Walt Disney has been called many things, even decades after his death: a misogynist, a bigot, anti-Semitic. There are also people who defend him, saying he was like a father figure to his workers, having everyone call him Uncle Walt. People still attempt to give the man labels to understand his character. Whether or not these labels are correct is not what concerns me today. Instead, the question on my mind is this: do a man’s past personal opinions affect his impact on the world?
One of Disney’s slogans is “It all started with a mouse.” Really, it all started with one man’s dream. Disney doesn’t just stand for a certain family’s last name anymore. The Disney name is now a corporation, a brand that has grown and touched the lives of people all over the world. There are lunchboxes, teddy bears, clothing lines, and all sorts of other knick knacks that are sold stamped with that famous logo. This company, this world-wide legacy, all started with a man.
Like many of us, Disney had a dream and a drive to succeed. Not all his efforts were successful either. Disney’s first animation venture, called Laugh-O-gram Films, went bankrupt soon after it was founded. Still, Disney kept trying and, eventually, made the company empire we all know to this day.
The question remains. Is a man’s impact on the world more important than the man’s character? I would say yes, at least when it comes to Walt Disney. Disney the man was just the starting point to what has become an influential force in a lot of kid’s lives. I have no problem separating Walt Disney from his legacy because, for me, his product is so much more important than who he might have been.
Take, for example, any given actor today. I’ve heard rumors that Denzel Washington is a bit hard to work with in movies; he’s supposedly stubborn and occasionally takes his anger out on others. Is any of this true? I have no idea. However, I don’t really care about his personal problems on set, as long as whatever movie he’s in is entertaining to me and he acts well in it.
The important thing to remember is that Disney was a person and made mistakes. However, those mistakes, big or small, don’t matter in the least. His impact on the world and his accomplishments are what matter. His company, his movies, the parks he helped bring to life — all of it has brought happiness and joy to people everywhere.
The Disney name is famous throughout the world. Almost everyone knows about Disneyland, Disney World, the Disney Channel, and the movie production company, Walt Disney Pictures. The influence of this company has spread far and wide, inspiring young minds, possibly for the first time in their lives, to believe in something big.
When I was a kid, I didn’t really know about “Disney, the man.” I only knew that every time my parents were planning a vacation, I wanted them to say those famous words “We’re going to Disney World.” As a kid, before I ever knew about the concept of God or praying. I believed in one thing with all my heart: Disney magic. I believed that I was meeting real ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. I believed I was in the middle of a pirate attack in
Pirates of the Caribbean. I believed in genies, fairies and talking mice with magic hats.
I’m not a religious person now, but, as a kid, the Disney movies were what first taught me to have faith. One of the first examples of prayer I remember learning about was Geppetto from “Pinocchio” kneeling by a window, head bowed, whispering a wish to the stars. These movies helped teach me how to be a good person. They taught me the importance of helping others, having courage when the odds are against me, facing my fears and believing in myself.
With the company doing so much good in the world, making children happy and giving them something to believe in, I believe in the power of one man’s legacy. Walt Disney was just a man, but the Disney name has become a legacy.