The Disney Brothers Studio was developed by Walt and Roy Disney in the 1920’s. It’s important to realize that the company can be thought of as two companies. The first is the more popular theme parks and family entertainment. The second is a media conglomerate. People are familiar with the name Walt Disney and to a lesser degree, his brother Roy. One person, many are not familiar with but is still quite integral to part of Disney’s success, is Van France.
Van is responsible for creating Disney University. This is the training wing of the company that helps to give employees the necessary tools to make visiting Disney theme parks a personal experience, which the company prides itself on to this day.
How the Company Started
Walt had become interested in illustration at an early age and took art classes early on. He was hired as an illustrator at the age of 18.
He moved out to California to start up his own studio with his brother in the 1920’s. Both he and his brother came from an average middle-class family. No great wealth but not impoverished, either.
Walt had always been entrepreneurial in nature and had newspaper routes as a kid and sold his illustrations to family and friends. He dropped out of high school to continue in his endeavours. He was rejected from joining the Army because he was too young.
When Disney got a job at an advertising agency, he fell in love with animation (which became his job) but disliked advertising. He decided to start up an animation business in his garage. He struggled and tried to profit on an animation called, “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.” It failed.
His brother, who had more of a flair for business, joined him and ran the operations for the company. When Walt came up with the concept of Steamboat Willie, (who later morphed into Mickey Mouse), it took off and became the catalyst for a new successful business.
The biggest problem Walt had to overcome was he did not have a great head for business. He was great on the creative side but was not able to make his creations take off. Roy helped in freeing Walt from having to worry about those aspects of the business.
Walt had also developed a concept known as Laugh-O-Grams that was meant to be displayed in movie theaters. The managers of the theaters did not take to the idea and left Walt to move on with others.
The initial opening of Disneyland in California had mixed reviews and was interrupted by technical problems. However, Walt pressed on in typical Walt fashion and made it a success.
Why it Works
Walt Disney was a highly driven man. And that is likely an understatement to those who knew him. His public persona of being an outgoing, likeable chap was far different from the company man he was.
Walt created blockbuster hits with his animated movies. The most amazing aspect of this is that he did not have to pay royalties on several of those early stories as they were (and still are) in the public domain.
Snow White, Cinderella and several others are stories that anyone can take and use them as they see fit. This added significantly to the bottom line for the company. Since the animations themselves are copyrighted, the company collects royalties on them to this day. It was such a simple concept but one no one else was doing.
Walt Disney (at least the theme park side) prides itself on treating visitors like V.I.P. guests. It caters to personal experiences for each and every visitor that joins in the theme park experience. Its employees are well trained in making this happen for the guests.
Disney is a marketing engine. It’s almost as if Tinkerbell waves her fairy dust on the company and magically makes them successful.
Most generations to this day, know the Disney franchise because they grew up with it. Between the movies, the Sunday night show, the Mickey Mouse Club, and a host of other Disney offerings, it’s difficult to find people unfamiliar with the brand.
Merchandising is another huge win for the company. It licenses sales of various products including clothing and characters. You have likely seen Disney stores selling these products in your local mall at one point in your life. You can also find products online at Amazon and other retailers.
If you have never been to a Disney theme park, talk to people who have. Ask them about their experience. They will likely respond with phrases such as, “it was magic” or “it was amazing.” And a visit to Disney doesn’t come cheap.
The ticket prices alone per day are rather hefty. Then, you have to pay to get there as well as your costs outside the theme park. People acquire years of savings just for the chance to go to a Disney theme park once.
The movies Disney has created over the years has made the company familiar to the entire family. It ties the themes of the movies with the theme park itself. This means that when your kids see a Disney movie, they will start dreaming about going to one of its theme parks. After all, who wouldn’t want to meet the loveable Mickey in person?
And when your kids do finally get to meet their favorite characters, it will seem like they’ve been friends for years.
While there may be some bad reviews here and there for Disney, the majority are going to tell you it was a worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, in recent news, one child was killed in a freak accident with an alligator.
Obviously, for that poor family, Disney will never be associated with a good memory. But, this incident aside, most will agree that the experience is nothing like they have ever seen or felt before.
Lessons Learned By The Business
- Walt never believed in quitting. He always turned negative experiences into positives, knowing there was a lesson to be learned in those experiences. His failure of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit led to the creation of Steamboat Willie, a.k.a., Mickey Mouse, and the rest is history.
- If one person could epitomize the phrase, “thinking outside the box”, it would be Walt Disney. He never considered the status quo and always had a vision. He would see to that vision to the very end. He seldom generated praise, and if you worked for him, you knew when he was not happy. But, what he got in return is something that brings joy to many through the brand.
- Deep down, Walt probably believed in magic. This is what kept him driving forward and turning the company into a mega company. Some refer to him as a kid who never grew up. Does this ring any familiar bells? If not, it’s time to watch Peter Pan.
How Other Businesses Can Learn From This
Keep opening other doors when ones close on you. Disney had several failures early on and just chalked them up to life experiences. He learned from them and moved on to bigger and better things. When looking at successful people, the failures are not shown in the media. It’s only when you learn the stories when you see the failures that happened.
Believe in your dreams and you can make them happen. There was no bigger dreamer than Walt Disney. Unlike many, however, he believed in his dreams. That is what made them happen.