Disney history

Guest Blog: Walt Disney - Don't Give Up!!! Keep Working, Trying and Dreaming.

Lessons on perseverance from the life of Walt Disney.

Lessons on perseverance from the life of Walt Disney.

Disney Archaeology time...Here we go digging!
There once was a filmmaker who fell on such hard times that he was kicked out of his apartment.

Having no place to go, he lived in his office and slept at night in a chair. He did this everyday and then would continue working on projects. To bathe he would travel to a pubic bath and shower facility. Faced with this kind of living situation it would have been easy to give up and become a lost story of someone who never made it.

Yet his story is so well known that it is easy to forget some of the darker moments.

Of course, since you are reading this article, you already know we are talking about none other than Walt Disney.

An often forgotten page of his life was during the days of making the Alice comedies.

In 1923 things looked extremely bleak for Walt and his young studio.

Things got so bad that his landlady did kick him out of his apartment. (He was "asked to leave.")

The rent to live there had been $3 and Walt could no longer afford it.

He moved into the studio and slept in a sofa chair in his drawing room. He stayed there for quite some time trying to save money, squeeze out every penny he could to pour into production, and he struggled to survive.

Once a week he would take a bath at Union Station, which was located near the cities hospital district. He would walk from the studio, past the hospitals, and enter the station. It cost him a dime for soap, one towel, and a hot bath.
He lived this way, without complaint, and kept on working to make his dreams come true.

After years of struggle, hard times, and being on the brink of losing it all...the story becomes the stuff of legend.

Walt Disney not only survived but is remembered to this day.

If you glance at the paragraphs above it should be simple to see one of the main reasons he made it. It is the difference often between success and failure. It is what many people miss out on as they live life.

The reason he made it is that he just wouldn't quit.
If there was a failure or a setback he didn't stop working ,trying, or dreaming.

He did his best to push past the defeat, learn from the failure, and strive not to make the same mistake again. But he kept trying and kept chasing his dreams because he knew that one day, some day, what he was chasing would happen.

My fear in life for many is that we too often quit one minute before the game changes.

We quit knocking on doors one door short of an answer.
We quit trying one day before we would find the solution.
As a result many people live their lives by describing them as, "I almost...." "I could have..." or "I nearly...."

I am not sure what is going on in your world but I do know this...don't give up.

You may be one heartbeat away from a breathtaking dream coming true.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Guest Blog: Walt Disney, Ken Wales and Encouraging Others.....

Ready to dig into a story from the life of Walt Disney?

It was in the 1950's when Walt Disney placed a phone call to Santa Monica High School and asked the drama teacher if there were any promising students that year in their graduating class. The teacher mentioned one, a talented actor, named Ken Wales. So Walt issued an invitation to Ken to come to the Burbank Studio and spend some time with the head of the studio. Ken did and for three days Walt Disney mentored him. He gave him a behind the scenes look at the studio and a personalized tutorial on every aspect of film making. They spoke of crafting a story, creating effects, and pulling all the elements of film together.

Ken Wales would later recall to author Pat Williams, "I spent three days with Walt and he was my friend for life. He didn't just teach me the fundamentals of film making, he taught me the fundamentals of creativity."

He explained that Walt did not just teach him to dream big but instead taught him to dream beautifully. He saw the reason that Walt Disney films have remained timeless...they contain imagination, values, warmth, and delight.

The three days with Walt changed Ken's life forever. On the last day Walt wrote Ken a check, a personal check , for $5000. Walt gave Ken a fully paid scholarship to USC to study filmmaking. Those years at USC directed the trajectory of Ken Wales' life.

After graduation Wales became involved and active in a variety of projects. He partnered with Blake Edwards and helped to create films like The Great Race, The Pink Panther, Islands in the Stream, The Prodigal for Billy Graham, and the highly acclaimed TV series Christy. He also became an executive with the Walt Disney Studio and The Disney Channel.

Wales went on to teach filmmaking at USC. According to Ken it is a "way to give back what I was given. Walt Disney mentored me, and now I mentor my students as a way of honoring Walt and repaying him for the kindness and generosity showed to me when I was a high school senior."

