That Fearsome Mr. Disney

“Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world” …..Walt Disney July 1955

As a child I watched Disney’s weekly show on tv every Sunday. I remember fantasizing about one day going to Disneyland. I loved Walt Disney and everything he produced. Little did I know that he would one day become one of the most inspiring figures in my life.

Then it happened. In 1972 my grandfather moved to Orlando Florida. That was the year Disneyworld opened there. In 1974 I got to finally go visit Grandpappy. I remember the anticipation riding in the back of his Oldsmoblie Delta 88 beside my best friend Shawn. Yes we both had the same first name. No parents, no brothers, just us, Grandpappy and his wife Dot. Two weeks in Orlando…in June. Yes Orlando Florida in June. Ouch!

We saw and experienced things we had never imagined from back in our small Virginia town. Miles of straight flat road, orange groves, palm trees and swimming pools. Then the fateful day came. Dot drove us to the entrance of Disneyworld, gave us each a twenty dollar bill and told us to meet her back out front at 6 pm, when she would be back to pick us up. 1974, when you could drop two 10 year olds off at the gate of Disneyworld and leave them for the day. 1974 when you could gain entrance to Disneyworld, eat all day and buy souvenirs all for under $20. Disneyworld was beyond our imagination, even at 114 degrees F that day. Dot even agreed to bring us back the next day. We terrorized that place.

My inspiration from Mr. Disney would come many years later. Don’t worry as I will not take you through his life story here, just the most recent inspiration. Check out the clip to see where the opening quote comes from and what it’s an answer to.

The opening day of Disneyland was a disaster. Many a naysayer told Disney not to even open the park. The naysayers continued their negativity after the park opened due to it’s many problems. Walt didn’t listen to them. He had a vision. He was a visionary. He didn’t allow others to influence him, his direction or his vision. His park became a success even against all odds. His dream became reality.

When Walt Disney imagined building Disneyland his dream was one that had never been done before. To obtain this dream he did several very important things in order to achieve his desire. First he set the goal, a lofty one, and put a time limit on it. He connected himself with investors that believed in him to raise the funds. He stayed at the helm and worked furiously hard. He hired appropriate associates who would share his vision, ones whom he could delegate work and trust. Whatever was done yesterday he wasn’t interested in, he wanted to know where the vision was going and what could be contributed. Disneyland was started, and then completed in 1 year.

Today Disneyland is the cumulative most visited resort in the world. It set a stands a success which set a standard that the public respects and now expects. Disney learned from his experience in building Disneyland; dream, dream big, work hard, achieve and then dream bigger. As evidenced by Disneyworld, his Disneyland was too limited. The bigger than life vision wasn’t big enough. Due to the space restraint of only 160 acres, it could thrive but it’s growth in size would be finite. Thus in Florida he took the unimaginable and dared to expand beyond imagination, over 25,000 acres (40 square miles) of imagination.

What does this have to do with me? It teaches me to dream, set goals and work toward those goals. This is wisdom I already know, however I need to be reminded of. Walt Disney’s experience teaches me to also go further and not limit my dreams. He teaches me that if I do hit a limit that I have unknowingly placed in my path, to expand the vision beyond into the unimaginable. As long as I have imagination left in me, my personal Disneyland will never be complete.

Go ahead, dream!

11 thoughts on “That Fearsome Mr. Disney

  1. Did you know I almost went to work for Disney as an illustrator? I had my Donald Duck portfolio ready, but I was not brave enough to move away from home to Florida. So I took the ‘safe route’ into Medicine. It is a road I sometimes regret I did not do.

  2. On the subject of Disney films, F/b, I’m wondering if you were one of those like me, traumatised for life by the death of Bambi’s mother? I must have been around ten when I first saw the film, and I carried the secret scar around with me for many years, unspoken of, until I discovered (when I was probably in my forties), that there are many millions of us worldwide all shaken to the core by the same event. It’s easily one of the most deeply affecting events I’ve ever experienced being seen on screen. Even now I want to cry. (Boo-hoo!)

    • Of the 100s of Disney productions I’ve seen, I still have not seen Bambi and probably will not for the reason you speak. I don’t know how I missed that as a child but maybe my mother knew.

      • For years I’ve wondered why they put that scene into ‘Bambi’, F/b, when it’s so upsetting. The best I could come up with was that ‘they’ were teaching children that the time would come would they’d lose their own mothers, but that seems unaccountably cruel. Anyway, if you ever do decide to watch it (perhaps with a glass or three of vino) keep those hankies handy.

  3. I have been to Disney World 100’s of times, about five years ago I went to Disneyland. They are different, yet connected. I shaved off my facial hair for a job interview with Disney Development about 20 years ago.

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