#158 Walt Disney (Disneyland)

Episode Summary

What I learned from reading Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow.

Episode Notes

What I learned from reading Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow.

[1:29] In Disney's Land, popular historian Richard Snow brilliantly presents the entire spectacular story, a wild ride from vision to realization that reflects the uniqueness of the man determined to build “the happiest place on earth” with a watchmaker's precision, an artist's conviction, and the desperate, high-hearted recklessness of a riverboat gambler. 

[4:13]  When he reached middle age it seemed that we were going to witness an all too familiar process—the conversion of the tired artist into the tired businessman. When in 1955 we heard that Disney had opened an amusement park under his own name, it appeared certain that we could not look forward to anything new from Mr. Disney. We were quite wrong. He had, instead, created his masterpiece. 

[4:58] Walt Disney was an obsessive with soul in the game. 

[5:26] Disney’s father didn’t believe children should have toys. 

[14:50] One small enterprise did please him, though, and it had little to do with the art he had done so much to invent and of which he was the undisputed master. 

[15:09] He was dismayed to find the man whose work he had long admired “seemed totally uninterested in movies and seemed wholly, almost weirdly concerned with the building of a miniature railroad engine and a string of cars. All of his zest for invention, for creative fantasies, seemed to be going into this plaything.” 

[17:15] Disney on his nervous breakdown: “I had a hell of a breakdown. I went to pieces. I kept expecting more from the artists and when they let me down, I got worried. Costs were going up and it was always way over what they figured the picture would bring in. I just got very irritable. I got to a point that it couldn't talk on the telephone. I would begin to cry.”

[17:49] The money wasn't coming in. His last successful feature, Bambi, was six years in the past

[22:19] Why would you want to get involved in an amusement park? They're so dirty, and not fun at all for grownups. Why would you want to get involved in a business like that? He fielded the question the way he would countless times during Disneyland's germination. "That's exactly the point. Mine isn't going to be that way."

[25:25] Disney’s friend’s reaction to hearing the plans for Disneyland: While he talked, becoming more and more enthusiastic by the minute, I began to grow more and more concerned. I hardly knew how to tell him that, for once, he was making what would probably be the biggest, most ruinous mistake of his life. What could I say? I knew he was wrong.  

[28:00] He never lost his calm understanding that the company's prosperity, rested not on the rock of conventional business practices, but on the churning, extravagant perfectionist, imagination of his younger brother. 

[38:48] You asked the question, What was your process like? I kind of laugh because process is an organized way of doing things. I have to remind you, during the “Walt Period” of designing Disneyland, we didn't have processes. We just did the work. Processes came later. All of these things had never been done before. Walt had gathered up all of these people who had never designed a theme park, never designed a Disneyland. So we’re all in the same boat at one time, and we figure out what to do and how to do it on the fly as we go along with it and not even discuss plans, timing, or anything. We just worked and Walt just walked around and had suggestions. 

[40:24]  He told a parable. Two men are laying bricks. Somebody asked one of them what he's doing, and is told, “I’m laying bricks.” To the same question, the other man answers, “I’m building a cathedral.” 

[47:32] Disney was asked what he thought was his greatest accomplishment. “To be able to build an organization and hang onto it.”  

[48:00]  The way I see it, Disneyland will never be finished. It's something we can keep developing and adding to. . .I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing. We've got that in Disneyland


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