Please make sure you hear the important takeaways from the story just told. Walt Disney was not just dreaming of the future, he was helping to create it.

He leaned into the future...not just by making educational films and television productions (which he did), not just by endowing a school of the arts (which he also did), but most importantly he poured his life into the lives of people. He mentored, he trained, he led, he gave them opportunity, and he coached. He knew the most important resource for shaping, molding, and creating the future was in people.

Who do you pour your life into? Who is pouring their life into you?

We exist so that we can make a difference and impact the world around us. You are the product of others who have taught you, mentored you, and somehow poured their life into you. The world we live in is overly consumer oriented, we live in an entitlement culture where too often everyone is in it for what they think is owed to them. How about giving back and pouring your life into others. By doing so you are also leaning into the future and the life you impact...well...you just never know what might happen. Think about it.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Guest Blog: Walt Disney Valued People

Here is a little Disney Archaeology...our deep dig today takes us back in time. The place is the Walt Disney Studios. It is in the early 1960’s. The place is a beehive of activity and the studio is on the cutting edge of creating entertainment for television, film, and of course…theme parks.

In a story first recalled by animator Floyd Norman, there was an incident that took place on this particular morning.


A horse drawn carriage arrived at the gates of the studio. (Yes, you read that correctly…a horse drawn carriage) This horse drawn carriage was driven by a little white haired lady. Sitting on the perch of her seat on the carriage she leaned down and promptly told the security officer at the gate, “I am here to see Mr. Disney!”

“Do you have an appointment?” The officer asked looking at his registry for the day.
“No, I don’t. But I need to see him.”
“You can’t see him without an appointment,” the guard said. “He is a very busy man.”
Crossing her arms and rising up just little bit taller in her seat she declared, “I am not leaving until I see him!”

The guard placed a call to the administration office and eventually word reached Walt that there as a nutty and very stubborn woman at the gate who was demanding to see him. So Walt did what he thought was best. He walked out to the main gate to meet her.

As he stepped outside the gate he leaned against the carriage, talked about the horse pulling it, he smiled, he laughed, and engaged this strange woman in lighthearted conversation. He learned that she had written a movie script. That was the reason that she needed to see him, she wanted to give it to him, because she knew it was the perfect film for the Disney Studios to make.

Walt gladly accepted the script with the promise, “I will definitely read it.”

The woman left satisfied and Walt kept his promise and read the script.

Now, in writing this account of Disney’s life I would love to twist the story and tell you the script Walt was given that day became the biggest money maker in the history of the film industry, or that it became a classic Disney film, or that you will remember the movie that was made….I can’t do it. The reality is that the script wasn’t really that great and it was never made into a movie.

That of course, is not the point.

The point is that the executive of the studio left his office, came to the main gate, talked about horses, and made a promise (and kept it) to a crazy woman who demanded to see him. That was something that Walt understood. (I am not saying he understood crazy…keep reading) He understood the importance of people. He put a value on people. He treated everyone the same. It was said that it didn’t matter if it was a king, a president, or a ticket taker, he would always give them the same attention. He was humble enough not to always be talking about Walt Disney. He cared enough and valued people to put others first.

And that is a life lesson that would radically change many of our lives and ultimately change the world. Learning to put others first. Sometimes that is a value or a quality that is lost in our society and culture today. But it only takes a few people to remember what is most important..real people, like you and I, and if we are willing to put others first…learn to care…we really can change the world and make a difference!

Disney History - An account of an interaction between Walt Disney and a woman who drove up to the gates of the Walt Disney Studios in a horse-drawn carriage.

Disney History - An account of an interaction between Walt Disney and a woman who drove up to the gates of the Walt Disney Studios in a horse-drawn carriage.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Speaking of horse drawn carriages….

