Walt Disney is one of my favorite titans of the 20th century because he was a dude that had to keep plugging away to find success in life.
Did he have the creative control of some of his early animations and characters before Mickey Mouse stolen away from him? Check.
Did he spend much of his early life being mocked by his peers (and even his own father) for being a doodler and painter instead of following the social expectations of what constituted “normal” for a young boy and adolescent? Check.
Did the woman of his dreams dump him on a train because she thought he turned into a complete loser, always fiddling with his drawings instead of “getting a real job”? Check.
Did he have loans and requests for funding get rejected on a regular basis due to his unproven record? Check.
There were so many moments in Disney’s life when he could have given up, called it quits, and fallen to the difficulties of his own life. At some point in his life story, his dad mocked him, his love left him, he lost copyright control over some of his work, and he lived in near destitution on minimum wage level amounts. Yet, he managed to create a creative empire that is today worth tens of billions of dollars, amass a private fortune in the hundreds of millions (which would be low billions today), and die knowing that he was the creative icon of the 20th century. Any way you slice it, Disney’s perseverance in life was quite impressive.
I wanted to take a moment and share with you ten of my favorite Walt Disney quotes:
1. “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
2. “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
3. “I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”
4. “Mickey Mouse popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner.”
5. “I don’t like formal gardens. I like wild nature. It’s just the wilderness instinct in me, I guess.”
6. “We did it Disneyland, in the knowledge that most of the people I talked to thought it would be a financial disaster – closed and forgotten within the first year.”
7. “”Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. They’re people who don’t give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought – sometimes it isn’t much, either.”
8. “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”
9. “Biggest problem? Well, I’d say it’s been my biggest problem all my life. MONEY. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true. From the very start it was a problem. Getting the money to open Disneyland. About seventeen million it took. And we had everything mortgaged including my personal insurance.”
10. “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
A lot of people, when they think of Disney the business, they think about a stock trading in the low $60s that pays out a $0.75 dividend each year and makes about $3 per share in profits. Maybe the stock will fall to $50 per share, maybe it will rise to $75. Who knows. But I think about so much more than that.
These large-cap multinationals were not “inevitable.” There is no rule stating that Disneyland had to be here. It is all due to the perseverance of one man, Walt Disney. There were so many moments in his life when he could have given up and been nothing more than a mere shadow of what he eventually became. Yet, through his tenacity, he had been able to create an ecosystem that brings entertainment to millions of people annually and makes shareholders rich. It is the spirit of the man I quoted above that made this all possible.