Biographical profile of Walter Elias Disney, the man who built an empire on the back of a mouse. Imbued with an iron-like drive to succeed, Disney pushed, prodded and pressed those around him, as he did himself, to succeed. He was always on the edge of vision and technology. An unmitigated risk taker, Disney constantly flirted with financial ruin, seemingly bent on a mission to remain in debt while his brother Roy's ambition was to harness Walt's financial excesses. Walt was not the avuncular man he appeared on the screen; he was profane, under the whip of some inner demon, but above all he was an extraordinary success. Award-winning author and syndicated columnist Daniel Alef, who has written more than 300 biographical profiles of America’s greatest tycoons, brings out the story of Disney and his remarkable life of ups, downs and achievements. [2,416-word Titans of Fortune article with timeline, bibliography and video links to Disney, Disneyland, and animation]
In 2005 the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Co. summarily dismissed Comcast's $66 billion acquisition offer as grossly inadequate. Even Ripley's Believe it or Not would have found it difficult to believe that one of the world's most enduring and endearing names, an organization with 112,000 employees, sales in excess of $27 billion, and assets of nearly $50 billion, started with a pencil, paper, cartoon and a young man's imagination. Perhaps only that young man, Walter Elias Disney, could have foreseen such a colossal empire built on a mouse.
Like so many of the great moguls, Disney was a very complex man, imbued with an iron-like drive to succeed. A man of persistence and perseverance, he would push, prod and press those around him as he would himself. It wasn't gentle, and it wasn't always nice. Yet he had an innocent, almost childlike reverence for fun and games, trains and toys.
And Disney appeared on screen as an amiable, soft-spoken man, the uncle who would tuck you to into bed and read you a bedtime story. His subordinates saw an entirely different man, one not so avuncular and kindly. One author described him as “a tall, somber man who appeared to be under the lash of some private demon.”
As complex as Disney was, it is remarkably easy to trace each of his traits directly to some defining moments in his life. His father, Elias, was a stern, restless, religious fundamentalist, who never found the path to success. He meted out discipline liberally and harshly as if a salve for his own failures. Disney was born in Chicago in 1901, but the family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri when Disney was five. First on the farm and later in Kansas City, Walt's childhood resembled a sweatshop.
When Disney was 10, Elias, a feckless and perpetually unsuccessful man, acquired a newspaper route in Kansas City. He forced Disney, then 10, to rise at 3:30 a.m. to deliver. . .