WALT’S WORLD (continued)

By Graham Hill

He’s a genius at using someone else’s genius is how one animator long ago, described Walt Disney.

But to the public – Walt did it all!

In all of Hollywood, the Disney studio was unique and special, in that it only ever had and continues to have one single star –and it’s not Mickey Mouse! The studio now known as “The Walt Disney Company,” keeps Walt alive not by the laughable rumor of being cryogenically frozen, which even Michael Eisner somewhat half expected to find when he became CEO in 1984, but by mythology and a corporate revisionist history.

Once in a while at the annual stockholders meeting, someone will ask about Song of the South, the 1946 live-action and animated feature, based on the Uncle Remus stories. Even though the studio under Eisner re-released it theatrically in 1986, and soon afterwards, bowing to political correctness, had it banned from distribution in the United States.

Seems even the highly praised and Academy award winning “Zipedee do dah” feel good picture is now a victim of hypocritical and confusing studio policies. Especially since it’s available in other platforms. Of course they’ve “corrected” the cartoons as well, just like over at Warner’s home video.

So what would Walt think of all this, and the way the empire he created is ruled today?

Well –- certainly he wouldn’t go for all the political correctness that has gone beyond all reason and common sense. But he would’ve totally embraced all the computer technology that has taken over animation.

As for his studio buying out the ABC Television network, the same network that partnered with him in making Disneyland a reality. The same network he would have to buy out as a partner a few years later. Walt would have just loved that irony.

However –- he would really be turning in his grave over the corporate “compensation” Eisner  and (current chief exec) Robert Iger (pictured above to the right) and others have made off “his” name and not their own. As for the “idiot nephew” Roy E. Disney, (so dubbed by one of Walt’s trusted executives E. Cardon Walker) becoming the richest person in the whole Disney family –- well, that would make him cough a lot more than his lifetime tobacco addiction ever did.

It is said that Walt, to his employees, really became more introverted in his thinking sometime during the late 1940’s. The animator’s strike had left a deep resentment and a mistrust that would never heal. Walt now sought relief and solace not only in his hobby of collecting miniatures but in model trains.

From an impressive layout in his office, it grew to a one-eighth scale railroad in the backyard of his new Holmby Hills home. That in turn got enlarged even more with Disneyland.

A psychiatrist would probably say that it was all about Walt’s sense of control and perfection. Of wanting to create his own retreat, his own world modeled on a sense of order and predictability, going back to the turn of the century to his boyhood home and idyllic setting in Marceline, Missouri.

For his railroading “genius” Walt turned to studio machinist Roger Broggie, who hand-built the ‘Carolwood Pacific Railroad” as his personal backyard layout came to be known. Studio animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston were longtime rail enthusiasts, who also added fuel to his new obsession.

Of course Walt loved to get his hands dirty as well, along with the rest of them. It was pure therapy for him –- a boy with the biggest and about to own the ultimate world’s largest “train-set.” A full-size train-set that would circle Disneyland itself and be fully owned by Walt, but leased back to the studio owned park.

Walt’s mind was certainly rooted in the past, but he was also looking to the future and the new technologies to come. It was the everyday routine of living in the present and dealing with real life that seemed to bore him.

As rich as he was his needs were simplistic, really –- that is he loved chili and beans over gourmet, but still traveled first-class. Still rich people have been creating their own environments, their own worlds for centuries. British royalty has a whole bunch of exclusive Disneyland’s, but their park rides are on horses and in land-rovers.

 

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