers for The Jungle Book were at a loss as to how to end the movie, It was Disney who suggested adding the water-fetching girl who sang a song that attracted Mowgli to the "man village." By surrounding himself with inventive, creative minds Disney and company was able to work as the ultimate team and make magic that has transcended generations.
You're never too old to be young at heart
Saturday was Walt Disney's day with his daughters. He would take them to ride a Ferris Wheel or to the park in order to spend time with them and while doing this realized a need for a place where parents and their children could have fun together. The result was Disneyland, a crazy project that required him to mortgage everything, including his personal home, in order to finance it. He created this magical land so that adults as well as kids could escape their daily lives and grow together as a family, having fun and making memories. Walt encouraged people to maintain their childhood through his movies too, where he never talked down to children and made sure that there was something for adults in it as well. To this day I will watch a Disney movie for the hundredth time yet suddenly realize new and clever jokes; whether it's the drunken "Pink Elephants" hallucination in Dumbo or when the Doctor on Pete's Dragon suspiciously mentions that he is going to see a lady who is interested in a nursing career. Examples such as these are present in many Disney films. The latter of those examples is from a film made after the death of Walt Disney because his legacy has lived on in his company. To this day the Walt Disney Company is creating new and innovative ways to make peoples dreams and wishes come true.
Innovation is the key to success
Walt Disney was at the forefront of many new and creative technologies and special effects in the film and entertainment industry. He produced the first animated film that successfully synchronized sound and image with Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie, as well as the first animated film in three-strip Technicolor with Flowers and Trees. He refined the multiplane camera when he felt that normal animation lacked depth and he developed Fantasound, a multi-channel sound system that preluded stereo and surround sound when he desired bigger sound for Fantasia. Walt pioneered audio-animatronic robotics which appear in many rides and attractions in Disneyland and later Disney World. Walt loved innovation so much that he created imagineers in order to continue expanding and developing new and exciting things that create magic for new generations of people. Disney's many brilliant ideas, brought to life through brilliant people, are what make Disney movies and the Disney Company classic and are what made Walt Disney one of the most inspirational and ingenious people to ever have lived.
There are many reasons why Walt Disney is a role model, not just because of his intelligent curiosity but also because of his optimistic humor that encompassed his personality. I grew up watching his creations and have grown to learn from the man himself. I only hope that one day I can be at least half as inspiring to my colleagues or bring half as much joy to the people I meet as Walt Disney did.
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