We know everything about Disney, right? With so many books written and so many more websites sharing insights and information, the ‘truth’ is out there, right? Not really.
Sometimes urban legend and rumor can overshadow simple fact. So here is my list of the Top Five misconceptions about Walt Disney, his company, and his characters:
DISNEY PARKS ARE ‘DYING BY DEGREES’
This is true-ish, but mostly false, for all intents and purposes. Many Internet sites point out every burned-out light bulb, notice every piece of blowing garbage, and pick away at the overall cleanliness of the parks. I admit these things are present, but no more-so, and probably less-so, than at any other competing theme park.
Are Disneyland and Walt Disney World less maintained than when they first opened? Yes. Are there less new rides being added year after year? Yes. Are there less extra offerings than in past times? Yes. Hmm, It seems I’m discrediting my own case!
But is it really that bad? Park attendance is at an all-time high with the off-season all but gone. Disney parks still have a rabid following. Internet sites about the parks are growing in number and readership. What are we to conclude from this?
That a Disney park is still better than any other theme park… period. But admittedly, that could change. Universal Studios has had enormous success with the Harry Potter franchise and many other parks have better roller coasters and thrill rides. As the demographics of theme park attendees grows younger, this could cause a change from wholesome entertainment (Disney) to more vibrant and exciting offerings (the competition).
For now though, Disney parks are not dying, by degrees or otherwise!
TOM HANKS IS WALT DISNEY’S LOVE CHILD
What, am I the only one who’s heard this rumor? To sum it up: It’s not true.
DISNEY IS JUST ABOUT THE MONEY
OK, at times, The Walt Disney Company can seem a little money-hungry. OK, maybe a lot money-hungry! Many criticize the company as having lost the focus of its founder, Walt Disney, for he himself famously said:
“You reach a point where you don’t work for money.” “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” “Money doesn’t excite me, my ideas excite me.” “Disneyland is a work of love. We did not go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.”
This orgy of evidence seems to damn the billion-dollar corporation that is Disney today. But there is something people are missing, and it’s exposed in this last quote about money from Walt Disney: “I’d say it’s been my biggest problem all my life… it’s money. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true.” (italics mine)
So with that in mind, what way do we want it? Do we want The Walt Disney Company to cut profits and make less money for its shareholders so as to appear to be more Walt-like, or do we want the magic to continue? Times have changed and things aren’t financed on a shoe-string and a handshake, like in Walt’s day. Now there are Unions demanding higher salaries, contractors with higher running expenses, skyrocketing costs of goods, and many more building codes and hoops to jump through than in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Could Disney pay their front-line Cast Members more? Yes. Does Disney need to charge so much for admission tickets? No. Could the company learn more from its founder? Yes. Are any of these things going to happen? Not likely.
But dreams cost money. Even Walt admitted that. So yes, The Walt Disney Company is about the money, because it has to be to survive in these modern times.
IT ALL STARTED WITH A MOUSE
Not quite. Oswald, whose hand you see holding the sign on the t-shirt above, would have something to say about that! But even Oswald has to take second place to Alice from the Alice Comedies, the little live-action girl who played in a cartoon world.
But even before these two competitors, Walt was working on Laugh-O-Grams, re-making old fairy tales into modern stories. Oh yeah, and he did advertising before that. So Mickey wasn’t first in the chronological sense.
But… he did ‘start’ the ascension of Walt Disney as the premier genius of animation. With Mickey Mouse came a whole new era of character and innovation that set the rest of the animation studios scrambling to keep up! And without Mickey Mouse, there wouldn’t have been a Snow White feature-length film. Without that, there wouldn’t have been a Disneyland.
So Mickey Mouse did start a lot, but he just wasn’t the very first something that Walt Disney created.
WALT DISNEY IS CRYOGENICALLY FROZEN
Picture by David Kadlubowski
This urban legend needs to die. Seriously. I heard a speaker state this as an absolute fact during a lecture once, which caused me to doubt his authority in anything else he had to say!
It is true that Walt Disney loved technology and perhaps he researched this possibility at one point, but there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive evidence to support this. I’ve read many books by people who were close to him during his last days and none mentioned cryogenic freezing as Walt’s final resting place.
His family state that he was interned, and that’s good enough for me!
So why do rumors like this get started? Perhaps it’s because people like to believe the incredible, especially if it involves a negative or strange thing about a celebrity. Walt-bashers like to use this to show how weird Walt was and as an excuse to mock him. Although Walt wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t given to unrealistic fancies. The technology he used had to be tested and true, and then perfected, before it was used anywhere in his empire. Therefore, it is very unlikely that he would have placed his very life in the hands of such an uncertain technology.
So what do you think of my list? Would you add anything? Or do you disagree with anything I’ve included? After all, I could be wrong about Tom Hanks. If so, let us know in the comment section below.
I love number 3. Even Walt knew it had to be about the money at least somewhat. When Disneyland opened, they charged $1 park admission. Yes, compared to today, that’s a pittance, but at that time, every other amusement park was FREE! People paid to ride each ride. At Disneyland, one had to pay to enter and to ride each ride. As such, park admission itself is a Walt (or maybe Roy) Disney invention, so tell me again how Walt wasn’t about the money… even magic has a price, unfortunately.
That’s a very good point! Thanks for mentioning it!