Sunday, February 22, 2009

Overview of Walt Disney

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” –Walt Disney

Walt Disney was a pioneer in the field of animation who transformed the world with his optimism, perseverance, and dedication to his craft. His legacy lives on and will continue for many years because of his determination to achieve his dreams. He was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. Walt was one of five children, including four boys and one girl. Shortly after Walt’s birth his family moved to Missouri. It was here that his interests in drawing and art began to emerge. At the age of seven, he started selling small sketches and drawings to his neighbors. One day Walt painted a pig on the whitewashed siding of the family home using tar as an alternative to paint, infuriating his father.

Walt’s father, Elias, was quite stern, and showed no interest in his artistic attempts. He felt that artistic matters should be left to the wealthy, or those who could afford such frivolity. Elias made his feelings regarding Walt’s interests clear, so Walt made certain his chores were finished before running off with his drawing pad and pencils. Fortunately, he found encouragement from his mother, Flora, and his older brother, Roy.

Walt Disney is an icon of American history. Everyone is aware of his success, but few people are aware of his failures. The fact that Walt was able to achieve so much in the face of many obstacles proves that he epitomizes the qualities of a true leader. Walt Disney, along with members of his staff, received more than 950 honors and citations from every nation in the world, including 48 Academy Awards and 7 Emmys in his lifetime. These achievements were all obtained as the result of Walt’s belief in the power of a dream.

References (2008). Walt Disney: Biography. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from (n.d.). Walt Disney, Biography. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from

Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. (2008). Walt Disney. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from

Richardson, A. (2004). The story of Disney. North Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media.

Thomas, B. (1966). Walt Disney: Magician of the movies. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap.

Qualities of Leadership

As a result of the research I have done on Walt Disney, I believe that he would be best characterized as a promoter. Promoters are imaginative, creative, and persuasive. They are also persuasive and insightful. All of these characteristics served Walt well as he was starting out in the field of animation. There were many times in the early years of his career where people doubted his ideas and told him that his dreams would never find success. These qualities enabled him to persevere with optimism and a firm belief in himself and his ideas. He was enthusiastic about his ideas, and always believed that he would find a way to make them a reality. Walt Disney was always thinking about the next innovation in his field. Walt was the first in the world to create a synchronized sound cartoon, which featured Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie (Richardson, 2004). He created the first color cartoon in 1932 entitled Flowers and Trees which won Walt the first of his studio’s academy awards (Thomas, 1966). Disney also created the first full-length animated musical feature when he created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which premiered in 1937 (Thomas, 1966). I strongly believe that none of these ‘firsts’ would have occurred if it weren’t for his imaginative, persuasive, and enthusiastic personality.

There were several turning points in Walt Disney’s life. During the fall of 1918, Walt attempted to enlist in the military. Because he was only sixteen years old, he was rejected. Instead he joined the Red Cross and spent a year driving an ambulance in France. The time spent in France was the first that Walt realized he was mature enough to be independent and was ready to start pursuing a career in commercial art. Upon returning from France, Walt went into business with Ub Iwerks, making animated advertisement films. When a film distributor cheated the young producers of their earnings, Disney was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1923. Undiscouraged, Walt moved to California and partnered with his brother, Roy. This was the beginning of Walt Disney Productions. In 1927, Walt created his first cartoon star when he drew “Oswald the Rabbit.” This creation established Disney as a leading cartoon maker in the film industry (Thomas, 1966). At the end of the first year’s contract for Oswald, Walt attempted to get more money to improve his animation, but the distributor wanted to pay less. While trying to negotiate a deal in New York, the distributor informed Walt that they owned the rights to Oswald and his services were no longer needed. In addition to losing the rights to Oswald, most of the Disney animators had left California to work for the New York distributor. Determined to overcome yet another obstacle, Walt began working on a new idea. On the train ride back to California, Mickey Mouse was born.

Failure has been a major factor in Walt Disney’s life. There were many times in Walt’s career when he was in serious financial trouble due to the rising costs of animation. Many of Disney’s most successful undertakings were initially thought to be crazy ideas that would never succeed. Although he suffered many setbacks in his career, Walt learned from each setback, and continued to take even bigger risks. These risks combined with the wisdom gained from experiencing failure led Walt Disney to find success that was beyond what anyone expected from him. Walt never saw failure as a reason to give up. Instead, he found strength and determination in his failures. One of his most famous quotations explains this best. He said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you” (Thomas, 1966).


Richardson, A. (2004). The story of Disney. North Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media.

Thomas, B. (1966). Walt Disney: Magician of the movies. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap.