Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Walt Disney, Individual

  In one corner of our house, my  wife and some other  very special  people set up a little   station for me to  pursue my various  art projects.  On one wall of that little corner hangs a poster of Walt Disney.  In the picture, he’s a young man, with an intense gaze, and in the picture he’s casting a shadow. The shadow is Mickey Mouse.  Now while I am not  really a fan of the corporation that bears his name, Walt Disney is to me an icon of animation, and an icon of individualism. 
  Now before you come down too hard on me, yes I know he was  a bizarre individual, and yes I know his studio produced its fair share  of statist propaganda, some of which is particularly hideous (Donald Duck's admonition for me to pay my taxes springs to mind), but think about this for a minute.  When I say ‘Walt Disney’  you know exactly who I’m talking about.   His life was a  life of ideas, of stories, and he   changed the world to be able to tell those stories.Almost every major advance in animation   in the early 20th century came about from the   vision of one man; Walt Disney.  Disney would  decide to tell a  story,  decide how the story needed to be told, and then  wind up creating the technology to  tell it.   The modern  theme park industry  exists , for the most part because of the vision and strength of will of one man; Walt Disney.  His was the  example of  a Great Mind, who can  see what it wants and then builds a bridge to get there. On such men the world is built.
  Great minds  bring together  other brilliant people to help accomplish their vision, but these brilliant people  , generally speaking, wouldn’t have accomplished their greatness without somebody somewhere saying  “Hey, what happens if we try it this way?” Great minds create worlds that the rest of us get to be a part of. Without Walt Disney, there is no Disneyland.  He didn’t lay the bricks, he didn’t pave the streets, he  didn’t   mechanically assemble the rides, but without his idea of what he wanted to build, the bricks would never get laid, the roads would never be paved, and the rides would be just an assemblage of parts looking for a purpose.  In a  ‘you didn’t build that’world that disdains the accomplishment of great minds, and places the  credit on the  road pavers, and brick layers, I would ask this; how come those  people, as talented as they may be, didn’t assemble on their own and  build a park in the central  Florida swamp?
  There is a story that may or may not be true that  during the opening ceremony of one of the theme parks,  a Disney executive remarked to Disney's widow, “Wish  Walt could have seen this” to which she replied “He did.”  At the end of the day, the   idea, the dream, the vision, whatever you  choose to call it, is way more important than the nuts and  bolts necessary to build it.  The world is full of nuts and bolts, what it lacks is great minds capable of seeing what those nuts and bolts could be.  The world is full of brilliant people  yearning for a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, something   more than the sum of its parts. A great mind will provide them that opportunity.
  Great minds help other people  accomplish  great things in their wake, as Mr Disney did with Annette Funicello. Without  Disney,  the legitmately talented Ms Funicello is just another  little girl  dancing a ballet recital. With Disney’s accomplishment, she had a framework in which to develop her talents and capitalize on them.  His vision made her life better.  Without Walt Disney, there are animation techniques and approaches that I can utilize that would not exist. His  vision  makes it easier for me to accomplish mine.
 To see what happens when the great mind passes, and their shadow and drive and energy begin to fade,  go into a Disney store.  What you’ll see is a celebration of the past accomplishments that borders on cannibalization, or merchandising  based off the work of some other great mind that  Disney Corp. purchased  just for that soulless purpose (ala Pixar or Marvel or Lucasfilms).
  I may be reading too much into this poster, but in it Walt looks young, determined, and hungry. He looks like a man full of ideas, ready to cast a large shadow. If that was  his goal, he certainly got it done.  Walt Disney is an Atlas in  my mind, and  a good example of what a man, an individual can accomplish if they stay true to their vision, even if that vision starts with a  whistling  4 fingered rodent.
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