Walt Disney

Early Life

Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in the Hermosa section of Chicago, Illinois. His father was Elias Disney, an Irish-Canadian, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, was German-American. Disney was one of five children, four boys and a girl. He lived most of his childhood in Marceline, Missouri, where he began drawing, painting and selling pictures to neighbors and family friends. In 1911, his family moved to Kansas City, where Disney developed a love for trains. His uncle, Mike Martin, was a train engineer who worked the route between Fort Madison, Iowa and Marceline. Later, Disney would work a summer job with the railroad, selling snacks and newspapers to travelers.

Disney attended McKinley High School in Chicago, where he took drawing and photography classes and was a contributing cartoonist for the school paper. At night, he took courses at the Chicago Art Institute. When Disney was 16, he dropped out of school to join the Army but was rejected for being underage. Instead, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to France for a year to drive an ambulance.

Fun Fact:

"Disney" is not Walt's original family name - it was D'Isigny. Can you imagine planning a trip to D'Isignyland?

How You Can Use Disney’s Creativity Strategy

You’ve probably realized by now that Disney’s approach to creativity isn’t limited to animated feature films – it’s a strategy for success in any creative endeavor.

Every creative project needs to incorporate the three aspects of creative imagination (The Dreamer), practical action (The Realist) and critical refinement (The Critic).

As an individual, you need to have some capability in all three roles. Most of us are naturally stronger in one or two roles, and decidedly weaker in a third. The first step is having the self-awareness to recognize this. And the next is to commit to developing the skills necessary for that role.

For each project you work on, make sure you cover all three bases. These questions may help you:

The Dreamer

  • What are you trying to make or achieve?
  • What excites and inspires you about it?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and do anything you like – what would you create? How would it look? What could you do with it? How would that make you feel?

The Realist

  • What resources do you need to make this happen – people, money, materials and technology?
  • What is your plan?
  • What obstacles will you face? How will you get around them?

The Critic
At critical stages of the project, step back from your work and ask yourself:    

  • How does this look? What about the big picture? And the fine detail? How do I feel when I
    examine it?    
  • How would it look to a customer? A user? A member of the audience? The client? An expert in this field?  
  • Is this the best it can be? What would make it better?

Beware of getting the roles mixed up! Creatives may block themselves by introducing the Critic too early – before the Dreamer had a chance to finish the first draft or the prototype. The Critic was tearing the work to shreds before it had even been put together! Things go much more smoothly when you allow the Dreamer to put together a rough draft, and then ask the Critic to have his say.

Remember the movie, Meet the Robinsons?  The film is loosely based on characters from the children's book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, by William Joyce.  Lewis lives in an orphanage and is attempting to invent a time machine so he can meet his mother.  He meets Cornelius and they embark on a journey among other things to try to meet Lewis’ mother.  I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t seen the movie.  It is worth the time to watch.  There is a quote at the end of the movie, as the movie ends.  It is attributed to Walt Disney (see above) which is the Lewis/Cornelius' motto throughout the movie, "Keep Moving Forward."  This illustrates the goal of never giving up but continually pressing on irrespective the current failures and foreboding odds.  Just like Walt Disney, he kept moving forward.  And just look where it took him!


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