Walt Disney’s Obsession with Perfection and Control

The innovator, Walt Disney, was one of five children, who was looked after by his older brother Roy because of his risky choices. One statement “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” (Walt Disney) clearly proves his passion for bold new innovations that others thought to be ill advised. Walt possessed a form of arrogance due to his trust in himself with the potential for greatness. Walt grew into an adult, still advised by Roy, who wanted to aid in his success while reigning in his more impractical ideas. Many have strived to match Walt Disney’s success, but ultimately fail because of their lack of commitment to bold ideas. Throughout his lifetime Walt Disney achieved many great successes and a few failures due to his obsession with perfection and control.
Walt Disney did not crave control in the early stages of his career unlike he did later in his life. Walt and Roy Disney became business partners wanting to enter the film industry with their cartoons. Walt began with a cartoon titled Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, his first cartoon to be noticed by producers in the industry. One company finally agreed to show his cartoon, if he agreed to give the rights to Oswald over to them to fix the quirks. Walt had no choice if he wanted the public to see his work, but never again let another company touch his cartoons, fueling his obsession with control. As the company became popular, Roy and Walt would disagree on ideas due to their very different personalities. All the creative employees in the company were known as “Walt’s boys” and those who were on the financial end were “Roy’s boys.” Walt and Roy would disagree often because Walt needed a sense of control over his company, not wanting to be questioned by his older brother. The disagreements would mostly concern matters of how practical his ideas were and if they had the potential to be successful. Roy feared that some ideas would not receive proper funding to complete projects. Walt did not want to give up and insisted that Roy was incorrect, insuring that he knew best. Walt’s need for control did not end here; it only grew as time passed. A new obsession soon emerged, a need for perfection.
Perfection is something many strive to achieve, but never will be because of our faults. Walt Disney wanted to translate his cartoons and films into a reality, a perfect representation of a never ending film that can be experienced by all. Walt Disney simply summarizes, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park (Disneyland). I want to feel they’re in another world.”(Walt Disney) Walt Disney knew that the world craved a place to escape from reality. One place that could be enjoyed by all who visit, with limitless options for entertainment. This perfect land became known as Disneyland, a monumental success on the west coast. He now had successfully achieved a theme park controlled by him that seemed to be perfect. Walt Disney believed in a future that is always changing for the better, truly urging that his new theme park Disneyland encompassed this hope for the future. Walt Disney confidently states, “Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future,” (Walt Disney) a true testament to his hopes of future innovation. Businesses soon heard of the financial gain to be made in California, building hotels near his property. They began to make huge profits, even rivaling his own profits. Walt Disney was very annoyed by this new development becoming something that he could not control and more importantly was not perfect. The surrounding area was now becoming a huge city, caging his near perfect world in and as he saw it true corruption. These surroundings were contradicting his park’s focus of an escape from reality. Guests could see the surrounding city in his theme park making it less than perfect and hiding the fantasy of escape. Walt began making plans for a new park somewhere that he could regain all control and had the potential for perfection.
The press was stumped by this “Mystery Company” buying land in central Florida. It seemed as if no one knew who was purchasing land and more importantly why. Walt had once again ceased control and his plans were in complete secrecy. He planned to create another theme park, one that was larger with transportation and hotels all in his control. Walt Disney created fake companies to hide his purchases and hired men, who were known for their secrecy to use aliases when purchasing land in Florida. In time, the press began to piece together the accusation that Walt Disney could be buying the land in Florida, but no one was certain or had proof. Before anyone could announce his plans, Walt Disney ordered a press conference in Florida to reveal his new theme park project. This is another example of Walt’s need of control, no one was certain that his company was buying land, but he needed to be the first to announce the news. Soon Walt Disney would have gained an amount of control never before held by a company and never rivaled even to this day.
Walt Disney knew that his theme park in California was a major success, but was determined to have perfection in a new land because it would be in his control alone. In addition to constructing a theme park, he also wanted to add his own form of transportation and hotels so that his property could function without needing to rely on others to aid him. Walt Disney confidently says “there’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine,”(Walt Disney) proving that his quest for perfection and control was not reaching a completion. Walt Disney made the monorail system, widely known as the highway in the sky. The monorail system was very much like a train, but the major difference is that the track was placed in the air. This allowed his guests to have faster transportation with no traffic. Walt went one step further by building a hotel that had an opening where the monorail could stop and transport guests to the park; this hotel was called Disney’s Contemporary Resort. A few other hotels had stops for the monorail, but none of them ran through the hotel like the Contemporary. Within this new property, he built other hotels that used a bus system, these buses were owned and ran by Walt Disney as well.
