Walt Disney was the twentieth century’s prime example of American ingenuity. How did he do it? In this video, Glenn Beck, best-selling author and host of The Glenn Beck Program, explains how Disney became a household name, and how he proved that in America, the only limit to your ambition is your own imagination.
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I want to tell you about an American Original, a man who saw into the future and made it a reality.
He isn’t the only one to do this. There were American Originals before him—Benjamin Franklin, the Wright Brothers, John D. Rockefeller—and there are American Originals in our time, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk.
But in the middle of the twentieth century, there was no better example than Walt Disney.
Fifty years after his death, his name still stands atop a global empire.
Raised on a small family farm in Missouri, Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood in 1923 with little more than a suitcase and a pencil. But he had something else. An idea—an idea to explore humanity’s foibles through cartoon animals. Now, I know it sounds obvious now, but only because we live in the world that he helped create.
At first, Disney, like most entrepreneurs, did everything himself—he wrote, produced, directed, and animated. And animation is a painstakingly, time-intensive task. In the early days, it would take hundreds, if not thousands, of separate drawings to create a moving cartoon. But hard work was never really a problem for Walt Disney. Living on baked beans, and renting a one-room office for $5 a month, he believed he was on to something—and nobody could convince him otherwise.
And Disney would need every bit of that conviction. Now, though the barriers to entry in Hollywood in the 1920s were low, the competition was cut-throat. But a charming rodent and the coming of sound allowed him to break through.
Steamboat Willie, in 1928, starring an early version of a whistling Mickey Mouse, confirmed Disney’s belief that there was an audience—a very large audience—for what he wanted to produce.
By 1933, Mickey was the biggest star in the world. And in that year alone, a cartoon mouse received 800,000 pieces of fan mail. Within a decade, Disney had transformed his one-person operation into a major studio employing a thousand animators.
But Disney was a restless personality; he was easily dissatisfied with his own success. And he wanted to make a full-length animated feature. It couldn’t be good. It had to be great. It couldn’t be in black and white. It had to be in color. And it couldn’t just be in color. It had to be art in motion.
It would be very expensive – far beyond what he had ever spent on a single project. But money didn’t really interest him. It was only a means to an end. That end? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Three years in the making, it was finally released in 1937. And it was an instant and phenomenal success—worth every dime spent, every heartache he had endured.
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