The August Florida heat did not bother me. That was the first thing that was unexpected. In part, we scheduled our park visits for earlier in morning and later in the day. We kept moving...walking 8 hours a day using our time efficiently as planned months before by my daughter. In spite of people everywhere in overwhelming numbers, Disney makes it work. Disney does "people" best.
I became curious about my ability to tolerate the heat and the overwhelming numbers of people. Who is Walt Disney? Who was this person who created this consistently playful, joyful tone to transport you beyond the discomfort of the hear and now? Who was behind creating Disney World as an emotional focal point for families - mother's dressing their daughters as princesses, mothers crying as they meet "their" daughter's fantasy; destination weddings; a senior couple reporting that it is their annual vacation.
The questions kept coming:
How can one person set a tone for generations? And, just how did he do it?
Who is this person who manifested this international human phenomenon?
What kind of family did he come from?
What went into his upbeat resilient attitude and his ability to transmit it to others?
Walt Disney was the fourth child of five children. The first three boys were born close together, followed by 8 years later when Walt and his sister were born. Roy who was the youngest of the older three boys and Walt had a special life long relationship. Walt was the creative one and Roy had the financial savvy. This team was essential to making the Disney enterprise happen. Walt produced images that are recognizable around the world. Mickey Mouse brings a swoon to South Americans where Disney produced animated movies in the 1940s. His reach is global with theme parks in Paris, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
Walt Disney was not only a producer of animations but imagineer of what people would enjoy. Being a pioneer in the field of animation technologies and creating a movie studio was a significant contribution. Walt Disney also created places, a context for being, theme parks beyond anyone's imagination. He said that the idea came from his experience with his own daughters - the desire to create a place where the entire family can enjoy themselves together.
Creating Disneyland and Disney World involved significant risk. Elias Disney, Roy and Walt's father was an unsuccessful risk taker. His track record was steeped in failure taking the family on a financial roller coaster during Walt's early life. This early family history prompted me to wonder what went into Walt Disney's ability? Was his success related to his adapting to his father's failures? And if so, how? Was he born into a fortunate position in his family? How did Walt Disney develop the resilience to persist through his early financial low, the stealing of his intellectual property, to manifest an attitude that people experience when they watch his cartoons, movies or attend the theme parks?
Walt Disney's gift was beyond his artistic portfolio. He created an emotional environment for families to see and be beyond themselves. Some might suggest that he ran away from problems into fantasy. His characters face difficulties - Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Bambi - survive and thrive. I would suggest that he chose to focus on play, joy, challenge and overcoming it. Not as an escape but as a reference point beyond the routine. I came back with an attitude of possibility and resilience in the face of challenges. That is a powerful impact from one man and a vacation that went far beyond what I expected.¨