How To Be Like Walt (2004), Pat Williams - Book Summary

How to be like Walt written in 2004 brings readers closer to one of the most prolific and successful artists of the last century. The following summaries provide a close-up view of Walt Disney's career, focusing on the traits that made him great - qualities we can all emulate.

Who should read this book?

  • Fans of Disney-branded works and curious about their creators
  • Those who "hate" Disney but are not afraid to change their opinion
  • Artists and investors looking for inspiration

About the author

Pat Williams is the manager and vice president of the Orlando Magic basketball team. He has also given inspirational speeches at major companies such as Coca-Cola, Cisco, and Honeywell, and is also an enthusiastic author who owns more than 100 books. This book was born out of his admiration for Walt Disney.

What's in this book? Let's find out how Walt Disney brought "Miracle Kingdom" to real life.

“Disney” has become an epitome of entrepreneurial spirit and relentless efforts to affirm the brand. When we hear that name, we will immediately think of giant amusement parks, singing cartoon princesses and not to mention Mickey Mouse.

But even an empire like Disney had very humble beginnings. This synopsis will tell the story of a man named Walt Disney and the many challenges he had to overcome on the way to making his dreams come true.

In this summary you will understand

  • Walt Disney's philosophy of creativity;
  • How to get inspired by being caught by the police; and
  • The truth behind the birth of Mickey Mouse.

From a young age, Disney worked hard and was a school boss.

In Disney's Cinderella , a beautiful girl endures the abuse of her stepmother and half-sisters and must cater to their every need. Although it sounds a bit unrealistic, it seems that Walt Disney was inspired by his own intense childhood.

The story is like this:

Disney, like Cinderella, learned the meaning of hard work from a very young age. In 1909, his father, Elias, fell ill and was forced to sell the family farm. Elias moved the family to Kansas City, where he landed a job as a manager at one of the distribution points for the local Kansas City Star newspaper.

But their new job didn't make their lives any easier: Walt and his brother Roy had to work to help their father without being paid a dime. They used to get up at 3:30 a.m. rain or shine to deliver the papers before school – and after school had more work to do when preparing orders for the next day.

Can you imagine how these difficult times followed Walt throughout his life? In fact, years later he still has nightmares about himself trudging through a blizzard, facing punishment for missing a delivery order.

While the works are heavily influenced by childhood, Disney is just as interested in magic and playful as any other boy. Although he was not the top student in his class, often daydreaming, writing badly, or struggling to fight off sleep, Walt stood out as the class joker.

For example, in fifth grade, he dressed as President Abraham Lincoln for his birthday, and the outfit was made perfect by adding a scarf, high-top silk hat, and a mustache that he was looking for. be in the clothing store. When the teacher asked him why he dressed like Lincoln, Disney replied that it was the president's birthday and that he wanted to tell the class about one of his most famous speeches - the Gettysburg Address.

The speech was a huge hit, and Walt was allowed to repeat it for the whole school to see.

Creativity is Walt Disney's greatest strength and he often draws inspiration from his own life.

Many artists often worry that their art creations will be stolen, but when the character Oswald - Walt Disney's Lucky Rabbit was plagiarized by a rival producer, he was not bitter at all. . Instead, Disney created a new character - the legendary Mickey Mouse.

The story perfectly describes Disney's most powerful weapon - great creativity. Disney views creativity as a skill anyone can learn rather than a gift bestowed on a few. As a result, he was constantly looking for new ideas in the people and world around him.

His approach often leads to unexpected results. For example, when actress Ilene Woods went to a Disney studio to record "Oh Sing Sweet Nightingale," a song from the movie Cinderella , Walt was there to hear her sing.

The scene in which the song plays is Cinderella mopping the floor and as Walt hears Woods sing, he suddenly sees a rising soap bubble reflecting Cinderella's image. This look has become a classic moment in the film: the image is reflected in the soap bubbles along with the singing. The effect is repeated several times, until it blends with Cinderella's chorus.

So Disney draws creativity from both other people and its environment; His life was also a source of flashy imagination. In fact, one of his creative principles is always to make the most of life experiences. To do so, he often writes down events in his life and turns them into interesting stories.

For example, one day, while driving to the studio, Walt was stopped by a traffic cop. He was very angry because he was still on his way to work and started telling the story to everyone.

He soon realized that some people thought it was interesting, and he "adds salt" to the story, building up a detail each time he tells it and monitoring people's reactions. This incident eventually became the inspiration for a Mickey cartoon in 1931 called Troubles on the Road.

Walt Disney never stops taking risks and always gets the results he deserves.

Mickey Mouse continues to be incredibly popular. But, despite its success, Disney never wanted to stop there. By the time Mickey shot to stardom, Walt was looking for a new mountain to climb.

In general, he is a person who likes to hit big to fulfill his dreams. For example, in the early 1930s, Disney wanted to make a feature-length animated film that told the story of Snow White. His brother, Roy, the company's financial manager, threw him only $500,000, the equivalent of about $7 million today.

But the amount did not discourage Walt. He is prepared to do all it takes to make his dream come true. These efforts have helped him recruit many talents.

For example, in 1934, Disney brought in art tutors from the prestigious Chouinard Institute of the Arts to work with some of his industry's leading animators. Three years on, famous artists such as architect Frank Lloyd Wright, muralist Jean Charlot and author Alexander Woolcott have also frequented the Disney studio and become stars in the world of production artists. cartoon.

Luckily for Disney, these investments have paid off in times of crisis. By 1937, the production cost of Snow White had reached $1,000,000. But the Disney brothers had a serious problem: they ran out of cash and had to sell or mortgage all of their properties.

However, the good news is that many parts of the film have already been completed. So Walt showed the film to Joe Rosenberg – who held the studio's debt at Bank of America. Although the film was still unfinished at the time, with a few scenes still in rough pencil strokes, Rosenberg was sure the film would gross well and he took care of the rest of the money needed to complete production.

Upon its release, Snow White became the most popular film at the time, earning $8.5 million in its initial release, and continuing to grow until 1939, with enough left over to make up for the investment in three last year.

By 1938, Walt Disney, despite its great success, was not immune to tragedy.  

So Snow White was famous. But how famous is it?

In 1938, even many adults, because they really wanted to watch movies, asked their lovers to take them to the cinema. It is clear that Disney has captured the minds of both children and adults.

He became extremely successful and had a good reason to confidently move forward. After all, 1938 was the golden age of Walt Disney. Snow White became an unprecedented success and Disney landed on the cover of Time magazine.

Acclaimed by audiences and critics worldwide, he had a team of more than a thousand artists and technicians ready to realize every idea that popped into his head. Despite his success, Walt continues to show that he is not very interested in money. Typically, after paying off his debt, he immediately reinvested the remaining money into his next project, Pinocchio.

However, Disney's successes did not prevent him from suffering and hardship.

In November 1938, Walt received a call from his mother, Flora. She was very worried because her kitchen had a gas leak. Walt sent a repairman the next day and didn't give it a second thought.

On November 26, Mrs. Flora's housekeeper suddenly felt dizzy in the kitchen. She immediately went outside and realized the gas was leaking and rushed into the house to save Walt's parents.

Walt's father survived, but Flora died. This event devastated Walt and he refused to talk about it for the rest of his life.

Furthermore, Pinocchio took three years to complete with a budget of $2.6 million and received critical acclaim but was a commercial failure. It was 1940, with the outbreak of World War II, the film market in Europe closed, leaving Disney's masterpiece unreleased and dumped in cinema warehouses.

Walt Disney is always looking for ways to make things better and never lets money rule.

Have you ever thought that even though you have reached the top of a certain field, you can still be better?

Walt Disney has done just that. He is always looking for ways to make his projects better.

In fact, it was such an important part of the principle that he used a new verb to describe it. For Disney, “adding” is a way to make a project better, either way.

Take his film Bambi as an example. In this film, Disney brought squirrels, rabbits, baby deer, and birds into the studio to help animators create more realistic paintings. He also brought in an Asian artist named Tyrus Wong, who brought a bit of Asian art to the light and shade composition of the film's forest backdrop.

His habit of "adding up" meant that Walt was often one step ahead of others. This allows him to improve in many ways, like when he voiced Mickey Mouse or when he became the first animator to add color to a film in the short film Silly Symphonies.

Financial problems did not stop him from perfecting his works. For example, with the soundtrack of Fantasia , Walt had already set his sights on the famous producer Leopold Stokowski. He was prepared to pay $400,000 to hire Stokowski, and even traveled to Philadelphia to work with the genius composer and the Philadelphia choir.

He also invested in stereo sound – a sound system where sound comes from two or more sources, making it easier for listeners to enjoy music. This “plus sign” costs him another $100,000. Naturally, his older brother, Roy - a very picky financial man - wasn't happy about the extra charges, but Walt believed it was well worth it.

Ideas were more important than money and he stuck with them no matter what.

Imagine dreamers who are stubborn enough to see their dreams come true from start to finish even if it takes an unrelenting effort to fulfill. Walt did just that. He has the ability to stick to an idea despite the objections of many people.

