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Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Brother’s Love

What can you say about a Brother’s love, and particularly that of an older brother?

Being the older brother to two kid sisters (okay they’re not kids anymore, and I am certainly not), I can tell you that an older brother’s love knows no bounds. I can’t say how older sisters feel, but I suspect the same idea applies. Okay that may not always the case, but it is generally an accurate statement.

Walt Disney had three older brothers and a younger sister. His two oldest brothers where well on the way to becoming young men when Walt was born, so that left the youngest of his older brothers – Roy Oliver Disney the duty of remaining behind to help his Mother care for his younger brother and sister when Ruth arrived couple years later. It was written that Roy used to push his younger siblings’ pram around, and would watch the two toddlers when needed. From all that I have read, the brothers had a very close relationship. As I wrote early, Walt tried to follow Roy into the military during WWI. When Roy was convalescing in after the war, the brothers kept a steady stream of correspondence flowing. Walt keeping his brother up-to-date on his current business effort, successes, and failures, Roy offering whatever advice he could and few bucks to help him get by, as he knew his young brother was struggling.

I think it was this true brotherly love that help to form the symbiotic relationship between the two as they founded and grew the Studio later. No matter what happened they trust that each had the others back. They were a whole that was honestly greater than the sum of it part. To the point that when Walt past away – way to early – Roy completed his brother final dream in the creation of Walt Disney World, a name that Roy gave the complex after his brother’s passing as a tribute to him. I use the term symbiotic as the best describes the brothers. Walt was without question the creative force behind the company, however, without Roy’s acumen the Walt and company would not have had the resource that where need to create. It is my ardent opinion that Roy Oliver Disney is one of the unsung heroes of the Disney Legacy and success.

Examples of Roy’s business intellect: While it was Walt who was first approached about merchandise licensing, it was Roy’s keen sense to recognize the value of merchandising and it value to the company leading it to become the marketing juggernaut it is today. When Roy found merchandisers who where marketing products with Disney trademarked likenesses, it was Roy and his team who pursued a remedy. More often than not to negotiate with the violator to legally license the product and continue their operation, versus just coming in with a legal injunction to shut down the operation because he understood that negotiating meant a better chance to bring need resources into the company coffers. Roy work tirelessly with banks and bankers, such as A.P. Giannini and his Bank of America, to secure an manage financing for Disney features. To my mind, one of Roy’s most significant accomplishments was the opening of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 1971, the most expensive project in Disney’s history to that time and a fulfillment of his late brother’s legacy. As it sadly turns out, the Magic Kingdom was the final piece of Roy’s own legacy, as he too passed away - shortly after it opened. Walt Disney World came into being under the name Disneyworld; it was at Roy’s insistence that the name became Walt Disney World as a tribute to Walt. In my opinion, one of the most significant business accomplishments came with the opening of the Magic Kingdom. At the park’s opening, the balance Walt Disney Productions balance sheet showed no debt as a result of the construction. A remarkable feat given the construction cost of the Magic Kingdom was about $400,000,000.

The brothers never really encroached on the other domain within the company. Oh sure, there were squabbles between them, so even very heated, usually about money. Walt, while often reminding his staff to the contrary, never paid a lot of attention to the fiscal prudence of his actions, unless he had recently been reminded of the company’s limited resources. Roy recognized his brother’s creativity and understood his goal to create the best product possible, and never tried to interject his view of how the process should be done; only reminding Walt that the company has not an unlimited source of funds. Both acknowledged the need of the other to the success of the company overall.

I think it was the love of the brothers for each other, and to lesser degree the love of what they were creating that laid the real groundwork for the success of the Disney Brothers Studio and what has become the Walt Disney Company today.

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

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