Editor’s Note: Please give a warm MiceChat welcome to Keith Mahne with his new “A Few Questions With…” series. You may know Keith from elsewhere in the Disney online community where he has his own blog, Disney Avenue. Today, Keith shares a great one-on-one he had with Disney Legend Jack Lindquist who was Disneyland’s first marketing manager, the man behind Disney Dollars, and eventually served as the President of Disneyland. Enjoy!
Welcome to A Few Questions With… where I interview popular figures in the Disney stratosphere. To start, I’d like to share with you a short interview I did with Jack Lindquist right around the time his book In Service to the Mouse came out. I hope you enjoy Jack’s responses as much as I have and I will continue to post other interviews as well.
Keith Mahne (KM): What was your first week like working for the Walt Disney Company?
Jack Lindquist (JL): Just a series of several instances of interest, intrigue, excitement, enchantment, perseverance, personality clashes, serendipity, desire and determination. It was scary meeting new people, experiencing and discovering new things.
KM: What was the best thing about working for the Walt Disney Company back then?
JL: Being involved with a totally new concept in entertainment, there wasn’t any book to go by; you got a chance to write a new page in the book every day. The best thing going for us was “Ignorance”; we didn’t know something couldn’t be done so we just did it. Walt gave us freedom to try things and experiment. You didn’t get fired if something didn’t work or if it failed; you just didn’t do it again.
KM: What’s your hope for the future of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts?
JL: That it maintains, lives up to, and expands on its’ unique position as a world acclaimed leader in theme parks; as well as a global force in the total universe of Eetertainment. Also, that it remains true to its legacy and heritage.
KM: Do you have faith in the current leadership of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts?
JL: Yes I do but I think what I think is not really relevant. The Walt Disney Company faces a completely different set of problems and circumstances than I faced during my tenure with the Company. The world is so much more sophisticated, small, diverse, instant gratification oriented, and communication challenged. How the Disney leadership faces these challenges within the framework and core of their heritage and legacy is the issue as it relates to their future.
KM: How does one work their way into the executive level for the WDC in your opinion?
JL: One should learn your job, learn your company and learn as much as you can about every division in your company. Be an innovator; in your job, in your company. Believe and fight for your ideas; they will only see the light of day if you sell them. If you are lucky someday you will find yourself alone on the stage. Now is your show so you better be damn well prepared. One last thing, leave the stage while there is still applause; don’t wait until people are yawning and half-asleep waiting for you to leave.
KM: What is the best advice you could give someone wanting to become involved in a leadership role within the Parks as you have?
JL: Don’t give up on your dream. Believe in yourself!
KM: How do you feel about an Avatar themed land coming to Animal Kingdom?
JL: Big job, James Cameron is a genius who is tough, opinionated, and smart and delivers. John Lasseter is also a genius who is tough, opinionated, and smart and delivers. Together they could make it happen. Together they could be a disaster. I wish the best of luck to everybody.
KM: How did you feel about the original Disney California Adventure and how do you feel about it now with its current enhancements?
JL: DCA was only half a park, at most. I believe the current enhancements changed that.
KM: How often do you visit the parks?
JL: Three to four times per year.
KM: What changes, if any, would you like to see take place in the parks?
JL: I would direct everyone to check out chapter six in my book.
KM: What was it like, to have what many would consider the BEST job in the world, being president of Disneyland?
JL: It was hard work but I had a great staff. It was the most fun and best job ever. It was like having a little Tom Sawyer, Willie Wonka, Prince and the Pauper, and What makes Sammy Run all mixed together.
KM: What was it like to be around Walt and what was the biggest thing you’ve taken away from that experience?
JL: Well, the biggest thing I didn’t realizing until years later was that I was in the presence of greatness.
KM: Besides all of his accomplishments, what in your opinion was the number one thing that made Walt Disney so special to all of us today?
JL: His vision, his self confidence, his willingness to back up his ideas, whether it was “Snow White” or Disneyland with his money, his reputation; against all the so-called experts in Hollywood, Wall Street, and the Financial community and the ability to make us feel like a child again, if only for a moment.
KM: Finally, what is your fondest memory of you and Walt?
JL: Every moment together, long or short, alone or in a group, in the Park or at the studio or at the opening of Anaheim Stadium or on an aircraft carrier for the premiere of “Lt. Robinson Crusoe” or at the opening and dedication of It’s A Small World at the New York World’s Fair and especially at Disneyland.
I want to thank Jack Lindquist and his daughter Kim for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little insight into his 38 years with Disney and working alongside Walt. These short answers are just a tiny bit of information compared to the myriad of stories that can be found in Jack’s book In Service to the Mouse. I have personally read it and can tell you it is one of my favorite Disney insider books. Each chapter is filled with new and exciting stories that I have never heard anywhere else before. Jack also pioneered the way for several Disney ventures and items such as the Disney Dollar. So if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, you’re going to want to run as fast as you can to the nearest bookstore or go to and grab a copy for yourself or for any Disney fan you know!
Thanks for reading,