Friday, October 16, 2009

Walt and Roy start a company

Today in 1923, 86 years ago, Walt and Roy Disney founded the Disney Brothers Studio, later the Walt Disney Company. Today the company is the largest media and entertainment conglomerate in the world, but that's not why I'm talking about it.

People are sometimes confused when I speak of my admiration for Walt Disney, assuming I mean the corporation which bears his name. I speak of the man himself. One of the most imaginative and diligent people of all time who parlayed his natural sense of storytelling and his innate ability to find and organize and lead talent into a living. It was not an easy task as so many idiots think today.

Here's a simple breakdown which can show the common thread of Walt's career.


Walt: "I'm going to take all my money and put it into making short subject cartoons to sell to theatres."

Everyone Else: "You're dumb to do that. Felix the Cat and Koko the Clown are already making what little can be made doing that. Give up."

The Result: Walt loses everything making "Laugh-O-Grams". Creates the "Alice in Cartoonland" shorts and invests their profits into making them better and moving production from Kansas City to Hollywood. Looses again. Walt creates "Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit" for Universal Studios. Universal steals the character and all but one of Walt's animators away and leaves Walt with nothing again. Walt and his remaining patriot Ub Iwerks create "Mickey Mouse".


Walt: "This little mouse is pretty good, but I think we can make him better by adding sound."

Everyone Else: "You're dumb to do that. Sound in motion pictures is a fad. Its expensive and theatre owners are never going to convert their equipment over to it. People have been going to see silent pictures for almost 20 years now and liking it. The mouse is good enough, it's just a cartoon."

The Result: Walt and Roy put everything into hock to produce "Mickey Mouse' sound cartoons. "Mickey Mouse" becomes the biggest box office success of the new "Talking Pictures" era. The "fad" of sound movies continues to present day.


Walt: "This little guy just showed me his invention of a three strip full color process for film. These cartoons are pretty good, but I think they'd be better in color."

Everyone Else: "You're dumb to do that. Color's too expensive, people like black and white just fine. It's just a cartoon.

The Result: Walt hocks it all again and signs a contract with Technicolor to be the only person allowed to use it for the next 2 years. "Flowers and Trees" is released as the first full color cartoon and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences creates a new award for "Best Animated Short Subject" just so it can honor the film.

Sometime in the 1930's:

The Board of Directors for Bank of America: "We have to get our money back from this guy. He is dumb to act like he does. He creates something that makes money, borrows funds from us to finance it, then buries his profits into doing something new! He never holds on to his profits, just invests them int he next project."

Roy Disney (to Walt): "We're in big trouble...they say they want a payment of $20,000. We're ruined!"

Walt (to Roy): "(laughing) $20,000? Remember when they wouldn't let us borrow $500?"

Amadea Giannini (founder and chair of B of A): "You guys ever seen a Mickey Mouse cartoon? I have. Let him have more money if he wants it."

The Result: Walt continues to invest in developing his studios talents. Art classes for the animators, story meetings to develop stronger character development, camera and film equipment for technical development. The studio grows in size and talent.


Walt: "I think that we can push this envelope a little farther. This is a viable art form. Instead of just short subjects, I want to make an animated feature film."

Everyone Else: "You're dumb to do that. No one is going to sit still for a cartoon that's over 8 minutes long. You can never hold their interest or tell a story that long with just cartoons."

The Result: Walt releases "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to huge critical and commercial acclaim. Takes the profits and continues to invest them with improving his studios abilities and talents.

Investing NOT in the financial world's definition, but in the quality of product. Which much to every one's surprise (which constantly surprises me) always results in the financial world's definition of investment.

That's right people, doing quality work results in success. Always.

When you hear me praise the work of Walt Disney I mean just that, not the work of the Disney Corporation. Walt Disney died in 1966, and that's when my praise ends and the work of the corporate schlockmeister's kicks in.

Walt Disney was a "human being". His just being who he was got important things done.

The Disney Corp is full of "human doings". "Oliver & Co.", "The Disney Channel", "Treasure Planet", "Hannah Montana", etc., are the result. Huge piles of dung all.

Luckily the folks at Pixar (Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and the rest of the "human beings" there) are doing things the Walt Disney way and just using the Disney Corp's money to get it done. :)

Anyway...enough of my babble. Here a sweet piece of shameless self-promotion from the man himself:

The world needs more Walts.

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