Does the Walt Disney Co. need Walt Disney?



Had a fascinating conversation with WedRoy last night (til 5am) about Walt's place in the company. We were debating Walt's current place in the company mythology. WedRoy posed the question "Does the Walt Disney Co. need Walt Disney?"

Before the flood of "pin collectors" and "next levellers" sound an audio animatronic "yes"...step out of Disney fan mode and think about it. TO WHAT PURPOSE DOES KEEPING WALT'S IMAGE ALIVE SERVE THE COMPANY? So many of the fans that I've chatted with recently were born after Walt's death and, indeed, I was only 2 when he died though his introductions on the anthology eerily continued into my early childhood.

Why is Walt still important NOW, if indeed he is?

WedRoy and I have exchanged our ideas...I'm curious to hear yours before I express mine....and hopefully he expresses his.

PS. I know that for some of you, this will be like questioning the existence of God.

X-S Tech

Active Member
The company can survive perfectly well without Walts image. Just like they will survive without Feature Animation making 2D films anymore. The company is so diverse and sprawling now that the loss of any one arm does not mean that the body dies. It is not a question of survival. But Walts image is something that the other entertainment giants lack an equivalent of. They have no smiling studio mogul or gentle genius to remind the public of simpler times. So while this is an advantage that can be exploited for Disney's benefit, axing Walt's image would simply be leveling the playing field. I won't pretend to know him, but hopefully Eisner is smarter than to do that. But of course stranger things have happened.


New Member
This is the man that started this company. The company is named after him. If he wasn't for his vision than we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Without Walt Disney there might be theme parks and movies and cartoons - but will it truely be Walt Disney. It's like saying the church can exist without the Pope. I was born almost a full decade after his death but everytime I go to Disney World I can feel his magical touch on everything.
Actually, a very simple question. I'll keep my response equally simple and to the point.

Answer: No, he's not needed--what does Walt have to do with Rockin' Rollercoasters and California Adventures, for example--he hated midway-style attractions! His old shows have been cancelled now, too, and Boy Meets World still seems to be going strong!

Question: Is life really worth the bother without a heart and soul?


X-S Tech

Active Member
Perhaps my answer was taken the wrong way. I would hate for the Company to get rid of all reference to Walt. But yes, most of what is created under the Disney Banner nowadays is not Walt. I don't know that Walt would object to Boy Meets World and Kim Possible; not everything has to be circa 1955 and Mickey Mouse. But the image of Walt gives people this grandfatherly figure that they can connect all of these various products and services to (whether or not he had anything to do with them) and that is valuable. Get rid of Walt and they just become so many individual properties. No one cared when Warner Bros purchased Hanna Barbera. No one said "Those are Joseph Barbera's characters!". The world would mourn the day Mickey get's sold off, and the day Walt disappears from the picture we're one step closer.


Active Member
OK, I'll weigh in...

I don't think the company "needs" him anymore. Not to say that they should erase him from company history, but to currently run, they don't need him.

Personally, I would prefer the Disney company of Walt's day, but since 1966 the Disney company has created many properties without Walt, and could survive off of that for years to come.

If the current management just undermines and uses Walt as a selling point or gimmick, then I would prefer them to erase him from their history. You know, Bill, you mentioned our conversation of an animated's too late. The other day I was watching an episode of "House of Mouse" and sure enough they had an animated version of Walt (not to mention they've also animated Roy Jr.)

Also, I agree that Walt's "magic" is not easily discernable to anyone born after Walt's death. I agree with you, Bean, that the Magic Kingdom is Roy's park. To me it doesn't have anything to do with Walt directly. OK, he did want to build a Magic Kingdom as part of his EPCOT project, but who knows how that would have actually turned out had Walt not died so soon. Even Disneyland has lost much of Walt's original "magic". Yes, it does have some of his touches, but there is a lot of new stuff.

HOWEVER...many of the new "stuff" was inspired by what Walt established. Without Walt there would be nothing at this point. He wasn't "just" a studio head. Even though he ruled with an iron fist, his public face was that of a gentle, fatherly figure. So it's no surprise that many people have that impression of him. It's a good thing that there are some honest books (not referring to the unauthorized ones) about him, and his family is making sure that people understand the man, because after everyone that's worked with him is gone, he would have probably moved into myth status.

I could go on, and I'm sure we'll talk more about it tomrrow, Bill, but I'm tired and can't think anymore (plus I'm watching Will & Grace).

Ben C.
You know, the more I think about it, even if the company that bears his name has no need for him other than the occasional merchandising scheme, no matter, because Walt has transcended the position of the mere former head of a corporate entity--he is an integral part of the American landscape, his legacy is part of American history now--the preservation of his memory is out of the hands of Eisner and company, so let them do with him what they will--the American people will remember Walt, even without occasional reminders from his former company. Mike.


Active Member
I think the company stopped using the concept of Walt nearly 20 years ago, when Eisner & Co. took over. On another board I frequent, there is a maintenance/tech CM who will be receiving his 25 Year pin very soon. He said that in the early-mid 1980's, Management had meetings with everyone, basically saying that the "old ways" that Walt had run the company were to be forgotten. He said that several people walked out of the meeting .

