The Great and Powerful Walt Disney

I’m not sure I use Twitter correctly. I get bombarded with feeds from the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, etc., All of these are solid publications that have the tendency to produce click bait in droves. I’m sure they have tons of data on what articles get views and what don’t. Looking at my feed, each understand I love bulleted lists on how to work faster/harder, change daily habits, and advance the career. These aren’t thought provoking articles (subscribe to LongReads if you are looking for these). I know it. Still, I can’t help myself, which means I’m the enabler. That’s why they make this stuff.

Well, I recently read/clicked how Tony Stark (at least how Robert Downey Jr. played him in Iron Man) was like Elon Musk. It was the perfect article that combined fiction, worker productivity, and history. I loved it, even nodded my head a bit. Yes, there are similarities between the two. Elon played an integral part of the (1) Pay-Pal mafia, (2) built an electric car company, (3) recently theorized how to make Mars inhabitable, and (4) open sourced the hyper-loop to drive the next generation of public transportation. I didn’t even mention his little rocket company. Amazing man. He’s as big and bold as the fictional inventor who built the Iron Man suit. No question.

But after visiting Hollywood Studios in Walt-Disney World (WDW), I think we maybe missing Mr. Stark’s original inspiration. Iron Man has been around a long time. While walking through the Disney Museum, I noticed how Tony Stark even looks like Walt a little (flashbacks to Stark’s father even more so). We often paint Disney as the man who created a mouse, but he did so much more. So, using my own bulleted list take the following (all at the museum):

(1) The multi-plane camera, The video for how this is put together is amazing to me. Today, we can pull together various paintings/pictures in Photoshop for this type of layering effect, but solving this problem in the early days of animation took more than a little thought.

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”

Walt Disney

(2) Cameras for unveiling Epcot, For the original vision for Epcot, the plans called for a rocket ship, a means to grow different types of plants, and prototypes in transportation. Ultimately, it was a place to show off American ingenuity. Walt was a fan of the World’s Fair, and this was a means to keep it going. Today, Epcot has become more of a museum to the idea of what the future could ultimately be. What would it look like today if Walt was still alive? Would it only be about rides and entertainment? Or, would it be something more? Through the years, we’ve turned Disney into an entertainment company, but I like to think its true vision is more than that. It’s a place to imagine/ask the question, “What can the world achieve?”

As Walt originally showed off the plans of Epcot, I think that came through loud and clear. I can’t remember which Iron Man movie it was, but Tony kept staring at the plans his father put together. When he stepped back to look at the bigger picture, those plans were the energy device he built to later save himself. That’s what Walt was trying to convey and put forward at a much grander scale.

(3) Automatons, The Abe Lincoln demonstration at the World’s Fairy is a bit chilling. The Hollywood Studio museum has one of the Automatons on display. It’s a bit eerie to look at the insides of the robot. Hard to believe this was put together in the 1960s. Today, you can see these working and on display at the Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom. The likeness for all presidents impresses.

Walt kept pushing and built a company that still stands for ingenuity, not only in animation but in other medium as well. The movie Tomorrowland deftly nods at Walt’s vision of the future, what it could have been. Self-Building cities. Everlasting chocolate shakes. Rocket packs. Portals. Some called this movie a flop. I like to think people just didn’t get it. It was a nod to the dreamers. And nobody dreamed like Walt Disney. Maybe, somebody will make that Iron Man suit one day. Dream. Research. Inspire. Build. I’m rooting for all of us. Thank you, Walt. You provided the spark.

Other Notes:

Disney Hollywood Studio, One Man’s Dream museum. Find the original Abe Lincoln Automaton.

Note, the picture is taken from inside the museum.