In today’s world, babies practically come out of the womb knowing who Walt Disney is along with his trusty pal, Mickey Mouse. More often than not, babies rooms are decorated in some sort of Disney decor, the Disney channel is playing 24/7, every Disney movie must be watched, and at least one trip to the Magic Kingdom is mandatory. What most people don’t stop to ponder is why do they love “the mouse” and Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom? What is it about the funny little cartoon and theme park that seem to permeate every aspect of our daily lives?
According to Walt, “it was all started by a mouse,” but as we all know, it began with Mr. Disney himself.
What most of us are told from the time we start kindergarten to the point of graduation with our undergrad degree, the path to success is linear. If you get a good education, you’ll land a good job. Walt personified the “when you wish upon a star, your dreams will come true” narrative, but those who are well versed with his life and legacy, know his path to success was anything but linear. He was faced with challenges and obstacles that even left him bankrupt at one point. However, it was his faith in himself, along with divine intervention, that allowed him to “keep moving forward.”
Most of us also have the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” saying beat into our psyches, just like Walt and his perseverance. But, it takes more than overcoming a few hardships knocking you down to truly make it big. What also led to Mr. Disney’s success was his courage to listen to himself and what he thought was best and ignored the critics. His world didn’t allow African-Americans to participate in award shows, yet he did it anyway. His world didn’t have full-length cartoons, but he did it anyway. His world didn’t have clean theme parks with careful attention to detail at every corner, but he did it anyway. The reason why most people love the Disney brand was because it was started by a man who didn’t create art based on what other people thought/cared about; he created it solely because he knew people would also love his visions, and wanted to share his love to the world. His favorite song, “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins inspired him to pause a few moments, listen to the lyrics, and say: “That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?” To him, his love for the world was making it a happier place and teaching us to love one another.
Today, it seems as though this kind of love is slipping away and/or almost becoming nonexistent with the culture of “political correctness” and the fear of offending/hurting anyone. The second an outside source permeates the artistic mind, it plants the seed of doubt and fear, and the art is forever gone. Together, we must overcome these negative outside influences, and embrace the artistic integrity we have with one another.
On this day, December 15, 2016, exactly 50 years to the day from when Walt Disney passed, I would like to offer my sincerest form of gratitude. Thank you, Walt. Thank you for creating a place where my dad would pick me up early from school and spend a day together, just the two of us. Thank you for creating movies that bond my whole family together. Thank you for giving me a place of employment for five magical years, and where I will (hopefully) return to in the near future. Thank you for changing the world, for never giving up, and for allowing other dreams to come true.