Walt Disney Personality Analysis Known the World Term Paper

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Walt Disney Personality Analysis

Known the world over, Walt Disney remains a powerful force in the Disney empire today based on his personality that influenced "his" park in profound and lasting ways. Walt certainly had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve during his lifetime, but he also had a more enduring vision of how he wanted "his" park and company operated and managed after he was gone. While there have been a number of theories developed over the years to help explain and interpret individual personalities, two in particular, cognitive and behavioral, provide a useful framework in which to examine Walt Disney's personality to provide some insights into his motivations and behaviors that can help explain how and why the Disney Company is where it is today. To this end, this study provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed, scholarly and popular literature concerning Disney's early life and important influences on him, an analysis of Disney's emergent personality from the perspectives of behavioral and cognitive theories of personality, followed by a summary of the research and relevant findings in the conclusion.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on Walt Disney Personality Analysis Known the World Assignment

Michael Jordan and Walt Disney share the distinction of being known all over the world by people who may not know any other Americans - or even any other Westerners. Walt Disney's enduring legacy can be found in his numerous theme parks in the United States, Europe China and Japan, as well as the countless motion picture productions and branded merchandise that have been spawned over the years. More importantly, Disney's legacy also involves some significant influences on American society itself in ways that Walt may not have intended, but which have nevertheless become the focus of an increasing amount of critical attention in recent years. To gain some understanding of how this situation developed, this study provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed, scholarly and popular literature concerning Disney's early life and important influences on him, an analysis of Disney's emergent personality from the perspectives of behavioral and cognitive theories of personality, followed by a summary of the research and relevant findings in the conclusion

Review and Discussion

Brief Biography and Overview of Walt Disney.

Walt Disney was a "middle child" of five siblings. According to Bryman (1994), "Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago on 5 December 1901 to Elias and Flora Disney. Elias Disney, both before and after Walt's birth, was a serially unsuccessful businessman who was continually seeking to improve his and his family's lot by moving on, both geographically and from business to business" (p. 4). Walt was the fourth son of five children (he was followed by the only daughter, Ruth, in 1903); Walt's closest sibling was Roy, who was the third child and was born in 1893 (Bryman). This biographer reports that, "Elias and Flora were unhappy about bringing Walt and the other children up in the disorder of a modern city, and they moved in 1906 to a farm in Marceline, Missouri, which many writers have viewed as the inspiration for the Main Street, USA attraction in Disneyland" (Bryman, p. 4).

In reality, Walt appears to have enjoyed a fairly idyllic childhood in Marceline. For instance, one biographer reports that:

For young Walt, Marceline was a wonderful new world waiting to be explored. The farm had 5 acres of orchards, which provided the family with fresh apples, plums and peaches, and the rest of the land was farmed for corn, sorghum and wheat. They also raised hogs, chickens, dairy cows and horses. Walt, Roy and Ruth would go around town selling their apples and Flora's homemade butter, and in the summer heat they'd swim in nearby Yellow Creek. (Burk, 2008) re-creation of the Disney family barn on its original setting is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. A re-creation of Walt's barn in Marceline.

Source: Burk at p. 4.

It was in Marceline that Walt spent the formative period of his life and Burk reports that the barn pictured in Figure 1 above was one of Walt and Ruth's favorite places to play, and it was in the original family barn that Walt had his first taste of show business, where he promoted a "barn circus" that featured a goat, dog, cat and a pig dressed in his sister's doll clothes. This biographer reports that, "Walt charged 10 cents admission to his barn circus, but when Flora heard about it, she made him return the money" (Burk, p. 5). Walt's later experiences with money would also have an impact on his personality development just as these early childhood experiences would contribute to his direction in later life.

These were clearly important influences on Walt's personality development and his visions for his theme parks, animated cartoons and motion pictures as well as his perceptions of what people would be interested in and how they would like to see it presented. In this regard, Bryman suggests that it was this locale that is frequently cited as the source of the interest in animals which was to be manifested in his animated productions. According to this author, "Most biographers depict him as not a strong school pupil, who tended to concentrate on his interests, like the movie house. The family left Marceline in 1910, after Elias was forced to sell the farm following financial problems and illness. Elias is depicted by many of Walt's biographers as a hard, humourless taskmaster who regularly beat his sons, and at around this time the two eldest sons deserted him" (p. 4).

Thereafter, the Disney family relocated to Kansas City, Missouri, where Walt and Roy secured employment as newspaper delivery boys for their father contracted for a distributorship (Bryman). Walt brother Roy left the family household in 1912 to assist his uncle in his farming operations and during this period, Walt's academic performance remained average but this lack of academic achievement is attributed to his penchant for letting his attention wander too much. This tendency can be attributed to Walt's earlier fond experiences with his "Dreaming Tree" in Marceline where he spent long hours imaging what could be, perhaps, and given the pastoral setting, it is understandable as well (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Disney's "Dreaming Tree."

Source: Burk, p. 5.

According to Bryman, "During these years, Walt's interest in drawing developed but was frowned on by his father who saw it as a frivolous activity. Walt remained close to Roy, who periodically returned to see him. In his mid-teens, Walt developed an interest in gags used by burlesque comedians and others and kept a file of them; he also took a correspondence course in art, which his father was prepared to pay for because Walt contributed to the family finances by working in a jelly factory" (p. 4). At the end of the war, Walt enlisted with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps and was assigned to France for a year (Bryman).

Following his return in 1919, Walt became interesting in animation and began searching for employment as a cartoonist in Kansas City where a critical junction in his life would occur. In this regard, Bryman reports that Walt eventually secured a position with a commercial art studio where he met and became friends with another recently hired cartoonist, Ubbe Iwwerks (who later shortened his name to Ub Iwerks). According to this author, "Walt's job was short-lived and he teamed up with Iwerks to go into business. But Walt soon got a job as a cartoonist with the Kansas City Film Ad Company. Iwerks followed him shortly afterwards when their company went bankrupt in 1920. Although Iwerks is recognized as a brilliant draughtsman, he was a shy, diffident person, and it is generally reckoned that his personal traits contributed to a lack of ability at selling or generating interest in their products" (p. 5).

During his tenure at Film Ad, Walt first started working on short advertising films in the form of moving cartoons; however, the techniques during this time were still primitive and it was Walt's opinion that they could do better. Consequently, Walt's interest in animation was piqued and he began to formally study animation in earnest and experimented with his methods at night (Bryman). According to this biographer, Walt "found an outlet for his experiments in the Newman Laugh-O-Grams, which were brief cartoons based on simple gags made for the Newman Theater. In order to develop his experimental work further, Walt left his job and incorporated Laugh-O-Gram Films. Iwerks joined him, as did a number of other animators, and together they began work on fairy-tales" (p. 5).

This venture, though, experienced some problems early on when the cartoonists (including Iwerks) resigned for other opportunities. This turn of events proved to be a catalyst in Walt's career, it seems, and had a significant influence on his views about money and funding that would have important implications in the future in a Gone-With-the-Wind-I'll-Never-Be-Poor-Again-type of mindset. In this regard, Bryman reports that:


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