Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Star...

Sometimes a person appears among us with a unique vision and the determination to see it through. Such a man was Walt Disney. It would be hard to name some one who has had a bigger impact on entertainment, not only in America, but around the world. Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois, to Elias Disney, and Flora Call Disney. Walt was one of five children, four boys and a girl. Walt had very early interests in art; he would often sell drawings to neighbors to make extra money. He pursued his art career, by studying art and photography by going to McKinley High School in Chicago. In August of 1923, Walt Disney left Kansas City for Hollywood with nothing but a few drawing materials, $40 in his pocket and a completed animated and live-action film.

Mickey Mouse was created in 1928, and his talents were first used in a silent cartoon entitled "Plane Crazy." Mickey made his screen debut in "Steamboat Willie," the world's first fully-synchronized sound cartoon, which premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York on November 18, 1928. On December 21 of that same year, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full-length animated musical feature, premiered in Los Angeles. Produced at the unheard cost of $1,499,000 during the depths of the Depression, the film is still accounted as one of the great feats and imperishable monuments of the motion picture industry. During the next five years, Walt completed such other full-length animated classics as "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

Disney parlayed his big-screen reputation into success on the small screen with TVs Mickey Mouse Club in 1955 and Walt Disney Presents in 1958. Both ventures were hugely popular, and while most men would have been content to rest on their laurels, Disney pushed the envelope by opening Disneyland in California in 1955 and literally invented the concept of the theme park. Disneyworld followed in Orlando, Florida in 1971. The Florida park was expanded to include Epcot Center in 1982. Soon hotels and restaurants in all price ranges followed, and more parks like Sea World and MGM opened near Disney World just to cash in on the crowds attracted to the Disney parks.

Disney was a perfectionist and this compulsion to get it right is the simple secret to his success. Everything about the Disney entertainment experience is controlled. From the time you enter the gates of a Disney park you are impressed with how things are run. The grounds are spotless, the rides are exciting, restrooms are comfortable, and most important, every employee from the character impersonators to the sweepers understand the importance of giving visitors a memorable vacation experience. Disney vacations are not cheap, but most people who go believe they are worth the money. We've made a number of trips with the kids and a couple just the two of us, and I can honestly say every one was special.

Disney's operations and management style is so admired that they began a school for business managers called the Walt Disney Institute. From their website: "Disney Institute facilitators include accomplished business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and executives who use dynamic and entertaining stories and demonstrations to explain effective business models and concepts. These sessions may be enhanced by facilitated discussions, team-building exercises, case studies, experiential activities, and behind-the-scenes guided tours at Disney Destinations. Disney Institute programs provide you with a business map that will help you chart a course for your organization, your division, and yourself." Personally I'm not sure how Disney's methods translate to other businesses, but it makes for a nice, expenses-paid trip for those who can con their employers into sending them.

Some claim that Walt Disney had a dark side to his character, accusing him of not being particularly fond of minorities, especially Jews. I can't comment on that but I can say that Disney created an entertainment empire second to none, and that he made my childhood (and adulthood for that matter) a lot happier than it would have been without his imagination and energy. Thanks Walt.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Seems there is always someone who can criticize success. Nothing can be plain and simple good, always a critic! Great blog old man.