Take for example Disneyland. For many years, Walt dreamed of building an amusement park. But his studio is still heavily in debt, experts don't think the theme park plan is a good thing and his brother considers it completely insane.

However, Disney did not give up. He started saving money on his own, borrowed $100,000 from his insurance money, and put his summer home up for sale. Yet he didn't even get close enough.

Then, one night, the solution appeared: he needed a TV contract. It sounds simple: a TV channel could easily pool money to build a park in return for broadcasting shows from Disney and its co-owner of Disneyland.

However, all the major stations – NBC, CBS and ABC turned down the offer. At that point, most people will give up. But not Walt.

He had an advantage over other entrepreneurs in that he was not interested in making money. He just wanted to create a place where people could learn to dream again. So he gathered more money from his own employees' investments, asked his brother to support the project with a small amount of cash, and set up a design team.

Once he had a sketch of the park, which included a castle, riverboat and sky train station, he showed it to television stations. This time things were different. ABC provided him with $500,000 and lent him an additional $4.5 million. And just like that, Disneyland gradually became a reality.

Disney is open to ideas from everyone and is always looking for creative ways to incorporate them.

Most of us have been in a situation where everyone comes up with better ideas than we do. And this often makes us feel jealous. But instead of getting lost in jealousy, why not take advantage of those ideas?

That's how Walt Disney always did. He is comfortable with people's good opinions, and like a sponge, he often absorbs ideas from people around him.

Not only that, but he is also very humble when he realizes that he is not the only creator in this world. For example, when building Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, one of the workers working there made him think. He noticed this man because he was from Louisiana, which is part of the Caribbean island.

So Walt consulted the worker, wondering if there was anything he'd forgotten in recreating the land the worker knew like the back of his hand. They strolled into the construction site together and the worker had a brilliant idea: they should add dancing fireflies over swamps like in Louisiana!

Disney immediately realized the idea and installed electric fireflies that buzzed above the marshland at Disneyland for a few days.

Clearly, sharing ideas is very important to Disney and to make this process happen, he is always open to using creative methods. For example, in 1931, Webb Smith, one of Disney's story artists, made a sequence of pictures for an animated movie and placed them on the floor, and then cycled the sequence.

Walt was annoyed by the mess on the ground, so Smith began attaching strings to the pinboards he had hung on the walls of his office. Other artists soon followed—and so on—the graphic script was born.

One of Walt's specialties was realizing the potential of an idea and, from then on, he used graphic scripts on every project. He also made sure that every employee at Disney could add ideas to the script for a new project, contributing character suggestions and twists to the script.

Walt Disney is passionate about helping future generations and teaching young talents.

In fact, everyone in the world has heard of Disneyland, but did you know that Walt Disney also founded other academies to make the dreams of many young people come true?

Disney always felt that it was meaningful to leave something for future generations, and so in 1961, he started working on it. Walt and his brother Roy invested a large amount to build the California Academy of the Arts - a college of training in the visual and performing arts.

Walt also has a good relationship with art academies in Los Angeles, which has enabled him to complete some of his finest works. For example, in 1934, the Chouinard Institute of the Arts provided Disney studios with artists to teach Disney animators for free while Walt and Roy were penniless.

The Los Angeles Conservatory is also a good partner of Disney, training many of the singers and musicians who have performed in his films. Walt also wanted to help them, so he merged the two schools to form the California Academy of the Arts. The school was established to train artists in many fields such as music, painting, performance and engineering.

This dedication to education makes a lot of sense because Disney is always looking for young talent to encourage. In fact, in addition to creating this art school, he is also self-taught.

In 1951, he called Santa Monica High School to find a student deserving of help when he was given a name: Ken Wales. Disney took Ken to the studio and tutored him for three days, during which he was shown every aspect of filmmaking, from scripting to making music. Walt later funded Ken's film studies at the University of Southern California.

This investment has paid off. Ken Wales continued to work with director Blake Edwards, helping him complete a long string of films including The Great Circuit, The Pink Panther's Revenge and Tamarind Seeds with Julie Andrews.

Final conclusion

The message throughout the book:

Walt Disney was a great filmmaker, a humanitarian, a creative genius and a teacher of young artists, someone who approached business and art from the world around him. In addition to movies, he also created an amusement park and an art academy that promises to contribute to the world for many years to come.

Action advice:

Embrace change.

Disney is always ready to apply – if not propose – new ideas. For example, when other movie producers thought that talking cartoon characters would never be popular, Disney added the name Mickey Mouse, revolutionizing the film industry. So be like Walt and embrace new ideas, technology, and information.