The only theme park Walt Disney lived to experience was the Magic Kingdom. This park would encompass all lands of fantasy that anyone could ever dream of experiencing in one place, which enabled it to appeal to a wide range of people. Walt Disney boldly states “somehow I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true.”(Walt Disney) This quote showcases Walt’s belief in his capacity to make others happy, which in some cases made him deemed arrogant. Walt believed that his innovative ideas gave him the control to make dreams a reality and could seem perfect to those who enjoy it. Once again Walt Disney’s dream of what true perfection would envision was a land of fantasy that can be experienced uninterrupted by the cruel reality just a few miles away. “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”(Walt Disney) Walt admitted his parks would never be completed, which shows that he believed advances in the future would help attain perfection with each new tool created. His need for the closest relationship to near perfection is one of the reasons other companies have not been able to attain his level of success. Walt Disney also needed the control of new technological advances to aid in projecting the image of imagination and fantasy to guests who visit. The Magic Kingdom was not Walt Disney’s main plan for the land he purchased in central Florida.
Walt began pitching his main plan for Florida “the most exciting and by far the most important part of our Florida Project…in fact, the heart of everything we’ll be doing in Disney World…will be our Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow! We call it EPCOT.”(Walt Disney) This dream of a community dates back to his annoyance in California with the city surrounding Disneyland. Walt once again refused to showcase his true motives because he needed the control over his audience. Walt Disney wanted to showcase how a real city should function and more importantly that he had the power and control to provide examples for others to use as a model for their own cities. “EPCOT…will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems”(Walt Disney) Walt easily explains. The main problem with a grand project such as this is the fear it would generate into the general public.
During Walt Disney’s time period many feared great advances to everyday life. This community was never before thought of and with Walt Disney involved it posed a threat that it was certain to be completed despite the fear it caused. If Walt Disney were to pitch the idea in this current day and age, it would undoubtedly be welcomed due our need for the newest advances in technology. He truly believed that he would change the world for the better with his community and it would have a level of perfection because it was in his control. After his death, the company deemed his massive plan impractical and worried that if they continued to work on the project it could potentially drive down the popularity of their company. The Disney Company still wanted to keep some of Walt’s main focuses on various parts of his dream alive. Epcot was then built into a theme park dedicated to showcasing technological advances and what potential advances the world could make in the future. Walt Disney died, but his ever-growing legacy on entertainment will never cease to exist.
Walt Disney achieved numerous accomplishments that anyone would be satisfied with achieving just one. Walt Disney’s legacy has continued to grow since his death. The Disney Company has strived to keep his visions alive and pass it on to future generations to enjoy like those before them. The company has made many advances, but some were not in their ownership in the beginning. Disney has always achieved success with their films, but wanted much more. The Disney Company began collaborating with a company by the name of Pixar, owned and created by Steve Jobs. After audiences craved more from the two companies, Disney decided to purchase Pixar for their own. One of the company’s biggest film successes was Toy Story. Now a considered a classic and loved by all ages, Disney has found a way to reach audiences through new forms of animation.
The Disney Company has bought other companies as well which include: Star Wars, The Muppets, Marvel, and many more. These purchases are strategically chosen, serving to build more success and popularity to the Disney name. Even after Walt Disney’s death, he has still found a way to reach a level of control over the world today. Many television stations are also owned by the Disney Company, to name a few: ABC, abc family, ESPN, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney xd, and many more. Not many think about the hold this particular company has over our everyday lives. Some might venture to say that the people of his time were correct in fearing what control he held. The Disney Company is far from completion and will continue to grow in Walt’s likeness. Just like Walt Disney, their future plans are not revealed until they chose to unveil it to the public. This fact alone signifies that the obsession for perfection and control is still very much alive within the Disney Company.
Walt Disney’s obsession for perfection and control was one of his many reasons for success while also being his main fault. Walt would have never achieved the success he did, if he was not as driven to control everything. Walt Disney was a truly powerful man, who is still a constant reminder to all of what true innovation and imagination can achieve, thus creating his ever-lasting legacy that will always be alive and growing. Walt Disney made an impact on the world, although many things have changed throughout time, his theme parks are still seen as a perfect escape from reality. Walt’s dream was essentially achieved, but will continue to grow and improve over the years to come.

Works Cited
A Day at Epcot Center. Walt Disney Company, 1991. Film.

Anderson, David A. “Utopia Isn’t So Bad.” Humanist (2008): 20-23. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Nov. 2013.

“Walt Disney World.” By Bruce Nash. Modern Marvels. History Channel. 30 Nov. 2013. Television.

Gabler, Neal. Walt Disney: the triumph of the American imagination. N.p.: Knopf, 2006. Print.

Koenig, David. Realityland: true-life adventures at Walt Disney World. California: Bonaventure Press, 2007. Print.

Smoodin, Eric Loren. Disney discourse: producing the magic kingdom. N.p.: Routledge, 1994. Print.

“Walt Disney Quotes.” Just Disney.com. Brad J. Aldridge, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.

Yenckel, James T. “Epcot’s World of Tomorrow: Opening Day for a Disney Dream of the 21st Century.” Washington Post 1 Oct. 1982. Print.

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