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  1. #31

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Quote Originally Posted by fo'c's'le swab
    Walt's 'company' did not make him out to be a larger than life figure--Walt did that on his own...
    While Walt most certainly started the "larger than life" strategy, the company and several individuals at the company certainly carried it on, possibly even beyond what Walt had envisioned.

    I think there were many aspects of the public "Walt Disney" that Walt didn't like and found to be a burden, while at the same time he relished many other aspects of his notoriety and carefully crafted public persona.

    I always thought this biography agreement (crafted by Walt's numero uno legal beagle, Gunther Lessing) was an interesting document illustrating how carefully Walt and the Studio controlled the public perception of "Walt Disney." Especially paragraphs 2 and 3 on page 2.









    With such restrictions and rights to delete, amend, and otherwise totally control...you could bet the final published results would most likely be a very incomplete and perhaps even totally distorted view of what the man was actually like. Such restrictions placed on authors and journalists usually result in what is called a "fluff piece." Or basically a company approved bio carefully repackaged as something more.

    Personally, I think that by the time of Walt's mid-career...his company had such a finely tuned publicity machine running regarding "Walt Disney"...that it functioned almost on autopilot...requiring very little personal suggestion or action on the part of Walt anymore. And this publicity machine also acted as a defense mechanism of sorts...making truly objective assessments of Walt the man...very difficult.

    Some of that still holds true to this day, IMHO.


  2. #32

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Great thread Swab. I have often said regarding my adoration for Pirates is that I enjoy BOTH the idealized myths we have created around them AND the actual history. I think some folks have hit on this as well. As you have stated, Walt helped create the larger than life image that we have continued to inflate and while you disagree with using that as a basis for saving or protecting some attractions, it DOES do the trick when needed. I think leveraging the icon also helps drive some creative decisions and policies as well, meaning that one hopes that many Imagineers have in the back of their mind, a nagging voice or question that they ask themselves, "what would Walt think?" Whether they are answering that based on what Walt would ACTUALLY say, or what the ICONIC Walt they have conjured up in their minds would say, matters little.

    I do think it's necessary to study the actual history, to better understand what constraints and obstacles were overcome in order to do some of the things they did to create Disneyland, but I also believe that looking at the park as a business really is only half the equation.

    It's extremely important that people both within and from the outside recognize what kind of business they are looking at. It's not SIMPLY a ticket selling and retail business, Disneyland is in the business of creating a particular experience...and while some decisions made can effect the bottom line in a positive direction in the short term, they can ultimately hurt the business they are actually in, in the long term. (I'm thinking of the homogenization of the retail offerings with this one.)

    When I go to the park, I try to have moments where I just let myself get caught up in the experience, but I also have moments where I do apply a critical eye to what's around me and sometimes with mixed results. But by trying to understand the many forces that are shaping my experience, it helps me to often appreciate the steps the company has taken to try and create a great visit.

  3. #33

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyIPresume View Post
    take Walter Knott for example. In many ways he was a creative genious just like Walt Disney was. But his company never made him out to be a larger than life figure, so while he created wonderful rides and attractions they never were at the level of Disney's.
    Quote Originally Posted by Opus1guy View Post
    While Walt most certainly started the "larger than life" strategy, the company and several individuals at the company certainly carried it on, possibly even beyond what Walt had envisioned.
    Mr. Knott did do a wonderful job, but Walt Disney's greatest skill was as a storyteller who would take a great idea and add to it. Knott's always lacked an overarching story. Disney built that story, and as Opus1guy's post shows, made a point of building upon and expanding the story.

    In many ways this is a good thing. I miss the old Knotts and what it was. If Knott had propagated and purpetuated his story the way Disney did, the Knotts management after Knott would have had a direction.

    Disney's current management is still building on what Walt and Roy started, applying those ideas to new media and businesses.

    The myth helps the parks more than it hurts.

