Walt Disney – Visionary & Dreamer, Who Was First a “Failure”
We spent the last 4 days in Walt Disney World. It never grows old. I find it so enjoyable and inspiring.
Since I was a child, I had a fascination with Walt Disney. Beginning in 1954, (I joined it a little more than a decade later), Walt hosted an anthology television series (under different names) called "The Wonderful World of Disney."
It was a great family television program and it showed off Walt Disney's invention, creativity and reasoning. Walt was an amazing story teller and innovator. He was also a big dreamer, who was not afraid to fail.
And, he failed so many times during his lifetime. He also dealt with bouts of depression during his lifetime. When you think of Disney, you think of the incredibly successful behemoth. Walt Disney started out small, dreamed big, and failed spectacularly many times along the way.
Today's column is about not being afraid to Dream. Not being afraid to fail. Not being afraid to dare to be great. Walt Disney experienced numerous setbacks that had placed him millions of dollars in debt.
HERE ARE JUST SOME OF WALT DISNEY'S FAILURES ALONG THE WAY
1. In 1926, Disney had some success with a character that he created named ”Oswald the Rabbit.” Walt had partnered with his distributor, Universal Studios. Disney attempted to negotiate a better rate for his product. Instead, Universal Studios advised Walt that they had secured ownership of his character. Universal hired Disney's own artists right out from under him. Disney was flat broke, again.
2. In 1927, Walt tried to get MGM Studios to distribute Mickey Mouse. MGM told him that the idea could never work. They advised him that a "Mouse" on the motion picture screen would "terrify women."
3. Walt next failed with "The Three Little Pigs" in 1933. It was rejected because it only had 4 characters. The belief in this era was that you needed as many characters as the screen could fit. Walt's initial success here came in the theater. One requirement at a particular theater was that the outside poster had to show the Three Pigs wearing white beards.
4. Then, came the debacle of 1937. Walt came up with the concept of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At a college preview, the students walked out halfway through the movie. This significantly depressed Disney. The truth was, the students only left because of a college curfew that was in place at the time.
5. In 1940, Walt generated significant extra costs during Pinocchio. He shut down the production because he felt that the Pinocchio puppet needed to look kinder. The original story called for a juvenile delinquent-themed character. Walt also spent time creating a "minor character," an unnamed cricket, who would ultimately act as Pinocchio's conscience.
6. In the original Pinocchio, the puppet killed the cricket with a mallet. Developing Jiminy Cricket, reworking Pinocchio from bad to good and adding a number of new special effects resulted in Disney losing $ 1 million dollars in Pinocchio's first release. Just its 1992 reissue grossed $ 20 million in the United States and Canada. Its all-time gross is substantial nine figures. In 1994 The United States National Film Registry deemed "Pinocchio" to being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
ANOTHER WALT DISNEY PINOCCHIO NIGHTMARE
For the premier of Pinocchio, Walt hired 11 tiny persons, all dressed like Pinocchio and he put them on top of New York's Radio City Music Hall. In a move he would later regret, he gave them a full days supply of food and wine. The concept was that these cute little human puppets would greet the children as they entered the theater. However, things went drastically wrong. It was a hot day, and midway through, the 11 tiny actors were drunk and running naked on the top of the movie marquee.
7. Walt formed an animation company in Kansas City, Missouri in 1941. His initial company formed a distribution agreement with a company that would pay him 6 months after services were rendered. His distributor went bankrupt and Disney could not pay his bills. He folded the company and found himself surviving with a regular diet consisting of dog food.
8. Walt Disney also never lived to see "Fantasia" become the critical success that it would ultimately achieve. Walt only knew of the 1940 “failure,” whose audiences found it to be lacking a proper story line. Also, the 1940 version had an ending scene "The Night on Bald Mountain" scene with the Devil damning the souls of the dead was considered unfit for children.
9. In 1942, Walt attended the premier of Bambi. Yep, it was yet another disaster for Walt Disney. In the key moment of the movie when Bambi's Mother died, Bambi was wandering through the meadow shouting, "Mother! Where are you, Mother?" A teenage girl shouted from the balcony, "Here I am Bambi!" The audience broke-out into hilarious laughter. Not Walt Disney. He was mortified and was left to feel a failure, yet again. Walt had miscalculated during war time; this was not the time for the "love-life of a deer."
10. The reworked 1960 Pollyanna, made to be more sentimental, made Walt Disney cry at the official studio screening. But, it too failed at the box office. Walt ultimately decided that the title was a turn-off to young boys.
Of course, in the final judgment, all 10 of these initial "failures" turned out to be smash hits. Walt Disney never had the chance to see how successful he really was. He would never know how enduring his legacy would be.
The moral of today's column is that today's "failures" could very well be tomorrow's huge "successes." Don't be afraid to dream big and do everything within your power to make your dreams come true.