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Walt Disney – Master Visionary

April 27, 2020 0 Comments

Last week I posted the Jim Korkis quote below about Walt Disney’s ability of great vision. I thought I would dive a little deeper with a blog post.

Vision is a key skill that needs to be crafted by anyone in leadership. Whether they are a leader in business, ministry, government or just their family, vision gives the leader the ability to see how things should be or at least how they want them to be. Vision clarifies the destination.

It is no secret that I am a bit of a Disney nerd. I am fascinated how he built his company that still lasts today some 50+ years after his death.

Walt Disney was a master visionary

In the book The Walt Disney World 1971 Companion: Stories of how the World Began, Jim Korkis writes:

“As Walt Disney stood on the marshy central Florida land in the heat and humidity, he did not see the inhospitable landscape with dangerous swamps hidden in thick forests of tangled trees and scrub brush.

As he shaded his eyes and squinted into the flat horizon, Walt saw clearly a bright city of tomorrow, families enjoying themselves, a towering castle, innovative hotels that were themed and much, much more.

No matter how hard the other executives standing next to him squinted… they couldn’t imagine how this unforgiving, bug infested land could be tamed and twisted to accommodate a magic kingdom….”

In the early and mid-sixties Disney purchased some 27.4K acres (45 square miles, twice the size of Manhattan) in the middle of nowhere Florida. Much of the property was brackish swamp. He saw beyond the swamp land, he saw the swamp land’s potential

A visionary sees beyond current circumstances

  • When Walt lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit he saw Mickey Mouse
  • When cartoons were only pre-quels to the main movie Walt saw Snow White
  • When amusement parks were dirty, seedy establishments Walt saw Disneyland

A visionary sees their own weakness and the potential in others.

  • Walt saw his limited skills as an artist so he turned Mickey over to Ub Iwerks
  • When the other Imagineers could not get the animatronic President Lincoln to stand up at the 1964 World’s Fair, Walt asked Bob Gurr to make it work. Bob had never worked on animatronics before. Bob got it working over a single weekend
  • Walt tasked animators and movie set designers to build Disneyland

Visionary Leaders grow / expand in vision

Walt grew from

  • Comic Strips to
  • Animated short films to
  • Feature length animated movies to
  • Live action movies and nature documentaries to
  • Disneyland amusement park to
  • A much larger Walt Disney World (although he would not see it)
  • and A modern progressive city of tomorrow

Although Walt would not live to see Walt Disney World and his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) would not come to life the way he saw it (at least not yet), his vision still drives the company today.

Even to the very end of his life he was a visionary

Joe Fowler and Roy Disney visited Walt in the hospital. Walt spent much of the time in bed outlining his plans for Epcot by pointing to the acoustical tiles on the ceiling of his hospital room as a makeshift grid. At one point he stopped and smiled and pointed to a particular dot and said: ‘And that’s where we will put a bench so that Lilly and I can sit there and watch all the happy people enjoying the place’” – Jim Korkis

Walt would die the next day, December 15, 1965

As leaders we must carefully craft ourselves as visionaries. Our visions should always be expanding and growing. If done well, our visions will outlive us and impact the generations to come.

Let me know in the comments below other leaders who were or are extraordinary visionaries.

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Photo is my own: The Cameraman statue, Disney Hollywood Studios

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About the Author:

I am enthusiastic about helping others discover their purpose and grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is great to see their eyes light up at their “Ah Ha!” moment when they discover they were created for something more. My hope is that this blog will help encourage and inspire you along your way. Join the conversation and take the time to share with me your own story. I have been married to my beautiful wife Janice for over 30 years. We currently live in McDonough Georgia with our daughter. Our two boys have left the nest and we have two wonderful grand kids. Of course we cannot forget about our dog Bear.