Tuesday, September 28, 2010


"It's kind of fun to do the impossible" ~ Walt Disney

Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago in 1901 and was raised on a Midwestern farm where he acquired some basic art instruction from correspondence courses and Saturday museum classes. He created many of the animals and characters that he knew from that Missouri farm in his cartoons. At the time of his death, his enterprises had earned him respect, admiration, and a business empire worth over $100 million-a-year, but Disney was still remembered primarily as the man who had created Mickey Mouse. Upon his return from World War I, he accepted an apprenticeship as a commercial illustrator and later made primitive animated advertising cartoons. By 1922, he had set up his own shop in association with a military friend whose drawing ability and technical inventiveness were prime factors in Disney's eventual success.

Disney’s first success came with the creation of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon that featured Disney as the voice of a character first called "Mortimer Mouse” until he changed it to “Mickey Mouse”. Other successful characters included Donald Duck, Minnie, and Goofy. In 1957, Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California and in 1971 Disney World in Orlando, Florida opened. Since then, Disney theme parks have opened in Tokyo and Paris and in addition to his theme parks, Disney created and endowed a new university, the California Institute of the Arts, known as Cal Arts where he felt people of many different disciplines could work together, dream and develop, and create the mixture of arts needed for the future. Disney's parks continue to grow with the creation of the Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom along with Touchstone Films, Hollywood Records, and Disney Cruise Lines. In all, the Disney name now lends itself to a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with multiple undertakings all over the world.

Do you know anyone who has not been touched by a Walt Disney creation? From movies, to education, music, theme parks, and even cruise ships, this man has created an empire of fun and fantasy. I chose Walt Disney as my great leader because he never swayed from his moral values or humble ways. Even though his estimate was worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he continued to mow his own grass, wash his own clothes, and never took for granted his wife or children. His generous contributions to children battling diseases and disabilities go unmatched and his desire to see every child smile was his reason for working.


Feild, R. (1942). The art of walt disney. Chicago: Simon & Schuster.

Schickel, R. (1997). The disney version: The life, times, art, and commerce of walt disney. 
       Chicago: Simon & Schuster.

Smith, D. & Clark, S. (1999). Disney: The first 100 years. New York, NY: Hyperion.


  1. I found some similar characteristics in your choice, Disney, and mine, Steve Jobs. They both appear to be self-made men. They pursued their passions and their dreams materialized. Both men have touched so many lives with their creations. You mention Disney’s humility, and here is where I find a glaring difference in our choices. Steve Jobs is known for his audacity, not humility. He has, in fact, been criticized by many for his bold statements and eyebrow raising tactics. However, it is interesting to match up these two business giants and view their paths to success.

  2. Some of my fondest childhoold memories are of watching Disney creations with my brothers and sisters. Walt Disney has brought together families and friends worldwide with his creative abilities and visionary direction. As you mentioned, I believe one of greatest contributions was his vision for Cal Arts and bringing together various disciplines.

  3. Our leaders are from a different time period and had vastly different outcomes yet they shared few common traits. Both Walt Disney and Martin Luther never swayed from their moral values. Both men also greatly valued the common man. As Disney sought to see each child smile, Martin Luther wanted every person to know peace with God.

    Their paths greatly diverge however in the response of the people in their time. Disney is loved by all, but Luther was only loved by peasants and priests seeking reform in the Catholic church. Disney died a wealthy man, but Luther saw the split of the church he dearly loved.