Almost everyone you encounter has some type of positive reaction when you mention Walt Disney, Disneyland, or Disney movies. I remember patiently waiting all week as a kid for Sunday nights because of the television show “The Wonderful World of Disney”. Plus the anticipation of when his next cartoon feature was coming to our one local theater that showed two movies at a time! And of course, my first visit to the Disney amusement parks.
Below takes place a fictitious interview between myself and Walt Disney. The responses are quotes or summarizations that he actually gave. My sources are listed at the bottom, one of the books is from 1959!
Dave: Mr. Disney, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me. Let’s start from the beginning. Please tell us the story of how the world’s most famous character almost never came into existence.
Walt: Sure. In the 1920s, my brother Roy and I had just invented a method for combining live -action films and cartoons. We lived in California, and we ended up selling the films to a distribution company in New York. I also created a cartoon character named Oswald the Rabbit. The films were quite successful, but I had numerous ideas for improvement – all that would take money that I didn’t have. My wife and I took a train to New York in an attempt to re-negotiate the contract for what we were receiving for the cartoons Roy and I were producing. Unfortunately, the distributor offered me well below what I was asking – he told me to take it or leave it. Our contract was broken, and he was able to usurp the rights to Oswald.
I was thoroughly depressed and on the brink of despair. My dreams of owning my own company and providing for my family were crumbling before my eyes. As we boarded the train back to California, my heart was breaking in two. I had no cartoon character with which I could replace the lost Oswald, and no ideas for a new one – cats, dogs, rabbits – all had been used.
However, the long coast to coast train ride was almost therapeutic. It was exactly what I needed. Soon my creative juices began to flow once again. My dream was being redefined not demolished. I began to get an idea for a new series of cartoons. I was sketching and drawing on the train with wild excitement. As I sat on that train, I started to tell my wife about a new series that I would call “Mickey Mouse.” And the rest is history!
Dave: I love that story – especially your perspective on how your dream was being redefined and not demolished. Let’s face it – most of us do everything possible to avoid failure and rejection.
Walt: It is good to have a failure while you’re young because it teaches you so much. For one thing, it makes you aware that such a thing can happen to anybody, and once you’ve lived through the worst, you’re never quite as vulnerable afterward.
Dave: What encouragement from your experiences can you give to people going through tough times right now?
Walt: In bad times and good, I have never lost my sense of humor or my zest for life. Plus, I have a great love of animals and laughter (he says with a slight chuckle).
Dave: Even though people of all ages enjoy your work, it seems children hold a special place in your heart.
Walt: For a child, encouragement from a grown-up can be a thrilling thing with lasting consequence. It can help fix his objectives, give him confidence to drive unswervingly toward his goal, spell the difference between failure and success.
Dave: Let’s talk about movies. It seems Hollywood has become extremely formulaic: Sequels, superhero movies, and remakes seem to be the norm. And yet these films continue to make millions of dollars and the cycle continues. What’s your philosophy on movie creation?
Walt: We don’t make movies to make more money. We make money to make more movies. I have watched constantly that in our work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether my productions deal with fable or with stories of living action.
Dave: I like that – simple, and yet profound. Walt, you have personified the American Dream. What are some of the weaknesses that people might not know about you?
Walt: I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination. Also, I am a patient listener but opinionated to the point of stubbornness when my mind is made up.
Dave: So much is out there on social media promising instant riches, becoming an overnight success – or the perception that anyone can easily be a YouTube star or self publish a bestselling book. What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a business, try something new, begin a hobby, or take a risk that has no guarantee of success?
Walt: People often ask me if I know the secret of success and if I could tell others how to make their dreams come true. My answer is, you do it by working. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
Dave: Are you a man of faith?
Walt: I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and to keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish.
Dave: Mr. Disney, I cannot thank you enough for this visit. You are an American icon and one of my heroes. (We exchange a firm handshake and awkward hug). Any parting words?
Walt: There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main . . . and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life. . . And one final thought – I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing . . . that it was all started by a mouse!
P.S. My sources were Power Moments by Michael Cramer, Wisdom: The Book of Knowledge Edition (volume 32) by various contributors and random quotes from Google searches.