Walt Disney: A Dreamer Ahead of His Time
As August draws to a close and we near the end of summer, I can’t help thinking of summers past. They usually included a trip to visit family, old friends, or do some sightseeing.
None of that in 2020, since COVID-19 made us reluctant to travel too far or mingle with large crowds.
Given this backdrop, one of the most pleasant surprises of recent weeks came in late July, when we saw a “History Alive!” presentation at a state park in our area.
We almost missed it. A short story about the event appeared in our newspaper only the day before the performance.
Having been to programs at the park twice in the past, we decided to make the short drive into the country.
While the West Virginia Division of Humanities presents a dozen portrayals of historical figures, this night marked its premiere presentation on the life of Walt Disney.
Portraying him as a 38-year-old artist who had only recently hit it big with Snow White: was James Froemel (whose day job is working in West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts.)
The impact of the coronavirus on travel and camping in general meant only a small crowd turned out for the program. That was a shame, given the trip down memory lane it represented for those present.
Disney is such a force in the modern entertainment arena it’s easy to forget the disappointments and setbacks the creator of Mickey Mouse endured getting to the top.
They included losing the rights to some of his early animated characters, as well as watching some of his original studio employees leave when they got a better offer.
He received two Academy Awards for a pair of short films in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. But it wasn’t until 1937 that Disney struck it rich with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
While many reading these words have likely seen the film, what Froemel brought out that I wasn’t aware of was the high-wire risk Disney took to get the financing to produce the movie.
In short, if the feature-length cartoon hadn’t been a hit, it would have cost Walt Disney everything.
Imagine a world without Disney cartoons, Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Plus, and all the other touches that are thrilling audiences more than a century after Walt’s birth.
The old saying I heard when working in the world of investing was “high risk, high reward.” We usually only hear about the success stories, but there are plenty of people who crash and burn.
Of course, that’s the reality of the stakes involved in taking the gambles that can result in outstanding accomplishments.
Too many people want the safe, bland, secure world of 9-to-5, but they will never know the thrills of breakthrough that come for pioneers who have the courage to step forward.
Years ago, while doing some research on a book—too long ago to remember the exact source—I came across a quote Disney’s wife made during the opening ceremonies for Disney World in Orlando.
When someone said they wished he could have seen the facility, she remarked, “He did.”
People with that kind of vision are what make America great. Their labors enrich others.