  4. #34

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Quote Originally Posted by Pirate Lover 68 View Post
    When I go to the park, I try to have moments where I just let myself get caught up in the experience, but I also have moments where I do apply a critical eye to what's around me...
    I do something very similar, which I wrote about here in another thread just 2 months ago:

    Quote Originally Posted by Opus1guy
    As far as personal guest experience goes...I tend to wear different "hats" when I visit Disneyland. Sometimes (usually when I go with others) I'm there for fun and tend to overlook or ignore flaws when I see them. Other times (usually when I visit the Park alone)...I tend to keep a more critical eye open.


    Quote Originally Posted by Yendorb View Post
    The myth helps the parks more than it hurts.
    I agree.
    Last edited by Opus1guy; 02-06-2008 at 11:22 AM.

  5. #35

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Good post, Opus. With the tight rein WD held, you can bet his 'company' did precious little without his direct approval--especially when dealing with his personal experiences and likeness. If Walt didn't want to be the 'larger-than-life' figurehead, the 'fearless leader', he wouldn't have been. Great document--it 'made' this thread for me!

  6. #36

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Quote Originally Posted by fo'c's'le swab View Post
    Good post, Opus. With the tight rein WD held, you can bet his 'company' did precious little without his direct approval--especially when dealing with his personal experiences and likeness. If Walt didn't want to be the 'larger-than-life' figurehead, the 'fearless leader', he wouldn't have been. Great document--it 'made' this thread for me!
    I wish I can read Opus' document. The image on my blackberry is too blurry. I'll have to wait til I get home.

    Anyway. I think Walt and the WDC creating a larger than life image is a good thing because it gives future designers a basic outline of what is and what is not acceptable for future development.

    Some understand this and others don't Indy is a well themed and detailed attraction but slapping a Mickey head on a roller coaster doesn't magically turn a basic thrill ride into the Matterhorn.

    Those who don't understand Walt -- even his myth -- are prone to slapping Mickey faces over everything and expecting it to turn into a classic. Those who know the myth at least have a ballpark figure to go by.

  7. #37

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Something I was thinking about. Walt Disney may have been a creative genius, and his creations may be absolutely amazing. But if what he built wasn't profitable then the castle drawbridge would have gone up shortly after his death. The fact that so many "original" Disneyland attractions remain is a testament to his creativity, their longevity, and the public's love and adoration of their own childhood. One of the few things I enjoyed about the 50th were the little "Class of 55" plaques on the original attractions. They may have been modified over the years, but the fact is... they are still there... they are still entertaining people just as they did when Walt was alive. So regardless of which you chose, Walt the man, or Walt the legend, his creations are a testament to his creativity, and the creativity of those around him. That, to me, was the greatest quality of Walt, his ability to not only be creative, but surround himself with equally creative people and channel everyone's creativity into a finished product.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  8. #38

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    The myth is certainly more asset than liability, that's for sure. This 'larger than life' persona surrounding WD unquestionably adds more weight to his authority over the Park, even from the grave. This is as it should be, IMO. The 'myth' should not be discarded, merely recognized--I don't think this spoils the magic, or its effectiveness as a stabilizing touchstone or solid policy foundation in the least. But do the ones in charge feel as such?

  9. #39

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Opus1 -
    Your postings are always fabulous. How did you collect or gather all of these artifacts ? Truly amazing!

  10. #40

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    The thing I like about the letter is that it is written with a tone that suggests Walt himself was writing it, even though there is such a tight legal fence being built that only a lawyer could have drafted it. But in the end Walt signs it as if it was his personal creation, much like he did with the many anomated features his studio produced, nothing wrong with that mind you, just another sign of how much effort Walt put into creating the myth.
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  11. #41

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    I think in many ways (but not all)...Disney has learned that too much control of public information (such as regarding Walt Disney in the past) can backfire and create more problems than it was set out to prevent.

    Because of all the fluff pieces, complimentary hack jobs, and pit bull attempts to control all media regarding Walt Disney in the past...authors and journalists started to imagine and write about Walt as if there must be terrible things they were trying to hide. Dark Prince stuff started flying all over the place. Most of it speculation or just plain fiction (Walt frozen, etc), mainly because getting to the facts was almost impossible due to Disney's over-control and protectionism.

