What Would Walt Do?
I’ve been around the Disney community for 11+ years now, chatting and contributing to the various message groups and forums, and something I’ve heard more times than I care to remember is “What Would Walt Do”, often shortened to the mnemonic, WWWD, a play on the popular, What Would Jesus Do, (WWJD).
I don’t mind the question really, except when people get extreme about it, and start into a rant about the current whatever being so far out of line with what Walt Disney would have done IF he were still alive. I’m sure I have used the WWWD phrase myself a few times as well. Mind you, I think it’s important to think about how or why Walt would have done things in his time, given the projects he worked on. And, in some capacity, many of those principles that he formulated, are still applicable in today’s world, and more specifically in the parks and movies that bear his name. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s not with us anymore, and we have to figure things out for ourselves. And, I think, based on some of his work and ideas, we can do so with a good balance that respects him and what he did, while also moving forward.
The part that gets a little “hairy” though, is when you start talking about changing or removing so-called classic attractions that Walt was a part of, either in concept, design or creation. In my opinion, there are a few of these that could be changed or completely removed, but for the sake of keeping this post flame-free, I will refrain from naming any. But, thinking about what Walt would do, it is my belief that he would feel the same way. An attraction is only good, and worth keeping around if the majority of guests still enjoy it, and it will continue to represent the sponsor and Disney company well. Old worn out attractions need to be either removed or updated.
It’s just my own belief based on what I’ve seen and read about Walt, but I’ve come up with the following list of what I believe to be some basic principles behind his ideas for building the parks and attractions the way he did.
APPEAL TO ALL – I think this was his inspiration and number 1 driving factor behind building Disneyland and the attractions he wanted for that park. He wanted a place where kids and adults could laugh and play together. A place where adults could act like kids, and kids could play with their adult parents who had been magically transformed.
Supporting quotes: “We believed in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun- together.” and “It has that thing – the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement- I knew when I was a kid.”
FANTASY – Stemming from his many years in making cartoons and films, he knew how to tell stories that carried people away to make believe worlds of fantasy and fiction. He himself said: “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.”
PASSION – When he built Disneyland, I think Walt was at a point where he was looking to do something new and then just kind of stumbled into it. But, I don’t think it was the kind of thing that was just a throw together. No, Walt had drive and determination about him that might be labeled as close to obsessive. It was a deep-rooted passion that led him to create such an incredible and magical environment. A passion that overflowed from him into many others who saw it and wanted to be a part of it. “When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impressions that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn’t realize that behind Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it.”
VISION – Along with the passion, I believe he also had a grand vision of what he wanted, not just from the start, but for the future as well. And this is where my own frustration comes when communicating with others about what Walt would do. See, I don’t believe that he would be happy with attractions staying the same for years on end and growing tired and stale. I think he himself would have been constantly pushing and tweaking them to make them even better. Just read the following quotes and I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
“It’s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing…and adding to.”
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
“I’ve always said that there will never be another Disneyland, and I think it’s going to work out that way. But it will be the equivalent of Disneyland. We know the basic things that have family appeal. There are many ways that you can use those certain basic things and give them a new decor, a new treatment. This concept here will have to be something that is unique, so there is a distinction between Disneyland in California and whatever Disney does in Florida.”
“I’m doing this because I want to do it better”
And, of course, the quote that I use for this blog:
“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”
So, based on the principles above, I’m hoping to start a new feature/segment titled, That’s what I would do (TWIWD), and consequently, ask the question, What would you do (WWYD)? I don’t mean for it to be irreverent or dis-respectful to Walt Disney or any Imagineers past and present, but more along the lines of exploratory and let’s see what else we can come up with, in the spirit of the Imagineering concept of “blue sky” – where there are no limits. Now, personally, my ideas tend to be somewhat less than blue sky, as I usually toss in a healthy dose of realism to make them more palatable, or affordable, as I know how the real world works, all too often with tight budget and time constraints.
So, check back soon, I hope to have a TWIWD post shortly.
Quotes ref: http://www.justdisney.com/walt_disney/quotes/