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Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Developing Thought on Walt Disney

A child’s journey from experience to experience is without expectation, and full of wonder and amazement.  Each a new adventure to be fulfilled with learning and the yearning for more, until that disastrous moment…  His obligation to grow up realized!!!  Rare is the individual who successfully navigates through life with a true childlike inquisitiveness and wonder intact.    

Yes, I know!  I promised a piece on animation…  But, one of the joys of journeys of discovery is that you never know where the path is going to lead you.  My path has recently been enlightened in a way that I never ever expected.  Thank you Sam Gennawey!  I’ve already recommended WALT AND THE PROMISE OF Progress City in my last post, but now I am going to recommend it as a re-read.  It has given my journey new direction.

Last September, toward the end of the Our Grandpa session at the Walt Disney Family Museum, Walt Disney’s granddaughter Joanna asked the audience a question:  “What do you all find so interesting about my Grandpa?”  I posted a response here.  At the time I thought my response was pretty complete, but, now I am not so sure.

One could single out Walt’s various achievements and awards in entertainment.  But there’s more…  One could single out his development of technologies and their practical applications.  But there is more…  One could single out his ability to take almost any subject and create a story around and about it.  Any of these and many more could be used as an easy justification for interest.  But there is, at least for me, something else that draws me to this man, as I think is the case with many Disney fans, but most particularly the true Walt Disney fan.  I consider myself one of those true Walt Disney fans, and have, until now, been frustrated with my inability to adequately articulate my feelings about him.

It was while reading Sam Gennawey's, WALT AND THE PROMISE OF Progress City, that my understanding of my draw to Walt Disney began crystallize into a comprehensible form.  I don’t know if the thoughts to follow had occurred to Sam as he researched and wrote his book, but, I am looking forward to asking him in about a week.  As I have traveled on my journey of discovery over the last several years, I have found that the Disney interest is as vast and varied as there are people interested…  simple put… like so many things in life, the Disney experience is really an individually personal event for each person.  Like in other areas of our lives, seldom do we endeavor to truly comprehend or illuminate an experience, rather choosing to just let our life’s proceedings transpire around us without thought. 

Before I begin to tie all of my sprawling thoughts into what I hope to be a articulate concept, I think we need to acknowledge a couple of facts; Walt Disney was not formally trained in any of the disciplines at which he excelled, but he was adept at applying what he had learned in one arena, to other developing interests.  An interest in art led to his involvement in animation, where he was able to create and develop processes which elevated animation to a new art form and greatly enhanced the audience experience.  Walt’s successes in animation led him into the field of live action movies, where again he create and developed processes which elevated and enhanced the audience experience.  From live action, Walt moved on to the amusement part.  Apply what he learned in art, animation, and live action films; he created an entertainment venue like none other in the world at the time.  Each endeavor enhanced, or plussed, by the accomplishments that preceded it.  Walt’s last desire, to build a prototype city of the future, while never realized, was informed by all the came before it.  The Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow – EPCOT – would have been a site to behold, if Walt had lived to see the project to completion.  Many may think that the Epcot that exists, at Walt Disney World , today is the EPCOT of Walt Disney’s dreams.  While there are components of Walt’s design in place today, Epcot is nothing of the designs that Walt had drawn up before his death.  If you are interested in learning about the EPCOT of Walt’s dream, well then Sam Gennawey's, WALT AND THE PROMISE OF Progress City is the book to read.

Next, I think Walt had an innate appreciation for the difference between educations and learning.  As an example, his concepts for the CalArts – California Institute of the Arts was more than just an institute where a student could come to study his or her craft… it was a place where students of one discipline could have their studies positively influenced by others of different disciplines.  Even earlier in his life, Walt understood the need for continuing study.  During the productions of Bambi, Walt brought in forest animals for his artists and animators to study.  This was done to allow these artists to interject more realism into the finished product.  And before that, he teamed with Nelbert Chouinard and the Chouinard Art Institute – later to become part of CalArts – to help develop and expand his artists’ talents.  You might know that animators today as Walt’s Nine Old Men, truly legendary figures in the world of animation.  In today’s world, it is my opinion that we place to much emphasis on higher education, simply for the sake of educations.  This is pure conjecture, but I think the evidence would point to; Walt’s opinion that education comes after interests are piqued.

Regardless, I think it was the complexity of Walt Disney that led to some much of legend surrounding him.  I’ll get into how I am going to tie my ideas together from some of the content from WALT AND THE PROMISE OF Progress City in a future post, but for my next post you can expect me to finish my animation thoughts that I have been working on for some time now.

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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  1. Thank you for the comments about the book. I agree with your observation on how Walt excelled at things he was not trained for and felt responsible for creating educational environments for people to learn.


  2. Thanks, Sam!!! That only the starter. As soon as I get done with my current post. I'll have a little more to say about where your book has led me. :)