    Diane Disney Miller (Walt's daughter) has said as much. That they finally realized the family's (and the company's) extreme privacy and silence regarding Walt as a real man and his real private life, was hurting more than it helped. So they both started opening up to interviews and creating a museum, etc, etc...so that the real man could be better known and understood. And also supply rebuttal to all the distortions, misinformation and falsehoods being put forth in some of the media.

    I would opinion that there is still a lot of controlled release of info about Walt going on today...but it's certainly not as much as in the past and both the family and the company seem to be more relaxed and open than they have in the past.

    A similar lesson was learned with Club 33. Club 33 used to be so secretive and private, and Disney refused to talk about it other than to basically acknowledge its existence...that all sorts of wild articles and stories about the place started to appear in the Press. Reporters couldn't get the info they wanted first-hand, so they went with and had to rely on only what they could dig up. And that was second and third and forth hand info that was very often well off base or totally false. A place for drunken orgys and such nonsense as that.

    So in order to put a halt to all the speculation and wild rumors being reported about it, in 1991 Disney finally invited a reporter from the Los Angeles Times to visit Club 33 and interview Disney management about what it really was. This was the first time Disney ever sanctioned any detailed public publicity about Club 33 in the Press.

    And for the most part, it worked. Disney was able to largely stop the flow of the really inaccurate stories about the place appearing in the press, with most subsequent stories on the Club that appeared around the country, referring to the LA Times piece instead of wild speculation or rumors. Although even to this day, many of those early "legends" about Club 33 are still circulated and believed.

    But even those examples of openness, are still forms of control. But generally they learned their lessons that too much control is usually...or eventually can be...a bad thing.



    Quote Originally Posted by ravencroft View Post
    Opus1 -
    Your postings are always fabulous. How did you collect or gather all of these artifacts ? Truly amazing!
    All manner of ways. The Opus Archives consists of everything from personally acquired-at-the-time originals, to images pinched off various web sites, to items sent to me by others. This biography agreement may have come from one of those autograph auction sites. I don't really recall. As I've said before...the Opus Archives are vast, but totally unorganized!

    Last edited by Opus1guy; 02-06-2008 at 05:42 PM.

  12. #42

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    Re: DL's 'Man Behind the Curtain'

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    Something I was thinking about. Walt Disney may have been a creative genius, and his creations may be absolutely amazing. But if what he built wasn't profitable then the castle drawbridge would have gone up shortly after his death. The fact that so many "original" Disneyland attractions remain is a testament to his creativity, their longevity, and the public's love and adoration of their own childhood. One of the few things I enjoyed about the 50th were the little "Class of 55" plaques on the original attractions. They may have been modified over the years, but the fact is... they are still there... they are still entertaining people just as they did when Walt was alive. So regardless of which you chose, Walt the man, or Walt the legend, his creations are a testament to his creativity, and the creativity of those around him. That, to me, was the greatest quality of Walt, his ability to not only be creative, but surround himself with equally creative people and channel everyone's creativity into a finished product.

    No one is arguing that Walt wasn't creative, and a good manager of people. I think the OP was trying to state the case for the need to separate the man from the myth. The man can IMHO stand on his own. The myth creates a barrier that makes it hard for us to learn from what Walt did. The myth truly is the curtain that causes us to be unable to see how he did it.

    I mean does anyone really believe that Walt drew every frame of even one of his animated features? It seems to be that Walt probably did not create Mickey Mouse, but he recognized his potential and he seemed to be really good at quickly rating the potential ideas. He also was really good in a nontechnical was at figuring out what was "wrong" with an attraction. It may well be that Walt's true genius was as the ultimate editor.

    I would love to see a well researched biography dealing with how Walt and Roy worked together. These two managed to not only work together for over 30 years but they built the origin of a media conglomerate and provided it with perhaps the most valuable product inventory in the world. Yet almost nothing is available on how these two did it.
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