The Walt I never knew

I’ve just finished reading The Illusion of Life, by Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. As a child, I never bought in to Disney’s magic kingdom—it was too popular for my countercultural leanings. I’m learning that I missed out on a lot. As I got to know the man Walt Disney through this book, I’ve found that my own attitudes toward my career resonate with his. He was driven by a passion to create stories for an audience. All his work fell in line with this simple goal. I have collected a few of the quotations that stood out to me.

On being asked what he believed to be his greatest achievement, Walt said:

“Building an organization and holding it.”

How I’ve longed to work side-by-side with scientists and designers to make things! Walt did too:

“The ideal setup would be the storyman, the director, and the layout man, as well as the musician, operating as a sort of story unit. They should all be keenly interested in the picture. No one person should dominate to an extent where he would keep the others from entering into the production and freely expressing themselves.”

“Everyone has to contribute, or they become laborers.”

‎Animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson described Walt as someone who kept a constant eye on his audience, refusing to turn inward:

“For some reason, he had a distrust of engineers as men who designed primarily for themselves without regard to the intended use of the product, and he refused to have anyone on the staff with the title ‘engineer.'”

Walt was simple:

“I don’t know if it’s art, but I know I like it.”

“I am interested in entertaining people, in bringing pleasure, especially laughter, to others, rather than being concerned with ‘expressing’ myself with obscure creative impressions.”

“Money—or rather the lack of it to carry out my ideas—may worry me, but it does not excite me.”

“You know, the only way I’ve found to make these pictures is with animators—you can’t seem to do it with accountants and bookkeepers.”

I went to my local library to get some Disney DVDs. They were all checked out.


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