Did you know that there are lots of great horse experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida? There are free visits to the Disney horse barns to inexpensive wagon rides to trail rides and a variety more elaborate experiences. Click here to learn about Disney World for Horse Lovers

Guest Blog: Disney History - Iron Man Monorail Wrap

Disney History - Iron Man-orail: Disney World monorail with Iron Man 3 wrap / Stark Industries monorail

Disney History - Iron Man-orail: Disney World monorail with Iron Man 3 wrap / Stark Industries monorail

The Disney/Marvel film Avengers: End Game is shattering box office records this weekend, so I thought it would be good to take a little bit of trip back in time. The film was Iron Man 3 and the Walt Disney World resort unveiled their most spectacular monorail wrap ever when the Iron Man-orail made its debut. This Avengers themed monorail was sleek, fun, and gave Monorail Black one of the best makeovers ever. A golden nose on the train, branded with the familiar “Stark Industries” moniker and Iron Man flying down the side (Iron Patriot on the other) promoted the release of the movie.

The Stark Industries monorail took guests between Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) Due to restrictions with Universal Orlando Resort, the Iron Man monorail did not ever venture from the TTC to Epcot. The reason is because the Walt Disney Company had to fly Iron Man in restricted air space. Confused? Don’t be – this all makes sense in the world of theme parks and legal contracts.

Marvel is owned by Disney, but Universal (the little theme park just down Interstate 4 from WDW) has exclusive rights to use certain characters inside the East Coast theme parks. Island of Adventure prominently features the Marvel, now Disney owned characters as part of their experience and themed land within the resort. So in some ways, you can see Disney characters inside Universal Studios….but that is another story.

The reason that the Epcot line was restricted air space is because the monorail actually goes over the main entrance to the theme park and loops around Spaceship Earth and then stops just beyond the main entrance at the Epcot monorail station. So if the Iron Man monorail ever traveled the Epcot line it would actually enter and exit the boundaries of Epcot breaking the rule of law…and so it could make the loop around the Seven Seas Lagoon because the monorail never goes beyond the main gates of the Magic Kingdom.

But whether there were boundaries or not, the Iron Man monorail as you can see from the pictures was spectacular. And although there were problems in making this happen at WDW because of the restrictions, they really were just opportunities loaded with potential that had to be embraced so a solution could be found.

So it goes as you soar through life. Learn to see potential and learn to look beyond problems.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Guest Blog: Disney's Rorex Tunnel - Carolwood Pacific Railroad

Here is a bit of Disney Archaeology for you…digging into the past and making discoveries that matter in the future…so let’s begin with a question…Are you familiar with Walt Disney’s Rorex Tunnel?

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad and the history of the Rorex tunnel - Dixon On Disney

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad and the history of the Rorex tunnel - Dixon On Disney

It is not surprising if you aren’t, but the tunnel and its creation are interesting chapters within the life of Walt Disney. The story unfolds at the Disney home in Holmby Hills. Walt’s hobby and interest in railroading had led to the creation of the Carolwood Pacific, it was a one-eight scale train, designed to run around the Disney home along 2,615 feet of track, with enough switching options to enable him to travel nearly a mile without running on the same track in the same direction.

The first circuit around the Carolwood property took place on May 7, 1951. As the plans for this extensive personal railway was being developed, Walt’s wife-Lillian noticed that the train was going to run right through her new flower gardens, which had been designed by Disney legend – Bill Evans. She approached her husband about this and was not at all pleased. Walt knew he had to come up with a solution to the problem. Unleashing his very creative imagination, it didn’t take Walt long to land on an answer. He would simply dig a tunnel and go underneath the flowerbed.

In a playful turn of events – Walt even had his lawyer draw up a legal agreement between Lillian and himself. “Lilly has made up her mind that I shouldn’t run right through the middle of her garden. She wanted to have a large window put in so her friends can look out at her flowers while they are playing Canasta. I just want the right to run my railroad.” Walt stated.

Now let’s dig into the tunnel - As you might imagine, this was not just going to be any tunnel. Walt always had a flair for the creative and wanted to create a moment for his passengers and of course, himself.

