Jimmy Dodd and Roy Williams.
Roy was handpicked by Walt for the role.
His nickname became “The Big Mooseketeer” and it was a carryover from a football nickname and the nickname he enjoyed as an animator and story artist at the Disney Studios – “Moose Williams”
Walt Disney first met Roy Williams back in 1929 on the day that Roy applied for a job as animator. He went to the studio and was sent to wait in Walt’s office. Roy sat and nervously waited for Walt to arrive. His portfolio was held across his knees and his hands drummed lightly on top of it as he waited.
The door flew open and an office boy came scampering inside. Going to Walt’s desk the office boy asked, “Are you waiting to see Walt Disney?”
“Yes, I want to be an animator.” Roy replied.
The two of them chatted for a few minutes and then Roy asked the office boy, “Tell me, please-what is Walt Disney really like?”
The office boy paused and then broke into a grin… “I’m Walt Disney!”
The portfolio hit the floor, the drawings went sprawling across the ground, and Roy was startled and embarrassed all at the same time. Roy and Walt picked up drawings from the floor. Roy turned red and Walt was just grinning. That is how Roy first met Walt. The two would become longtime friends.
It wasn’t always easy and just because they were friends didn’t mean you could goof off.
Roy went through a bad spell and eventually his after work activities impacted his job performance. Friend or not he had been warned and the day came when Walt
had to fire his friend. Roy was irate and proclaimed that he could get a job at any studio in town. The truth was he could not, there were not that many
animation jobs to be had and no one would hire him.
He eventually found work in an iron foundry in L.A.. The job was hot, it was miserable, and a long way from the Disney Studios.
One day as Roy was working he looked up and Walt Disney was standing there watching him with his arms folded across his chest. Walt was just watching, not smiling, not
giving any signs of why he might be there. After a few painful and awkward moments for Roy…Walt walked over to where he was working and asked….
“Are you ready to come back?”
Roy said he was and Walt took him back at the studio.
Years later Walt was sitting in Roy’s office going over ideas they were working on and his face lit up and he told Roy he had an idea and it was going to be great.
Walt explained the new concept for a television show called The Mickey Mouse Club.
He told Roy that he was going to put him in the show and was going to call him”The Big Mooseketeer.”
Initially Roy thought Walt was kidding.
He was not an actor, this was not something he could do. But in the end…Roy did it, the reason he explained to others was because, “he had faith in Walt’s vision.”
Roy even designed the famous Mickey Mouse Ears that are now an iconic feature of the Disney Company.
There are many interesting elements to this story but on one hand this is a story of aleader…who was willing to lead with a strong hand and even to the painful thing in firing a friend. It is also the story of a leader who didn’t give up on the friend because they had messed up and gave them another chance. It is also the story of a leader who let the past be the past and gave a moment in the future to this same friend…and it became the thing he is remembered for.
Walt didn’t give up on the Big Mooseketeer…
An amazing story of second chances.
In our lives we all need a second chance.
And although we all need a second chance we are not always deserving of a second chance. Our culture would tell us that “everybody deserves a second chance.” My fear is that we have heard that so often that many believe they are entitled to a second chance. We are not…however, we do live in a world where from time to time we can discover grace.
There is a certain beauty in being given grace. When grace is given to us we don’t get what we deserve….and no one is owed a second chance.
Instead it is a gift. (That is what many people forget about a second chance…it really is a gift. When someone offers us grace, it is more than just amazing!)
When we are given a gift like that we should we receive it…not with a sense of entitlement but with a sense of thankfulness for what we have been given.
There are many lessons we can learn from the story of Walt and The Big Mooseketeer…
Be willing to forgive and give others second chances.
We all need them from time to time…
You never can tell…it might be the break someone needs.
* Roy died in 1976, and was buried in his Mickey Mouse t-shirt and mouse ears hat.