So, how did Walt Disney change the world exactly?
It’s a tricky question that goes hand-in-hand with another one, “Why is Walt Disney important to American History?” The ways that he left his mark on this world are so varied and revolutionary that we couldn’t possibly sum them all up with a simple answer. To better understand his inspiring impact on life, along with all the positive ways he influenced the world, you need to learn more about the overall history of Walt Disney, his visions, motivations, and the man he was. We at Inside the Magic are looking at the most impactful, meaningful milestones and attributes from Walt Disney that made life better for everyone.
Personified the Meaning of the Self-Made Man
Walt Disney was a true example of what it means by society’s standards to be a self-made man. While he both founded and served as owner of Walt Disney Company entities (including entertainment and theme parks alike) until his untimely death in 1966, he started from the bottom and worked his way to the top!
Walter Elias Disney first got into animation when he was living in Kansas City, Missouri, following World War I, first working on film ads before going off to start his own humble production studio called “Laugh-O-Gram Studio,” in 1921. Here he worked from a converted garage using borrowed equipment.
While this first try at self-produced animation nearly broke Walt both financially and spiritually, he never gave up. And when he moved to Los Angeles, California, it was the start of lasting commercial success to come. But there were still struggles ahead, given how the first few years of producing animated shorts were under the direction of another company that eventually went behind his back.
By 1928, Walt Disney was flying solo in producing animation under his own brand. When folks ask, “How old is the Walt Disney Company?” the official answer is “100 years old.” But whether you include Disney’s Laugh-O-Gram stint into the equation or start the clock at Mickey Mouse’s inception, the answer varies. The book Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein serves as the best demonstration of how it all started with a mouse, but the reality is that it started with a man—Walt Disney.
Premiered Cartoons Synchronized with Sound
In an era when talking pictures were just starting and still existed side-by-side still-silent film productions, Walt Disney featured his new character creation, Mickey Mouse, in the first-ever animation production synchronized to sound. While Steamboat Willie, released in November of 1928, was his third Mickey Mouse production, it was the first one to experience a broad release.
Pioneered Technicolor Animation
A milestone in Walt Disney Company history was later made in 1932 when Walt Disney agreed to a two-year exclusive deal with Technicolor that enabled the Company to utilize a new three-strip color film process. The “Flowers and Trees” segment of Disney’s Silly Symphonies set a new precedent in colored animation when it debuted on July 30 of that same year and even went on to receive an Academy Award.
Presented the First Full-Length Animated Film
The release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 was another celebrated animation first. It marked the first time an entirely animated full-length feature film premiered in cinemas and earned great popularity and acclaim. It was even the highest-grossing film for two years before Gone with the Wind snagged the title in 1939. Just the same, Snow White laid the foundation for all other animation films to follow.
Put the “Theme” in Theme Parks
While the amusement park concept both predated and inspired the establishment of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, it was Walt Disney who raised the bar in quality standards within the industry. Furthermore, through his elaborate interlacing of motifs and storytelling, what he really crafted was the novelty “theme” park. Not only did he premier innovative new rides and other attractions, but he incorporated his very own Company brand cosplay Characters on location as well. Even today, the demand to meet Disneyland and Walt Disney World Characters alike (and those at other Disney destinations) is a time-tested tradition for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
Emphasized Guest Experience
Walt Disney bridged the entertainment and hospitality industries in revolutionary ways that were never before seen. But there was one cold commonality that was always shared between the two. Before Disney, the focus was always too concentrated on getting consumers to spend money and less on treating them to enjoyable experiences. Walt Disney, however, inverted the order, putting the need to present fulfilling experiences ahead of cash flow. He knew that the rest would follow, but it was more important to cater to the Guest experience first and foremost.
An Instigator for Innovation
Walt Disney was always a wealth of ideas and creative explorations. He used his brilliant mind to imagine so many new possibilities, often resulting in Disney Parks leading the world in innovative technologies and efficiency practices. He also established a team of creative individuals working within his Company explicitly tasked with bringing dreams to life for all Guests to experience. This group would later be known as Imagineers.
Universalized Humanitarian Works
Despite proving a brilliant success, Walt Disney always practiced generosity, charity, and humility. His innumerable humanitarian works are amazing and go above and beyond the efforts of other successful companies. Most of his endowments went toward helping children and the environment. He was always adamantly involved in providing a better tomorrow for folks from all walks of life.
You just can’t match all that Walt Disney contributed throughout his lifetime. But it was his example that inspired others to get into generous giving more universally.
The many works and visions of Walt Disney all support the underlying theme of dreams coming true. It was a philosophy that Walt Disney personally lived by, an accomplishment he succeeded at on so many levels. His unending encouragement for all others to do the same—following dreams and making them come true was perhaps his most impacting triumph.
Can you name any other ways that Walt Disney (the man) changed the world for the better?
This post originally appeared on Inside the Magic.