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Lifelong Learning Important for Personal and Business Development: A Lesson from the Disney Company

Mickey Mouse on a Piano; music and animation compromise

Walt Disney was continuously improving his art.  In fact, many people say he elevated the animated cartoon to an art. As shorts became less profitable, Walt knew he had to diversify. He began to train his staff to ready them for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” To do so, he brought experts into the studio to teach the animators how to draw better. Some of these lessons are now available in “Before Ever After” (affiliate link).

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Feed the Birds: Its Significance for Us and Walt Disney

ancient architecture black and white building

(Editor’s note: This article uses affiliate links. If you click on a link and it takes you to an Amazon page, you may purchase the book or song there. It won’t cost you any more than going directly to Amazon, and it will help our blog prosper. Thank you.) According to Robert Sherman, as recounted in “The Musical World of Walt Disney,” Walt Disney’s favorite song was the ballad “Feed the Birds.” Walt would invite the Sherman Brothers to his office for a scotch and a chat, then he would ask Richard Sherman to play the song that he would later call “the most beautiful song written for me.”

Mary Poppins sings “Feed the Birds” to the children as she puts them to bed, the evening before they are supposed to go with their father to the bank.

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‘Before Ever After’: First Look Book Review

Partners Statue at Disneyland

When Walt Disney decided that he wanted to keep improving animation and make an animated feature, he knew he would have to help his animators get better at more than just animating. They needed to learn about a variety of subjects so that they could harness their full potential. He decided to create a series of lecture classes that included bringing in some of the greatest people in their professions at the time, including Frank Lloyd Wright. Every time I read about these lectures in a Walt Disney biography, I wanted to find out what was in them. “Before Ever After” (affiliate link) gives me that opportunity.

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Disneyland TV Videos on YouTube for Sunday Funday

Partners statue in Disneyland

(These videos may not be available in your region.) In 1954, the Disneyland TV Show premiered on ABC television. The show started a year in advance of the opening of the park and was a way for Walt Disney to use the power of television to advertise and drum up anticipation for his new park. ABC agreed to be the guarantor on a loan for the park. In return, the last place channel got quality entertainment from the most popular entertainment company in America. The show would run on all three networks for 36 years, missing only the 1984and 1985 season. For 25 of those years, it would air on Sunday. It was the second longest running show on television. Since getting rid of Netflix, Jenya and I have been exploring the offerings on YouTube for the Disneyland TV series.

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Hall-of-Fame Rocker Neil Young and Mickey Mouse: the Surprising Connection

selective focus photo of boy standing near miniature train toys

Neil Young’s star was taking off just as Walt Disney’s was setting. Young was touring Canada as a solo artist in 1965. In 1966, he formed the “Mynah Birds” with Rick James, which was signed to Motown. The group had problems when James was arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Military. Still, Young went to Los Angeles where he formed the highly successful Buffalo Springfield in the same year. It was also the year Walt Disney, the creator of Mickey Mouse, died.

Neil Young’s Invention

Ben Young, Neil’s son, has cerebral palsy. Growing up, Neil wanted to be able to connect with his son, so he built a 700-foot model train track. He then designed a controller that Ben could use to control the trains. In 1995, Lionel Trains was threatened with bankruptcy. Neil put together an investment group and bought the company, so he could continue his experiments with model trains. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2008.

Mickey Mouse Hand Car

Flashback to May of 1934, and the great depression has taken the life out of the Lionel. It’s facing bankruptcy but goes into receivership. Two months later, Disney’s marketing genius Kay Kamen comes to Lionel with a plan because he believes in the company. Lionel could make and sell a windup Mickey Mouse Hand Car. They do, and by Christmas, Lionel had paid off its debts, and by January, it was out of receivership.

The Connection

While Walt Disney had a love trains in common with Neil Young, the connection Neil shares with Mickey Mouse is they both saved the same model train company from bankruptcy.

Lessons of Creativity

Neil Young is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. His creativity comes out in his music, but that didn’t stop him from dabbling in something new. He wanted to share his love of trains with his son. He saw a need and figured out how to fill it. Neil Young was no dabbler in trains though; he had been playing with them since he was five. It was Kay Kamen’s belief in Lionel that led him to offer the company the opportunity to turn their fortunes around. The company said yes to the offer. “Yes” is often the most powerful word.

For more on creativity, follow this blog and join our Patreon. You can also get my books: “Disneyland Is Creativity,” “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” and “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

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3 Disney-related Quotes about Curiosity and How it Improves Imagination

Partners statue in Disneyland

Popular wisdom holds that “curiosity killed the cat.” This phrase is used to warn people against being to inquisitive for their own good. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t find out any information that could get you dead. Eliminating curiosity is good for people or organizations with something to hide. It also good for those who want to exert dogmatic control on their followers. However, humans need to be curious. It improves imagination and leads to greater creativity.

