The Walt Disney Story.
(Sit back and enjoy – this is a good one, because if you’re an entrepreneur or are looking at setting up your own business, then this article could be all the inspiration you need)
Walter Elias “Walt” Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon and philanthropist.
- He is particularly noted for being a film producer and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design.
- He and his staff created a number of the world’s most famous fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, a character for which Disney himself was the original voice.
- He has won 26 Academy Awards out of 59 nominations, including a record four in one year, giving him more awards and nominations than any other individual.
- He also won seven Emmy Awards.
- He is the namesake for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in the United States, as well as the international resorts in Japan, France, and China.
And before he became successful, he failed. A lot…
Walt’s Early Days….
After considering becoming an actor or a newspaper artist, he decided he wanted to create a career in the newspaper, drawing political caricatures or comic strips. But when nobody wanted to hire him as either an artist or even as an ambulance driver, he got a temporary job at creating newspaper and movie ads for a local art studio. It was here that he met a cartoonist named Ubbe Iwerks. When their time at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio expired, they were both without a job, and they decided to start their own commercial company.
In January 1920, he formed a short-lived company called, “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists”. After a difference of opinions with his business partner Walt decided to open his own animation business called ‘Laugh-O-Grams’ which was established with only $15,000 from investors.
He was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later when his backers pulled out because of the many problems with New York distributors of his animated fairy tales. In July of 1923, Walt Disney left for Hollywood with all of the things that he owned in the world; which were a pair of pants, a coat, one white shirt, two sets of underwear, two pair of socks and some salvaged drawing materials.
Ever the optimist, Disney thought even bigger and set his sights on establishing a studio in the movie industry’s capital city, Hollywood, California. Talk about following your dreams and not giving up….!
Next followed another unsuccessful venture as an animation studio with a lead character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but after legal wrangling with Universal Studios over the rights to Osward, Disney now found himself on his own again with no staff. (Disney actually won back the rights to Oswald but it took them 78 years!)
After losing the rights to Oswald, Disney felt the need to develop a new character to replace him. He based the character on a mouse he had adopted as a pet while working in a Kansas City studio. Ub Iwerks reworked on the sketches made by Disney so that it was easier to animate it. However, Mickey’s voice and personality was provided by Disney. In the words of a Disney employee, “Ub designed Mickey’s physical appearance, but Walt gave him his soul.” In 1932, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of “Mickey Mouse” and the rest as they say, is history.
“That’s lovely, but why should I care about Walt Disney?”
Because of when he set Disney up…
Disney, was established in the great depression of the 1930′s and offered hope, fun and uplifting messages at a time when people felt like the world was ending. Many business were running for cover, but Walt Disney decided to embrace hard times as an opportunity to build something special. He told a great story and communicated in the right way, at the right time. He captured people’s imaginations. Great brands are often born in tough times and it always makes them stronger.
…and because of how Disney worked
My little illustration highlights the kind of philosophy that the whole organisation is built upon. I’m not even sure if this building actually exists, although it was an animator at Walt Disney World in Orlando who told me the story themselves. They described this 4 story building as ‘The Disney Idea Factory”.
- Someone might come to the factory with a very silly idea.
- If it sounded like an interesting idea, a team of creatives and scientists would decide whether it was actually possible or not.
- If the idea was physically possible, a management team would decide if it was something that the Disney organisation might actually want to do.
- If the idea still looked like a good one, a finance team would determine how economically viable it was.
- If the idea finally made it to the top floor (and 95% of them didn’t apparently), then plans were created and business plans were formed in order to turn it into reality.
It is a closely guarded secret as to whether this building actually exists or not, but many major inventions and products have allegedly been created in this factory –
and a quick flick through wikipedia shows that the Disney organisation is still kicking out great ideas to this day. Even on the theme parks alone I noticed a page about the ‘List of never built Disney attractions‘ that all started their lives as silly ideas’.
If you want your company to be at the forefront of innovation, it’s not a bad model for generating ideas is it? I think it was best summed up by the man himself,
“Ideas people start the day looking for trouble!” Walt Disney