Entrepreneur Biography – Walt Disney

Kenneth Uy 500438690 Entrepreneur’s Biography – Walt Disney Childhood Walter Elias Disney, commonly referred to as Walt Disney, was born on December 5th, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois (Walt Disney Family Museum, 2012). His father Elias Disney was an Irish-Canadian and his mother, Flora Disney, was of German and English descent. His family settled in a village known as Norton Disney in the country of Lincolnshire at the time of birth (Disney, 2000). At the age of four, Disney and his family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri, which is where he developed his love for drawing.
At the time he paid a retired Doctor by the name of “Doc” Sherwood to produce images of his horse, Rupert. Later on his interest grew to train development in Marceline, specifically the Topeka and Santa Fe Railway where his uncle Michael Martin was the engineer (Disney, 2000). Four years later, the Disney’s moved to Kansas City where Walt Disney attended the Benton Grammar School. In school Walt Disney met Walter Pfeiffer who introduced him to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures (Disney, 2000). He continued to emerge himself in art and filmography as he attended courses at the Kansas City Art Institute and went to Electric Park.
Adulthood At age 22 Walt Disney left Kansas City and made his way into Hollywood regardless of his insufficient money and materials. With the help of his brother Roy Disney they were able to use their resources and construct a camera to film in their uncles garage. Shortly they received an order from New York to produce the film “Alice Comedy” and began production (IMDb, 2010). In 1925, Walt married Lillian Bounds, one of his employees, in Lewiston, Idaho and had two daughters named Diane and Sharon Disney (Disney, 2000).

Three years had passed and the infamous Mickey Mouse was first portrayed in the silent cartoon “Plane Crazy” but made his debut in “Steamboat Willie” which is known as the world’s first fully synchronized sound cartoon. The production Mickey Mouse was the first milestone that began Walt Disney’s progression (Disney, 2000). Soon after, he began the production of full-length animated cartoon that contributed his launch to succession. By the time 1955 had arrive the entire globe had been entertained by Walt Disney’s creations especially with his television programming like “The Mickey Mouse Club” “Zorro” and Wonderful World of Color”.
On December 15, 1966 Walt Disney had died from Lung Cancer (WDFM, 2012). Education Walt Disney began his early education when he attended Benton Grammar School where he recognizes his ability to draw. Once the family moved to Chicago in 1917, Disney attended McKinley High School in his freshman year and took night courses at the Chicago Art Institute. He returned to Kansas City after a year to begin working as a graphic artist, therefore, Disney had a total of 9 years of formal education (Disney, 2000). Family Walt Disney had a father named Elias Disney and a mother named Flora Disney.
He has three brothers Herbert, Raymond, Roy, and Walter. And a sister named Ruth Disney. When he married Lillian Bounds in 1925 they conceived a girl by the name of Diane Disney and adopted a girl named Sharon Disney (IMDb, 2010). Diane married Ron Miller who was former president and chief executive of Walt Disney Productions; and Sharon served as a member of Disney Board of Directors (Disney, 2000) Work Experience As a high school dropout in 1917, Walt Disney tried to join the army but was rejected at the age of 16 for being too young (IMDb, 2010).
He then joined the Red Cross for a year as an ambulance driver. Upon his arrival back, he had difficulty finding work as an artist or even as an ambulance driver. He then found temporary work at an Art Studio creating advertisements for newspapers, magazines and movie theatres. He also met his first start-up partner Ubbe Iwerks. Finally, he worked for Kansas City Film Ad Company where he learned all about animation and decided to become an animator (Gabler, 2006). Past Startup Background Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists” was founded in January 1920 after Walt and Ubbe decided to start their own company (Gabler, 20006). Their company however was a failure and both started to work in animation at the Kansas City Film Ad Company. After learning all about animation, he pursued another start-up with another co-worker Fred Harman. This time he created an animation business and started screening cartoon’s titled “Laugh-O-Grams” in a local theatre. Following their success, Disney acquired Laugh-O-Gram studios, which soon went bankrupt due to Walt’s poor financial management.
Later that year, Walt and his Brother Roy opened Disney Brothers’ Studio in Hollywood, California (WDFM, 2012). He then started selling his produced cartoons to a New York distributor that was a huge success. Everything was going well until Disney found out that his client had hired Walt’s animators under contract and took the rights to his most popular animated characters (Gabler, 2006). Motivation of Startup After losing everything, Walt and Ubbe decided to create another cartoon character now known as Mickey.
After creating a series of short cartoons Mickey became the world’s most popular cartoon character in the 1930s. Walt created his first full-length animated musical feature in the production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” which exceeded over $1,400,000 in profit (IMDb, 2010). Throughout 1937-1947 he continued to create full-length movies such as “Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “Dumbo”, and “Bambi”. Following his cartoon success, Walt thought it was possible to pursue his dream in creating a theme park and which is now Disneyland.
