There’s no doubt Walt Disney is an American Icon. What he was able to achieve in his 66 years on the planet shaped the American psyche in ways that we’re still just beginning to understand (see virtual reality for instance). I always find it hard when just 10 days after celebrating his birth, we find ourselves observing his much too early death.
Director Jon Favreau, who is working on a movie called “Magic Kingdom” recently wrote an essay about the influence of Walt for the LA Times.
Walt flirted with bankruptcy his whole life. He took every success and let it ride. Both financially and creatively. And the secret sauce was always technology. We think of “Steamboat Willie” as an old timey black-and-white cartoon but, at the time, it was bleeding-edge tech.
For most Disney fans there’s nothing really new presented in the essay, but it’s nice to see the passion in Favreau. It’s a passion we Disney fans all recognize.
Speaking of passion, there’s a lot of anger in the fan base right now about how the Walt Disney Company is dropping ‘Walt’ from its brand marketing. As if “Disney The Muppets” instead of “Walt Disney’s The Muppets” somehow tarnishes the legacy that Walt left for us all. That’s not to say fans shouldn’t get upset when the company deviates widely from Walt’s vision. There are good fights to be had for sure. I’m just not sure elevating the Disney name to a global brand on the same level as Coca-cola is one of them.
Walt’s real legacy was the drive to be the best, live our dreams, sometimes risking it all, with every resource at our disposal. No matter what the company that bears his name does going forward, the flame Walt ignited will never expire. More than ever it is up to each of us, not the company, to keep it stoked. As fans it’s time we start acting like it.