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Disney Films, Academic Essays, and an Open Mind

Partners statue in Disneyland

I typically shy away from books and essays that critique Walt Disney and his films. There are several reasons for this. We don’t need to kill our heroes. Walt was a product of his times. It’s easier to critique and tear down things than it is to create them. However, the biggest reason is that too many of these types of essays contain inaccuracies and falsehoods that come from someone not being an expert in Disney knowledge and/or doing sloppy research. It’s insane how many “educated” people believe Walt’s frozen head lies in a secret lair under Disneyland. It’s hurtful how many people say he was racist or anti-Semitic when those who worked with him deny those allegations. Sometimes, it’s just ridiculous the interpretations that people come up with for Disney films.

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‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’: Music and Worry

Meeting Snow White at Disneyland's 25th anniversary

(This article contains affiliate links. If you order something using these links, it doesn’t cost you more, and I get a small advertising fee.) In 1937, Walt Disney released “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The first animated feature was often known as Disney’s Folly. People said no one would sit through such a long cartoon. Some said people’s eyes would bleed if they watched that much animated film in one sitting. When it premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater, it was an instant hit. Celebrities cried. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” became the highest grossing movie of all-time until “Gone with the Wind” knocked it off the top spot in 1939.

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The Top 8 Books on Disney and Creativity

The Walt Disney Company has been considered powerhouse in creative endeavors. With its innovations in animation, movies and theme parks, people associate the Disney brand with creativity. So, aside from my two books, “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” what are the best books about Disney and its creative process? Here are my Top 8:

“Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” – Don Hahn gives readers practical advice for getting more creativity from life. He uses his life experience and his work at Disney to provide some of the best insights and most fun stories for creativity.

“The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity” – The imagineers explore creativity principles and provide examples on how to add more creativity to your everyday life! Use it in conjunction with “The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles” and get your creative muscles in shape.

“The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles” – The imagineers give you some exercise to improve your creative output in this companion book to “The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity.”

“One Little Spark! Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering” – Marty Sklar leads us on an exploration of the rules that imagineers follow to come up with and implement their ideas. Go inside the idea process with the experts at the Walt Disney company.

“Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” – The section on Steve Jobs makes this book about Pixar and creativity worth the read. Ed Catmull does an outstanding job with this story of the Pixar Studios. Read my review at our archive website http://www.penguinate.weebly.com.

“Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” – Marty Sklar was a prominent imagineer who got his start writing for Disneyland before the park opened. “Dream It! Do It!” is Sklar’s autobiography as it relates to his work with the Walt Disney Company. Check out the review at our archive website http://www.penguinate.weebly.com.

“How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life” – Pat Williams takes an honest and positive look at Walt Disney’s life. Williams pulls out creativity principles using Walt’s biography as the basis for illustrating those principles.

 “Walt Disney: An American Original” – Biographies are a great way to get inspired and to dig into what made someone creative. Bob Thomas’ seminal work on Walt Disney was released not long after Disney’s death. It is one of the most accurate portrayals of Walt’s life and how he accomplished what he did. Start here before looking at the more modern biography by Neal Gabler.

Tell us which book on Disney and creativity is your favorite!

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The ABCs of Creativity: Yes, and…

In improv comedy, you never want to shut down the person you’re on stage with. Even if you have no idea how something is going to be funny, you need to take what you’re given and add to it. The phrase is “Yes, and…” Because improv is creative and difficult enough, negating someone’s idea will shut down the comedy as it destroys the other person’s confidence.

Walt Disney knew instinctively that creativity came from the “Yes.” People who said “no” were always looking at how not to do things and that’s what they would end up doing – nothing. When Walt proposed something that sounded crazy, the answer was always “Yes.” Sometimes, there was a qualifier and the answer was “Yes, if…” People who said “No” to Walt often found themselves unemployed.

When creating the effect for the Rainbow Caverns, Heinz Haber told imagineer Claude Coats that it would be statistically impossible to keep the colors separate form each other. They would be gray within a week. When Coats relayed Haber’s assessment to Walt, Walt said, “Well, it’s fun to do the impossible” (according to MiceChat). Walt trusted his people to find a way to accomplish the impossible because he believed in the power of “Yes.” As long as someone thought they could or they thought that Walt thought they could, they usually did.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity,” “the Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories,” and join our Patreon. For more on the Disney Company, get “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”