After being rejected approximately 302 times (Cool Pup, 2012) for financing the park, he finally got approved and his venture would allow him to acquire ABC and open his second successful theme park, Disneyworld (JustDisney, 2003). The Walt Disney Company now has approximately 156,000 employees and had almost $41 billion in revenue the previous year (WDFM, 2012). Section 2 Stevenson’s Entrepreneurial Perspective on Walt Disney Note: This section pertains to Walt Disney while he had an influence on the Walt Disney Company until his death in 1966 and not the company at its current state.
Strategic Orientation Strategic orientation is defined by Stevenson to be how one formulates strategy (2006). He mentions two styles: Promoter and Trustee and contrasts the two by describing the first as opportunity-driven and the latter as resource-driven. Walt Disney demonstrated many entrepreneurial traits throughout his animation business ventures. Even while working for other ad companies, he always ended up making his own company. I believe Walt Disney’s strategic orientation strongly reflects that of a promoter.
Walt always pursued opportunities in entertainment because while Walt was producing still-cartoons at a previous job, he saw a bigger opportunity in animation and continued to pursue such opportunities as shown in his many transitions in the industry. He then started making short-film cartoons leading him to open his own animation business and acquire a studio (Gabler, 2006). He then saw opportunities by creating full-length feature films and even in creating his own theme park. Stevenson also states that a promoter’s fundamental task is to require the resources to pursue the opportunity.
Walt Disney never gave up on Disneyland and was rumored to have been rejected financing for the theme park over 300 times (Cool Pup, 2012) until he struck a deal with ABC who agreed to help finance the park (JustDisney, 2003). He achieved his task and was driven to succeed in his financing. Walt can also be justified as a promoter because he operates in an industry with diminishing opportunity streams. Before his cartoon Mickey Mouse became a famous icon, Walt Disney constantly produced new characters and films to build his company’s reputation. Commitment to Opportunity
Stevenson’s next concept is described as a person’s willingness to act (2006). Promoters are action-oriented and willing to act in short-time periods to chase their opportunities. He describes promoters to be action-oriented and have heavy involvement in risk management. Conversely, commitment for trustees is often time-consuming and usually takes a longer period of time. Through Walt’s journey we saw him deviate his concentration to many different forms of entertainment. He seemed to be involved with many cartoon characters until the creation of Mickey Mouse that lead to his huge success (IMDb, 2010).
Walt’s ventures with his cartoons lead him to movies, television and the creation of the world’s most popular theme park. This revolutionary array of ventures reveals Disney’s commitment to opportunity as a promoter. He remained very action oriented in ensuring that he would follow through until his cartoons succeeded. As well, he was heavily involved in the risk management of his company because nobody was willing to invest in his Disneyland (JustDisney, 2003). He financed a lot of the park through the company and the other half through ABC and was determined to make the park succeed.
With the park’s success, Disney had already made plans to commit construction for another one in Florida. His commitment to opportunity attributed largely to his company’s success. Commitment of Resources When it comes to the attainment of resources, Stevenson says that promoters go through many stages of resource commitment with the goal of minimizing resources (2006). On the other hand, trustees will commit upon a larger-scale after careful analysis and single stage commitment. In relation to Walt, a lot of his projects underwent a series of funding.
In his early career as an artist and animator, he had to find a distributor for all his productions (Gabler, 2006) since he could never totally finance his business unless he was selling cartoons. Even after the company’s success and Walter won his first academy award for his creation of Mickey Mouse, when the company transitioned to make its first feature-length film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” the studio ran out of money (Gabler, 2006). Since there were no formal venture capitalist groups at the time, the only way Walt could raise money was through loans.
Eventually the movie would become the largest grossing film of the year (IMDb, 2010). The company went through many stages of funding to finance its various other projects. Similar to Snow White, Disneyland was funded in a similar manner where Walter would seek another loan to cover the costs of creating Disneyland (JustDisney, 2003). His journey through the resource commitment process mirrors promoter behaviour because he only sought funding when he needed it at multiple stages. Due to unpredictable resource needs and varied studio costs from film development, from a financial perspective Disney’s company was very chaotic.
Control of Resources The use of resources in an organization plays a pivotal role in determining a company’s success. Stevenson describes promoters to only be concerned with their ability to use a resource while trustees seek to control their resources by attaining full ownership (2006). When it comes to the animation business, ownership plays a key role in everyday operations. When Disney lost the rights to one of his most successful characters “Felix the Cat” (Gabler, 2006), Walt found himself at a standstill.
From that moment onward, Walt made sure to maintain full ownership on all his company’s future productions in order to preserve his business and avoid future legal conflicts. Due to the nature of the business, Walt relied heavily on his staff and had to employ full-time animators who could consistently produce the high quality entertainment the company was known for. As well, in order to make Disneyland and Disneyworld, the company needed to purchase large amounts of land (Gabler, 2006).
A promoter style of management does not suit the Walt Disney Company for this section because Walt himself influenced so much of the company and could only have done so through ownership of all his resources. Therefore, Mr. Disney favored the administrative domain because of factors such as power and coordination. Having complete ownership and influence was essential to Disney in order to make sure his vision became a reality. His coordination was also important because it ensured he could take action without further approval from other partners.
