Twenty Most Influential Businessmen
Walt Disney (1901-1966)
Forbes.com Staff, 07.20.05, 12:00 PM ET
Forbes.com readers and editors rank Walt Disney as the eighth most influential businessman of all time.
Walt Disney founded the first modern media conglomerate, exploiting the ripeness of the children's market as no one had before. Like today, where the latest computer animations are more important in selling a movie than the story line, Disney made bold, expensive risks to add impressive technological achievements to each film. Example? Steamboat Willie, which introduced America to Mickey Mouse. Disney also pioneered the use of sound and color in motion pictures. His stable of fictional characters, which included Mickey, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck, generated additional profit by appearing in advertisements, books and merchandise. Disney fare next appeared on television, another profit engine. In 1955, he launched Disneyland, the first theme park. Walt Disney World followed in 1971. The theme parks were a brilliant, natural extension: They boosted profit, boosted the brand and served as a platform to promote the other media.