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#346 How Walt Disney Built Himself
April 22nd, 2024 | E346

What I learned from rereading Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. 


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(2:00) Disney’s key traits were raw ingenuity combined with sadistic determination.

(3:00) I had spent a lifetime with a frustrated, and often unemployed man, who hated anybody who was successful. 

Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life by Michael Schumacher. (Founders #242)

(6:00) Disney put excelence before any other consideration.

(11:00) Maybe the most important thing anyone ever said to him: You’re crazy to be a professor she told Ted. What you really want to do is draw. Ted’s notebooks were always filled with these fabulous animals. So I set to work diverting him. Here was a man who could draw such pictures. He should earn a living doing that. 

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones. (Founders #161)

(14:00) A quote about Edwin Land that would apply to Walt Disney too:

Land had learned early on that total engrossment was the best way for him to work. He strongly believed that this kind of concentrated focus could also produce extraordinary results for others. Late in his career, Land recalled that his “whole life has been spent trying to teach people that intense concentration for hour after hour can bring out in people resources they didn’t know they had.”  A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War by Ronald Fierstein. (Founders #134)

(15:00) My parents objected strenuously, but I finally talked them into letting me join up as a Red Cross ambulance driver. I had to lie about my age, of course. 

In my company was another fellow who had lied about his age to get in. He was regarded as a strange duck, because whenever we had time off and went out on the town to chase girls, he stayed in camp drawing pictures.

His name was Walt Disney.

Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's by Ray Kroc. (Founders #293)

(20:00) Walt Disney had big dreams. He had outsized aspirations.

(22:00) A quote from Edwin Land that would apply to Walt Disney too: My motto is very personal and may not fit anyone else or any other company. It is: Don't do anything that someone else can do.

(24:00) Walt Disney seldom dabbled. Everyone who knew him remarked on his intensity; when something intrigued him, he focused himself entirely as if it were the only thing that mattered.

(29:00) He had the drive and ambition of 10 million men.

(29:00) I'm going to sit tight. I have the greatest opportunity I've ever had, and I'm in it for everything.

(31:00) He seemed confident beyond any logical reason for him to be so. It appeared that nothing discouraged him.

(31:00) You have to take the hard knocks with the good breaks in life.

(32:00) Nothing wrong with my aim, just gotta change the target. — Jay Z

(35:00) He sincerely wanted to be counted among the best in his craft.

(43:00) He didn't want to just be another animation producer. He wanted to be the king of animation. Disney believed that quality was his only real advantage.

(47:00) Walt Disney wanted domination. Domination that would make his position unassailable.

(49:00) Disney was always trying to make something he could be proud of.

(50:00) We have a habit of divine discontent with our performance. It is an antidote to smugness.

Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness: Being Very Good Is No Good,You Have to Be Very, Very, Very, Very, Very Good by David Ogilvy and Ogivly & Mather.  (Founders #343)

(53:00) While it is easy, of course, for me to celebrate my doggedness now and say that it is all you need to succeed, the truth is that it demoralized me terribly. I would crawl into the house every night covered in dust after a long day, exhausted and depressed because that day's cyclone had not worked. There were times when I thought it would never work, that I would keep on making cyclone after cyclone, never going forwards, never going backwards, until I died.

Against the Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson (Founders #300)

(56:00) He doesn't place a premium on collecting friends or socializing: "I don't believe in 50 friends. I believe in a smaller number. Nor do I care about society events. It's the most senseless use of time. When I do go out, from time to time, it's just to convince myself again that I'm not missing a lot."

The Red Bull Story by Wolfgang Fürweger (Founders #333)

(1:02:00) Steve was at the center of all the circles.

He made all the important product decisions.

From my standpoint, as an individual programmer, demoing to Steve was like visiting the Oracle of Delphi.

The demo was my question. Steve's response was the answer.

While the pronouncements from the Greek Oracle often came in the form of confusing riddles, that wasn't true with Steve.

He was always easy to understand.

He would either approve a demo, or he would request to see something different next time.

Whenever Steve reviewed a demo, he would say, often with highly detailed specificity, what he wanted to happen next.

He was always trying to ensure the products were as intuitive and straightforward as possible, and he was willing to invest his own time, effort, and influence to see that they were.

Through looking at demos, asking for specific changes, then reviewing the changed work again later on and giving a final approval before we could ship, Steve could make a product turn out like he wanted.

Much like the Greek Oracle, Steve foretold the future.

Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda. (Founders #281)

(1:07:00) He griped that when he hired veteran animators he had to “put up with their Goddamn poor working habits from doing cheap pictures.” He believed it was easier to start from scratch with young art students and indoctrinate them in the Disney system.

(1:15:00) I don’t want to be relagated to the cartoon medium. We have worlds to conquer here.

(1:17:00) Advice Henry Ford gave Walt Disney about selling his company: If you sell any of it you should sell all of it.

(1:23:00) He kept a slogan pasted inside of his hat: You can’t top pigs with pigs. (A reminder that we have to keep blazing new trails.)

(1:25:00) Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow.

(1:33:00) It is the detail. If we lose the detail, we lose it all.


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