Thankful for Walt

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

One of my favorite promotional photos of Walt Disney.

Though there are so many facets of the man’s life worth celebrating, today, we celebrate the man himself. Happy birthday, Walt.

He was a man of humble beginnings. A boy with a paper route. A kid who sold candy on trains. A teenage ambulance driver for the Red Cross. A young man full of ideals and dreams who knew how to work to make it happen. A man who sacrificed much of what he had in order to fulfill said dreams. A man who left this world a better place because he was in it.

Walt wasn’t perfect – to place him on a shrine as such would be foolish and naive. Not every idea he had worked, many risks he took put him in the red, and according to many of his animators and employees, he had a temper that turned him into a “wounded bear.” Nonetheless, he had a drive and an instinct so rare in the world. More often than not, his instinct proved right. Holding back a couple Mickey Mouse cartoons in order to introduce him to the world in sound? Mickey became an overnight sensation. Making a feature length animated movie based on a fairy tale? “Disney’s Folly” was anything but. A theme park in an orange grove in the middle of nowhere? Yes, that one seemed to turn out just fine.

But as stated above, these things didn’t fall in his lap. He had to fight the naysayers tooth and nail: bankers, animators, business analysts, his own brother… But he always saw it through with hard work, big ideas, clever fixes and involvement. There’s an oft attributed to Walt quote that makes its way through different venues – “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” Though this quote was not actually from Walt Disney, (it actually came from Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald), one can see why it could be from him. Only, had Walt said it, it would probably sound something closer to, “If you dream it, follow through. Work hard to make it happen. Follow those dreams into a reality. You CAN do it.”

To me, the man I remember and admire today is the man who had dreams and followed through. He knew people would come to his movies and his parks if he put in the care needed to make it happen. I think today that is sorely missed. Truth be told, as much as we look for “the next Walt,” there will never be another. However, if we use him as an example, perhaps we can keep the spirit and ideals alive.

Thank you for all you did and started, Walt. Thank you for being that example. Happy Birthday, sir.

Thankful For Diane

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Note #2: I realize Hayden covered this subject quite wonderfully in his article, “So Long, Diane.” I am thankful for his words – I just needed to take the time to write this one out, as I am truly thankful for her legacy, and felt the need to share what she meant to me personally.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Some people touch your life in ways you never truly realize until they’re gone.

Perhaps there was this naivete in the mind of this DisNerd (and many other fans) that you’d be around forever, Diane Disney-Miller. That your voice would be heard by legions of fans worldwide of your father’s legacy. That you would continue to work to preserve the memory of what he built with not just your memories and words, but also driving forward projects such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Walt Disney Family Museum. That you would fight and speak out against the Disney company when something wasn’t right. That you would be the voice of the family for many years to come.

Perhaps it was this fantastic assumption of time standing still that made this news quite a bitter pill to take. However, beyond this, there was the fact of where I heard the news. Much like the day I heard of Robert Sherman’s passing, I was enjoying a family vacation at the Disneyland Resort. Stopping for lunch in Downtown Disney, I checked my phone for anything of interest, only to receive a notification from my friend Hayden on the passing of Diane Disney-Miller. Time really did stand still for a brief instant, and I’m not ashamed to say a few tears welled up in my eyes. I mean, here was this great voice for Disney heritage, and it had been silenced. A void that could never be filled. The one living person who had not a working relationship with Walt, but a life relationship. Someone who inspired Walt to do many of his magnificent “things,” from a theme park in Anaheim to an amazing Disney classic movie called Mary Poppins. This person knew the importance of preserving a legacy and not tarnishing a name. “What would Walt do?” is a dangerous question to be asked, but she was one of the few who could probably answer correctly – at least more than others.

Diane also wrote a wonderful series of articles on her dad for the Saturday Evening Post.

The following morning in DIsneyland, their was a definite air of bittersweet looking out over town square. Amidst Christmas celebrations on the minds of guests, and many oblivious to Diane’s passing, or what she meant to many, the flags stood at half-staff and I was once again reminded of her voice, influence and inspiration. Standing on the platform to the Main Street Station, I glanced to my left, where a light is left on in Walt’s apartment above the fire station, and thought to myself…. She must be having a heck of a carousel ride right now.

Picture taken November 20th, 2013, the morning after Diane’s passing.

Diane, I hope this is true. I hope your dad has left his park bench and your whole family is riding in a row. Thank you so much for all you did to inspire your father as well as preserve his legacy. I will always be thankful.

Thankful for the Sherman Brothers

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes it’s the people you’ve never met that influence you the most.

As many long time readers know from previous posts, The Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert) come up rather frequently in my blog. This is with good reason: next to perhaps Walt himself, those two have more influence on me than anyone else has in the history of the Walt Disney Company. As I’ve stated before, their interviews on the Mary Poppins soundtrack opened me to a world of the musical process of writing, helping me appreciate song and score in movies even more. The lyrics and tone of “A Man Has Dreams/ A Spoonful Of Sugar” from Mary Poppins (combined with the superb delivery of David Tomlinson and Dick Van Dyke) leave me with a lump in my throat every time. The fun mix of melodrama and a rousing good time on “Let’s Have a Drink On It” from The Happiest Millionaire make it one of my all-time favorite Disney songs.

But their ability to entertain and stir emotion reaches beyond just the Disney realm. “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine)” is so infectious, it’ll stick in one’s head for days almost as much as “It’s a Small World.” For many, the songs from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” remain classics as well (perhaps the songs of the brothers, along with Dick Van Dyke, are the reason many people think this one IS a Disney film!). Although I didn’t realize it until I watched “The Boys – The Sherman Brothers Story,” the two were responsible for one of the saddest songs of my childhood. The haunting music and lyrics in context with the happenings of “Snoopy Come Home,” are so powerful I can’t listen to this song without feeling extreme sadness. That, my friends, is the power of great music and lyric writing.

