No one is safe from Adultitis. Not even the American entertainment company that was built on, and is synonymous with, the carefree and hope-filled spirit of childhood. An essay on SaveDisney.com sheds some light on Walt Disney and his original vision for his movies and his company:
“I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether he be six or sixty…In my work I try to reach and speak to that innocence, showing it the fun and joy of living; showing it that laughter is healthy; showing it that the human species, although happily ridiculous at times, is still reaching for the stars…Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.”
“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. They’re people who don’t give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought – sometimes it isn’t much either.”
The essay, by Merlin Jones, reveals Disney’s secret to success, a secret that led to amazing financial abundance.
Disney Legend Ward Kimball observed, “If you want to know the real secret of Walt’s success, it’s that he never tried to make money. He was always trying to make something that he could have fun with or be proud of. He told me once, ‘I plow back everything I make into the company. I look at it this way: If I can’t use the money now, if I can’t have fun with it, I’m not going to be able to take it with me.’ That’s the way he talked. That’s the way he felt.”
Clearly, Disney’s formula worked. Unfortunately, the current Disney leadership team has strayed wildly from the path that Walt blazed:
In today’s Disney Company, the Vision is being guided by clear-thinking strategic planners, marketers, statisticians, politicians, social engineers, accountants, and bankers… with the creatives as mere hired help.
Where once Spirits of Youth — animators, artists, storytellers, Imagineers, designers and futurists — contributed the guiding light to Disney’s name and image, providing the very essence of the public perception of the company — now their laugher has grown silent, quashed by the practical crunching of numbers and the sensible questions of predetermined surveys (if not the ringing of a cash register). Innovation has been replaced by templates, imagination by projections, inspiration by management structure.
“We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” —Michael Eisner
It’s no surprise that Disney (the company) continues to struggle on the financial side, while a company like Pixar (which has recently terminated their affiliation with Disney) keeps rolling out box office hits. Disney has Adultitis. Pixar doesn’t (yet). Hopefully they can pull things together and get back to the original vision held so strongly by Walt Disney. There is no question that his worldview led to magical results. As Disney himself said,
“The American child is a highly intelligent human being – characteristically sensitive, humorous, open-minded, eager to learn, and has a strong sense of excitement, energy and healthy curiosity about the world in which he lives. Lucky indeed is the grownup who manages to carry these same characteristics over into his adult life. It usually makes for a happy and successful individual.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.