Walt Disney has become, truly, an enigmatic figure in our culture. People have studied him and his life for years trying to pinpoint that quality that would best description the man and his life. It seems that, of late, there has been an approach in the general public to portray his life’s activities in as negative a light as possible by interpreting events of his historical activities though a lens of current day standards. Most of these conclusions are draw on rather singular events in Walt Disney’s life. Yes, there are people who have dug up factoids in support of their claims, and I am not going to discuss them here other than to point out some of the fallacies in their claims. If you want to review any of these claims, they can be found quite easily via Google searches.
Instead of discussing these spurious claims and the supporting evidence, both pro and con, I am going to discuss what I believe to be the essence of who Walt Disney was and some of why some people try so hard to damage that view. First the more negative aspect because I, selfishly, want to leave this piece with more positive note of what my many years of research has left me with understanding.
Unlike many research historians, I don’t approach any single topic with a singular focus. Time and experience has taught me, I believe, that the world we live in is so interconnected that, to truly understand history we have to approach each and every event with a much more open mind of how many multiple, seemingly unconnected, events effect the accurate interpretation of a person. One of the great challenges with historical interpretation is that we tend to want to view historical events through the prisms of our own lives and experiences, and there are some interpretations that have become so ubiquitous that we apply their principles to our views without much thought. I won’t discuss what those pieces might be, as I think most people are either aware, or will find offense with the notion. But, even more in recent years we have found these principles taking hold in our thinking about many things. I wrote a piece earlier in this blog about the Apotheosis of Walt Disney, and I think that view has spurred others to produce interpretations to counter it. I don’t necessarily think these people are trying to malicious, but rather, see what they do as a defense of their own God(s) by pointing out their perceived fault of Walt.
True of the matter is that Walt Disney was a man and nothing more. Talk to anyone who knew him, or has researched his history with an open mind, and that fact will quite often be born out. I have had the great honor and opportunity to talk with a number of these individuals, and never come away with any thought other than Walt Disney was a man with an incredible thirst for knowledge, and a consummate storyteller, with an almost uncanny ability to understand what his audiences wanted, and the ability to encourage those around him to produce to levels that even they didn’t see in themselves. Was he always right, no… but,
I think I have discovered that one word that best describes the man and his legacy, HOPE!
Whether it is his films, animated or live action, his theme park, his dreams of EPCOT, or any of his many other activities that I have had the honor to learn about… I am, and I think many others who are honest with themselves, left with a feel of hope.
Your comments or questions are always welcome. If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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