The two brothers have surpassed being “just writing Disney music” as many would think of them. They’ve become timeless. In the words of publicist and Disney historian Tim O’Day, ” They are the ‘Gershwin Brothers’ of Disney (and beyond). They and their work need to be elevated above the category of ‘children’s music.’ ” I couldn’t agree more, Tim. And in this season I am thankful for the two brothers that made me believe that flying a kite was excellent therapy. That Annette was indeed a pineapple princess. That it really IS a small world, after all.

Richard (left) and Robert – Two very different brothers who left an amazing mark on the musical world.

Thankful For “Keep Moving Forward”

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes the right words from the right person can make all the difference.

If there’s one thing in life I need to be mindful of, it’s dwelling on mistakes. If I were to spend too much time thinking of what I did wrong, I wouldn’t be able to see all that’s before me. I believe this is a lesson many of us still need to learn – I’m learning it daily. Perhaps this is why the following quote means so much to me:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

What an example he set. While we tend to remember the accomplishments, we need to remember that Walt had his share of failure and setbacks. Movies such as Pinocchio and Fantasia, although labeled as classics today, were not considered a success. Disneyland didn’t run smoothly upon opening, and even before it opened, many attractions were scrapped. If he had dwelt on those setbacks, would he have had the time to keep coming up with new ideas? Or, going back to my day one “Thankful For Disney” post, what if he had given up in frustration at losing the Oswald character? To quote an old song, “WHAT? No Mickey Mouse?”

No, Walt was most definitely a forward thinker. I’m thankful for this, not only because of what it meant to the company we all know and love. Even more, it serves as inspiration for me in my life, and keeps me moving forward as well. So thank you, Walt for great words to remember and live by.

Thankful For You!

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

This may not be the most Disney-centered thankful post, but nonetheless, I’m thankful and this needs to be said.

Today marks post number 100 on Confessions of a DisNerd. A year and a half ago I started this journey as an exercise in not just writing, not just writing about Disney, but writing about Disney in a positive manner. Today, I look back at the blog, feeling proud of what I’ve been able to do so far. Yes, there were times I stumbled through a bit of writer’s block. But I also had enough of a love and appreciation of Disney that I knew inspiration would strike again. As I continue this “Thankful For Disney” series, I  realize there’s so much more I’ve yet to talk about – this gives me inspiration to keep going!

But what gives me even more inspiration to keep going is you, the readers. While I’m not doing Confessions for popularity or notoriety, it still warms my heart to see your “likes,” your shares, your page views and your comments. Seeing readers react and comment with their own stories and thoughts gives one an awesome feeling of community. Knowing there are people out there that are getting something out of the words I write truly means a lot to this blogger.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading. I hope you’re all still around for post number 200, and beyond. I love sharing these thoughts with all of you – thanks for coming along on the ride!

Thankful For Donald Duck

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes we need to be able to cheer for the underdog. Sometimes, we need to laugh at the underduck.

donald splash

Donald Fauntleroy Duck… What is it that makes me have a soft spot in my heart for you? I know it’s not right to laugh at the pain of others. Often, I feel sorry for you – especially when your nephews are pulling their shenanigans and all you want is a nice relaxing day, or perhaps to step out with Daisy. Yet, your overreactions serve as a cautionary tale for what happens when we lose our tempers or seek revenge. In those moments of defeat, we laugh at your anthropomorphic plight, thankful it’s you and not us.

Maybe it’s your inability to communicate clearly to others? Trying to figure out what you’re trying to say, while frustrating at times, is half the fun. Of course, when even your fellow waterfowl can’t understand you….

Maybe it’s just the boldness of your character. I mean, you never wear pants and it doesn’t bother you a bit!

Unless you lose your shirt…

donald no pants

And let’s not even talk about when you go into the water…

Really? NOW you need swim trunks?

Really? NOW you need swim trunks?

Regardless of clothing choice, speech impediments or anger issues, Donald. I’m thankful for you. You bring laughter into my life and you’re one of my favorite characters. Life just wouldn’t be as fun without you there to quack me up.

Thankful For “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes a song can take you away to another place, or help you believe that dreams come true. I know I’m thankful for songs like these.

There are memorable songs from movies – you know, the songs that you find yourself humming long after the film ended – and then there are songs that transcend movies. Leigh Harline and Ned Washington’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” goes far beyond the film it was written for. This is not in anyway a knock on Pinocchio. No, the movie is among my favorite Disney animated movies – quite possibly my favorite, depending on the day! It’s just that the song itself is so much more. It’s become not only a theme song for the Walt Disney Company in general, but one to dreamers everywhere as well.

Like a bolt out of the blue...

Like a bolt out of the blue…

The notion of wishing upon a star may seem silly, but the idea of dreams coming true? Well, this is something we all long for. Now, in the “real world” we realize we can’t sit back and wait for things to come to us. If Walt had simply wished upon a star without actively pursuing that dream…. well, I don’t think that would have turned out very well. However, the notion of dreams coming true if we have the courage to pursue them (hmmm… now THAT sounds catchy!) is a noble one. Throw in a wish on the evening star as well? Believe in your dreams, and you never know.

Every time my family goes to Disneyland, we always pause underneath Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to here Jiminy Cricket sing his anthem to passers by. Combined with the magical feeling that the park brings, that song means even more there. And I’m certainly thankful for the feeling it brings.

I feel it only fitting to close out this thankful post with the song itself – perhaps my favorite cover of “When You Wish…” Take it away, Pops….