Inspirational Icons: Walt Disney (Episode 1)


The Prophet: A Dejected Creator

The Teacher: The Wise Intellect

“Prophet, they slept on Disney’s vision. You can’t possibly be surprised if they sleep on you, too.”


“They literally slept on Walt Disney,” The Teacher repeated.

“What are you even saying?” I said, now both agitated and confused.

“When Walt returned from serving in World War I,” The Teacher began. “He hopped into a career as a newsreel photographer. From there, he got into the advertising business, where he cultivated an idea that changed the entertainment landscape, and really the world, for that matter.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“Animated cartoons for motion pictures,” he replied. “Walt was a visionary, and had a mind like no one else. Once the seminal scheme bloomed in his brain, Disney gathered up all his funds, quit his job, and headed out to Los Angeles with his brother to pursue his dream of bringing animated drawings to life.”

“Did he have any prior experience with this type of craft?”

“Oh, for sure,” The Teacher answered. “When he was a schoolboy, Walt would scribble sketches on the margins of his notebooks, so that when you flipped through the booklet, it was like a shifting story, with each ensuing sheet representing the coming scenario. Anyways, in the early 1920s, Walt, and his brother Roy, debuted their first motion picture with animations when they dropped Alice Comedies, a series centered around a girl named Alice, and a cartoon cat dubbed Julius. As innovative and artistic as it was, the series didn’t attract the attention that the two were aiming for. Still, Walt didn’t falter. In 1927, after facing cost and technical stipulations with the Alice series, Walt created “Oswald The Rabbit”, which, after a few rejected sketches, ended up being Walt’s biggest success at this point in his life. Because of the monetary gain, the Disney boys, wound up purchasing ten acres of land for themselves. However, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Despite the positive step in his career, Walt was unhappy with his contract, and decided to travel to New York City in the summer of 1928 to seek out a better deal. Turns out, the film producer he spoke with had other plans. Rather than hearing Walt out, the man told Disney that he planned on reducing his payments, and, if Disney didn’t oblige to the new conditions, then he would cut Walt out, take all the creative individuals that he was working with, and develop his own studio. The man didn’t believe in Disney, and felt like everything would operate just fine if they dropped him from the team.”

“What did Disney do?”

“He declined the impolite offer, because in life, winners decide their worth, and would never let someone else determine their value for them. Rejecting the proposal meant no more Oswald, as the company he worked for owned the rights to the rabbit. So there Walt was, now jobless, sitting on a train for four days as he headed back to Los Angeles with nothing. Well, nothing on paper that is.”

“What do you mean?”

“It was on this lengthy train ride where Disney’s life would change forever,” The Teacher said as we continued to sit in the school parking lot. “With all this time to reflect, Walt thought, and thought, and thought some more, until finally, it hit him. A mouse.”

“A mouse hit him?”

The Teacher laughed. “No, Prophet. You see, while rummaging through his brain, Disney recalled his younger days, where he would draw in an attic and the only spectators interested in his sketches were the mice skating around on the floor. This vision prompted him to develop a rodent-figure, who would serve as the star in his next animation. By the end of the train pilgrimage, he had the entire design of the character planned out, all the way down to his whiskers! He needed a name for his creation, and knew he wanted to have the M-M alliteration, so he started with Mortimer Mouse.

“Ew,” The Prophet said. “That’s a terrible name for a cartoon.”

“That’s exactly what his wife thought,” The Teacher noted. “She shot that title down, which propelled Disney to start spewing names aloud to see if one could stick. Once he belted out ‘Mickey Mouse’, it was a wrap. The couple agreed on the appellation, and that’s when Walt decided to go all in on Mickey. And when I mean all in, I mean all the way in. He sold his car, and mortgaged his house for the animated murine!”

“My goodness,” I said out loud. “Did it work?”

“At first, him and his tiny team constructed a few animated shorts, but nobody was interested,” The Teacher said. “Those in power didn’t look at it as a groundbreaking idea, but, Walt refused to give up. Rather than getting discouraged from the lack of respect from the distributors, Disney added synchronized sound for his made-up mouse in their third short film, Steamboat Willie. Just like that, the world was introduced to the first post-produced sound cartoon. People instantly fell in love with Mickey, who wound up becoming a worldwide sensation. Mickey is the sole reason for Walt’s net worth being north of $100 billion dollars. We know him by Mickey Mouse in the United States, but the face of the Walt Disney Company is known as Michael Maus in Germany, Michel Souris in France, Miki Kuchi in Japan, Mikkel Mus in Denmark, and Miguel Ratonocito in Spain.”

“Incredible!” I exclaimed.

“Right!?” The Teacher shouted back. “Anyways, I could talk about Disney’s impact on the world for days, but you can look him up on your own time. The reason I brought up the story of Disney is to show you that even one of the greatest minds and pioneers in our world was overlooked. First, they didn’t value his worth. Then, they didn’t value his idea, but he kept going, and refused to give up on his dream just because some individuals didn’t believe in it. Rather than looking at rejection in a negative light, Walt took the rebuffs with a grain of salt, and continued to refine and refurbish his product until his vision came true. He stayed true to himself and risked it all in pursuit of greatness. He did it HIS OWN WAY, and millions of people resonated with his flair. Prophet, Disney is a real human. Just like you.”

“Damn,” I said, as I finally had my emotions intact. “Even the top dogs are faced with adversity on the footpath to fame. I guess I did overreact a little bit.”

“A little bit?”

“Okay, a lot!” I laughingly said while starting the engine. “I’m sorry, Teacher. I suppose I just expected the success and glory to manifest immediately.”

“Don’t apologize, Prophet,” he nicely stated. “It’s normal to get frustrated and emotional when you don’t get the results you aimed for. Heck, if you didn’t react the way you did, I would be worried. By expressing your dissatisfaction with your recent outcomes, and sequentially thrashing out at me, it showed that you really want this. In order to actualize your ambitions, you must want those desires to develop more than anything in the entire world. Your flare-up revealed your passion for the craft, which is the secret key to nobility. Love for the art is what keeps the superstars going in times like this. Take what you need from the defeat, and keep moving forward until you accomplish your feat.”