Anyway, I don't think they really USE Walt anymore, unless it's convenient to them. So do they need him? Obviously THEY dn't think so. But maybe if they used his ideas, his visions, his ways, the parks wouldn't be doing as badly as they are. We'll never know.



Sharon you hit it on the head, Walt is a marketing tool nowdays. "Walt's Magic Kingdom" doesnt exsist anymore. The old buildings do, but most of the stuff he created (except Pirates) is still around due to the back lash that would resound from it being taken out. I.E. Tiki Room. Do you think management really likes the Tiki room? Dont we all know that they would tear it up, and throw the birds to the wind (one at a time with a quick 4 point kick) asap if they thought they could create a cash cow out of the space? (Actually they would sell the birds at a enormous profit...and I for one would fall for their scam and buy a bird or two...damn me ;) )

But I dont see Walt's touch on the park anymore, which is why it is such an enormous treat to have Small World's music restored to its original recordings, and have Pirates, Mansion, and Tiki room restored to full blow E ticket attractions again (at least in my opinion).

Walt is a visionary whos memory is being misused by a company that no longer has a vision (unless it involves Ben Franklin's picture on the front)


The Walt Disney Company has truly become pathetic.
The only creative animated films they have released
have been made by Pixar. The theme parks have
become mega-malls. I really believe that Walt would
have wanted his name removed from the mess that
is now the Disney empire. Walt made his mark by
creating new forms of entertainment and constantly
improving what he had done in the past. The current
leaders are only looking for a new way to make a
buck. Walt wanted to make a buck also but not at
the expense of quality and showmanship. Walt didn't
make sequels, he made originals. I think we should
have moment of silence for the long dead Disney Co.
Perhaps we should all just move on- be grateful
for the happy memories of Walt and the enchanted
animated world where everyone lived happily ever
after. Unfortunately life doesn't have a soundtrack.

X-S Tech

Active Member
I too have often pondered the day when the company will fold or the parks will close or what have you. It actually is quite calming, because I realize that I won't have to worry about how Walt's name will be tarnished anymore. It's like when a loved one is struggling with a terminal illness, and while you don't want them to go, when they finally do there is an enormous sense of relief. We all hope that the Walt Disney Co. will pull through, but in the chance that they don't we'll always have our fond memories.
Does WDC "need" Walt Disney? No.

But, if they abandon Walt's vision, his attention to detail, and his ability to understand the connection between the American experience and the public which is the company's market, the WDC will, indeed, collapse.

Without remembering Walt and continuing his ideals, the company will continue its slide into mediocrity and failure.

But, no, they don't "need" him. They can go out-of-business just like any other short-sighted company.
Thanks, Bill--for getting my blood pressure up! Ahhhh, it's probably good for me, keeps the fire going(and believe me, it's goin' full tilt in Maine right now!). As you may have guessed, I'm one of those "dinosaurs" who grew up with "Uncle Walt" coming over the house every Sunday evening for his weekly sermon--hearing his voice always stops me, and brings me back to those times......anyway, time to vent again.....

Something that has always made the Walt Disney Company unique among similar organizations has been its history. The Walt Disney story has always added a cohesiveness, a focus, an artistic direction, call it what you will--a firm foundation for the company to venture with into the future. Walt's "presence" has also added depth to the Disney experience--sure he can be abandoned and forgotten by the company, but what will go with him will be that unique sense of history, the sense of a man's vision still at work--and yet another faceless, soulless corporation will be born, with its foundation that of an abandoned dream. Mike.


"No one cared when Warner Bros purchased Hanna Barbera. No one said "Those are Joseph Barbera's characters!".

I cared very much. When I found a Yogi Bear coloring book in the store with "Cartoon Network" above the title instead of Hanna-Barbera, I felt a sense of loss. When William Hanna died, when Universal Studios Florida unceremoniously shut down the Hanna-Barbera attraction, it was sad. Maybe not as sad as Disney losing Walt or Mickey, but sad just the same because the name was removed as if it did not ever exist. Like the people, the artists, the voice actors, the creative people didn't ever exist. And that is the concern that haunts all of us about the future of Disney.
Lucille Bliss, the voice of Smurfette, once told me that Joe Barbera said to her, "We should have never sold our company." He was well aware of what was happening, how confused corporate thinking can snuff out the very thing that makes them great. I'm not pretending that Hanna-Barbera is anything near Disney, but many of us have happy memories of enjoying their cartoons. What some well-meaning folks at Disney don't realize is that any other company would looooove to have the brand strength, the characters, the history, the public loyalty, the "Walt" that Disney has. Too many people inside Disney are embarrassed by the mouse on their paycheck. Fortunately, what we prize as "Dianey" has survived World Wars, countless economic woes and almost certain internal collapse. If God wants the world to have a "Disney," it will survive long after the present regime is a Trivial Pursuit "difficult level" question.

X-S Tech

Active Member
Great points Greg. I didn't mean to badmouth Hanna Barbera, only to point out how much more personal people's relationships are with Disney Characters. You sound like a discerning cartoon viewer and therefore the exception; most people think Tweety Bird is a Disney character.