Management Structures Stevenson’s views on management place relationships at the core of every structure. Promoters rely on receiving valuable information for key actors while trustees rely on formal relationships within the company based on detailed rights and responsibilities. Trustee management is the only applicable management structure for the Walt Disney Company (2006). He states, “Only in systems where the relationship with resources is based on ownership or employment can resources be organized in a hierarchy” (Stevenson, 2006).
With the company’s heavy emphasis on ownership on its productions and land as previously addressed, it is only appropriate that structure is required to delegate roles and responsibilities within the company. Walt’s company demonstrated many things that favour trustee management, the first being the need for clearly defined authority and responsibility and the next to be organizational culture. As the company increased in size, in order to ensure Walt could influence every level of management, there needed to be a formalized hierarchy common in many large corporations.
Walt worked closely with his animators to ensure the company’s productions were under his direct approval (Gabler, 2006). Operating a large company also requires organizational culture because work needs to be formulated into a routine for employees to work within. Reward Philosophy When it comes to rewarding an organization’s employees, Stevenson finds that promoters reward employees based on their contribution and harvesting of value (2006). Investors and owners of the business want to generate returns to ensure they get their money back.
Since performance is crucial in determining the success or failure of a start-up, key employees who help generate this value are usually rewarded on their performance. Trustee style management differs because compensation is usually pre-determined because of assigned responsibilities with the exception of small bonuses and promotions (Stevenson, 2006). Walt Disney maintained promoter behaviour because a lot of his employees such as the staff at his studio were hired on salary with bonuses of 20% of profits for the short cartoons (Hill, 2004).
At the time, Disney was considered to have the highest paid workers with the best working conditions. Disney embodied the promoter style of management because of factors such as individual expectations and competition. After the success of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, Walt was known to have made “salary adjustments” to animators who he felt did exceptional work (Hill, 2004). As well, Disney strategically offered the best wages and working conditions in order to maintain its talent and attract more talent in a highly competitive industry. Section 3
Recommendations for Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Company It is hard make comments and recommendations for one of the greatest and most ambitious entrepreneurs of all time but there a few things I would like to address in areas where I feel could have been handled differently. Although Disney operated in a completely different time period of more than 50 years ago, I will do my best to acknowledge the time period and his situation. 1. During the release of his first feature film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and his change to the reward policy, the strike of his whole nimation staff could have put his business into financial hardship. In order to avoid situations like these, Disney should have reported or at the very least consulted with HR professionals on a better payment plan to reward employees during successful productions, and also support employees adequately through financial hardship as experienced in World War 2. Because his employees are crucial to the operation of the business, risky financial moves can have extreme and immediate effects on the company’s future. 2. The company found itself out of funds several times due to poor financial management.
As previously mentioned, the company went bankrupt during the production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and it also did not have enough funds to complete Disneyland on its own. Although the company succeeded in both ventures, I believe that Walt Disney was poor at managing the company’s funds. In his earliest of animation days, his Laugh-O-Gram studios also went bankrupt as a result of overpaying his employees. He also tried to negotiate a price increase on his contract that actually resulted in termination of the contract, the loss of his production “Alice Comedies” and even most of his animation staff.
He again was close to bankrupt and might have stayed that way had it not been for the creation his iconic “Mickey Mouse”. I believe that if there were a person with more financial experience and knowledge similar to the modern day equivalent to a Chief Financial Officer, he would have not reached such plateaus. As well if he had stronger legal advisors, he could have probably earned the rights back to his character and staff or at least won a settlement.
While CFOs and law firms aren’t as readily available back then as they were today, I believe one thing that Disney lacked was his ability to have a reliable and knowledgeable management team that could have saved him a lot of hardship. Walt Disney is a remarkable man whose life work influenced the way people viewed imagination. His life dedication to providing entertainment was what helped him reach an entrepreneurial pinnacle. Arising from all failures and demonstrating a life committed to fulfilling his life goals lead him to be one of the most influential entrepreneurs of all time.
References Cool Pup. (2012). Disneyland. In Daily Celebrations. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from http://www. dailycelebrations. com/071799. htm Gabler, N. (2006). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. IMDb. (2010). Walt Disney Biography. In IMDb. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from http://www. imdb. com/name/nm0000370/bio Hill, J. (2004, June). Another look backat the 1941 Disney Studio Strike. In Jim Hill Media. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from http://jimhillmedia. com/alumni1/b/wade_sampson/archive/2004/06/07/1204. aspx#. UJqz-Gl25YQ JustDisney. 2003). Disneyland’s History. In Disneyland History. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://www. justdisney. com/disneyland/history. html Stevenson, H. H. (2006, April 13). A Perspective on Entrepreneurship. Harvard Business School, 9(131), 1-12. The Walt Disney Family Museum. (2012). About Walt Disney. In Timeline. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from http://www. waltdisney. com/timeline#41 Walt Disney. (2000). In Walt Disney Biography. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from http://www. norsknettskole. no/fag/ressurser/itstud/fuv/gunnargrodal/bio. htm


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