AIB Featured Business Leader – Walt Disney

AIB Featured Business Leader – Walt Disney


This week I take a look at one of the film industry’s most noteworthy businessmen – Walt Disney. Despite such profound success, many of you may not know that Disney faced numerous challenges along his journey to the top. In fact, he was rejected, became bankrupt and failed several times in his business endeavours. There are a number of lessons that can be learnt from his experiences, the first of them being the importance of perseverance towards your end goal.          

Born in 1901, Disney displayed an interest in art and drawing from a young age. At the age of 16, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to France to drive an ambulance, however instead of his ambulance being covered with camouflage, it was covered with Disney’s cartoons. Upon his return to the United States, he pursued a career in commercial art, founding a small organisation named Laugh-O-Grams. Unfortunately, after only a short amount of time, the company was forced into bankruptcy. Instead of giving up, Disney persevered and sold his only possession – a camera, and set off for Hollywood with $40 and small suitcase.

One of Disney’s well known quotes is ‘All of our dreams come true, if we have the courage to pursue them’. This brings me to the second lesson to be learnt from Disney; the importance of having the courage to try new things. After his relocation to Hollywood, Disney and his brother Roy combined their funds and established the Disney Brothers’ Studio. This courage to open the studio led to the great success of the ‘Alice Comedies’ and ‘Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’. However despite the fact that Disney created the character of Oswald, Universal Studies owned the trademark. In a meeting in New York in 1928, Disney learnt that most of his main animators had been poached by Charlz Mintz, and was told his work was no longer required on the Oswald project.

Whilst many of us would be filled with rage after losing key staff and a concept you had been working on for years, Disney returned to Hollywood and started working on a new character to replace Oswald. This brings me to the third and final lesson which can be taken away from Disney’s experiences; failure can be beneficial to you. He once said ‘All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me. You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.’ The failure of Oswald led to the creation of the most successful and well known Disney character – Mickey Mouse, as well as the foundation of all the Disneyworld theme parks throughout the world. Although Disney would have been discouraged after losing Oswald, he used this failure to build an even better organisation.

Despite being an older example, Walt Disney’s story demonstrates that with perseverance, a sense of courage, and the ability to grow from failure; anything is possible. I am interested to hear your views – have you experienced success after failure? Also, if you would like to see profile a particular business leader featured then please leave a comment below.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Mouse PlanetHuffington PostWikipediaJust DisneyBrainy Quote.

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