Walt’s plan was to create a 90 foot tunnel with a slight S-curve in the middle. As riders entered the tunnel they would not immediately be able to see the exit. As they went deeper into the tunnel, they would be plunged into total darkness. As always, in the world of Walt Disney, even in those early days – he was always figuring out a way to “plus” the experience. A foreman on the project approached Walt and suggested it would be cheaper if they made the tunnel straight. (Not to mention it would be easier to build as well)
This angered Walt and he snapped back, “It’s cheaper not to do it all.”
But in the end, Walt got the tunnel installed, just the way he had envisioned it.

The Carolwood Pacific Railroad introduced Walt to the notion of creating an attraction, an outdoor entertainment event. Eventually with the creation of Disneyland, Walt would get a full sized train that he could run after hours at the theme park. The beginnings of thinking through how that might work and what that might look like happened in his very own backyard.

The tunnel that Walt dreamed up that formed an S-curve below Lillian’s flower bed was officially named the “Rorex Tunnel.” The reason for the name was the construction supervisor. As Walt was chatting about what to do and discussing possibilities, the original idea that the problem could be tackled in this way was suggested by Jack Rorex. As a result, Walt remembered the conversation and the tunnel was named after the man who sparked Walt’s imagination.

When faced with the problem of upsetting his wife and destroying all the work that had gone into her flower beds, it would have been easy to decide, there was no way to fix or conquer the problem. However the tunnel ended up being a bit of an engineering masterpiece. The problem was nothing but an opportunity in disguise.

Walt explained his approach to chasing ideas and experimenting in an interview with Pete Martin in the Saturday Evening Post (June-July 1956) when he said, “You never know what will happen. That open mind and that hope that one thing will lead to another.”

Today you may find there are problems that you are facing that seem to have no answer. Don’t stop looking for solutions, don’t be afraid to be creative. The problem that seems so insurmountable may actually be an opportunity in disguise.

(The story used in this post is taken from The Disney Code)

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Book Review: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

If you're into military history AND you love Disney, you'll definitely want to read Service with Character: Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak.  I was fascinated to learn about Disney's involvement in World War II. 

Did you know that Disney produced a movie called "Victory Through Air Power" that probably contributed to the U.S. Air Force becoming its own branch of the military? 

Did you know that the Disney Studios housed military forces, created over 1200 military insignia, helped sell war bonds and even helped people to think of paying income taxes as their patriotic duty (Taxes to beat the Axis!)?  Click here for more on that. 

Did you know that the studios produced one edition of a magazine for their employees serving in the Armed Forces that even included hand-drawn pin-up girls?  Click here to read more about that. 

As a somewhat religious person, I found the section on propaganda films especially interesting in light of the current political climate.  The book includes a portion of a memo Disney Production Manager Robert Carr sent about WWII propaganda films produced by Disney Studios for South America.  He wrote, "Animation, being a magical medium has profound potentialities for evoking sentiment and awe. 'Ave Maria' in Fantasia was only a beginning. We should make full use of this quality in many of the 'big' subjects suggested, CREATING A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS FEELING, AND ASSOCIATING THIS WITH POLITICAL IDEALS (emphasis mine). We can have beautiful and reverent scenes in which The Christ of the Andes is seen in the background, or a huge cross fills the sky; or more subtly, when the voice, the music and the artist's style of painting suggests a religious atmosphere....as when we see the Spirit of Pan American, or of Victory, standing behind our weapons. This will put over certain ideas impossible to present otherwise." (source: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II, by David Lesjak, pp. 177 & 178). Social media is a relatively new, and very visual, medium that we're all having to learn to navigate. The above memo struck me as a good reminder that we need to be wise when religious themes or imagery are being employed to influence us.

I am not affiliated with the author or publisher in any way.  The men in my family served in different branches of the military and I'm a Disney fan who found this book really interesting and thought you might too.  It would also make a great Christmas gift for the history buff in your family.   This book can be purchased on Amazon. 

More Disney Related Book Reviews: 

About the reviewer: Annette, with her husband Steve, owns BuildABetterMouseTrip.com and is an avid reader; so much so that, as a child, her parents made a rule that she could not read during daylight hours because they were concerned she was developing a pallor best suited for the Haunted Mansion!