Hey guys! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your December. I thought for today’s post I would give a little shout-out to the man behind the mouse Walt Disney. Dec 5th would have been his 115th birthday and I think we could all benefit from being a little bit more like Walt.
The thing that I admire most about Walt Disney is what a bold risk taker he was. Going all the way back to the laugh-a-gram days he pushed the boundaries in every avenue of life. He made Steamboat Willie which revolutionized movies and gave birth to the branding animated icon in Mickey Mouse. He then mortgaged his house to make Snow White- a film that was dismissed by many for years. Some people even believing full-length animation would be bad for the eyes. It of course was a mammoth hit and changed everything.
He then was bold in future films both live action and animated, never green-lighting an animated sequel despite much pressure to do so. He said “we keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” I often think of this when I hear about the next live action remake Disney is doing. Walt would not like this trend a bit…
Anyway, he then was bold in founding Disneyland- an expensive gamble that took nearly 2 decades from conception to complete. People called it ‘Walt’s folly’ and many saw it failing within a year. Now we accept the parks as a obvious choice but it was far from it at the time.
There are some who claim Walt was a mean man but I sat in a lecture with Disney animator Floyd Norman at comicon and he said he never saw Walt get on a person where it wasn’t deserved. He also said Walt was actually quite progressive in hiring women like Mary Blair and people of color like himself.
I’ve also heard claims he was anti-Semitic but these claims are weak at best. They are so weak that when PBS did a documentary on Walt they looked into the claims and said:
“It’s not based on any truth,” panelist Sarah Colt, the docu’s producer and director, said of the long-rumored charge of anti-Semitism, “so we saw no reason to bring it up in the film.” Colt said she looked for evidence of Disney’s bigotry, but to no avail, unlike the subject of her previous PBS film Henry Ford, “who was a virulent anti Semite.” In the case of Disney, she said, “it wasn’t relevant to who he was, so it’s not part of the film.”
PBS is a pretty liberal organization and like the director said they published the vitriol of Henry Ford so I’m confident if it had been there they would have put it in the documentary about Walt. Walt’s biographer Neal Gabler found ‘no evidence of anti-Semitism” and Richard Sherman, frequent Disney composer said the allegations were “preposterous”.
Anyway, none of us were there so I suppose we will never know for sure. Today I am grateful for all he gave us. My life would certainly be very different if he hadn’t taken those risks and I hope I can follow his example from time to time. I hope I can be bolder, try new things, take more risks.
Happy Birthday Walt!