I don’t really know how many times I’ve heard a Disney employee say: “I think Walt would have liked this (or that)!” But I think it’s safe to say that it happens often. A new Promotion comes along, and it’s just what Walt would have thought up. A new Attraction is built, and it’s just what Walt would have designed. A new balloon color is chosen, and all of a sudden, it’s Walt’s favorite color!
Top Executives and Imagineers alike are apt to claim that they are certain that they have Walt’s stamp of approval. But if Walt Disney were here today, would he approve of the Modern Disney?
To answer that, we need to look at another question: Did Walt Disney approve of everything in his day? After reading more books on the man than I can remember, I feel safe in saying ‘No’.
Starting in the early 1930’s, Walt always argued with his brother Roy about how to build their fledgling company. And almost always got his way. On into the 1940’s, Walt pushed the boundaries of Animation his way, often against the will of his staff. Many of these early Animators claim that the only way to get your idea approved was to make Walt think that it was actually his idea. On into the 1950’s and television, Walt reinvented the medium to reflect his vision of what it could be. And then went on to reinvent the Amusement Park, turning it into his own thing: The Theme Park.
I think we get the idea!
Walt Disney did things his own way. So if he walked down Main Street at Walt Disney World (which he never got to do as he died in 1966, with the Park opening in 1971) one must believe that the first thing he would do would be to notice some little thing that should have been ‘plussed’. Then he would likely launch into an elaborate description of what the whole thing could, or should, be!
Does this mean that Walt would disapprove of the Modern Disney?
He definitely hated corporate structure, even in his day. So it is likely that he wouldn’t enjoy how involved the Hierarchy of his company has become. But I believe that as he would look at the overall results of his legacy, he would be proud of how it has all turned out. But would he be satisfied?
He might look at Soarin’ and say: “Why not have it fly over the world?” He might look at Splash Mountain and ask: “Where’s Uncle Remus?” He might look at… just about anything and say: “We can make that better!” And knowing him, he could! So the good thing about worrying if Walt would approve is that the final product is bound to be the best it can be, without Walt’s direct supervision. But can we ever claim that Walt would approve, without even one suggestion to improve it?
No. But kudos to the Modern Disney for trying to gain Walt’s approval anyway!