This is a terrific discussion. With regards to the "lead vs. follow" debate I think one of Walt's heroes, Henry Ford said it best:
“If I had asked my customers what they wanted before I built my first car, they would have said they wanted a faster horse.”
Walt's entire career can be summed up by looking for that thing that nobody else was doing and to "get his foot into the door". The MBA's who run the creative challenges for Disney are focused on taking what they know is succeeding elsewhere and putting a "Disney" spin on it. Sometimes it works (Splash Mountain is directly a result of Knotts log ride and Tower of Terror is directly a result of that horrible drop ride at Six Flags that doesn't exist anymore). Sometimes it doesn't (I will let you fill in the blanks).
As for the stores, my wife misses buying Pendelton Fabrics in Frontierland.