In this edition of Disney Archeology we go exploring the beginning of Disneyland. As usual, our excavation into the life and times of Walt Disney takes us into some of the stories that most haven’t heard – unless of course you are willing to explore and dig. That is this discovery… ready? Then keep on reading.
Today we uncover the Disneyland Backers and Boosters… if you are not familiar with them, then today you will find out about them. As always, the secrets are found in the mystery of the history.
Disney fans know of the unique bond of the Disney Brothers, Walt and Roy. Walt was the dreamer, the face of the company, but Roy was essential because it was Roy who figured out how to do the funding for his brother’s dreams. At the start, Disneyland was merely an idea that Walt had and Roy wanted nothing to do with it and didn’t believe the company should either.
Roy had 3 compelling and rational reasons. The first is that the company produced movies and an amusement park would distract them from doing what they did best. Second, no one in the company knew anything about operating an amusement park so they had no chance of being successful. Third, if Walt got carried away with this new obsession, he would bankrupt the company. Roy knew Walt well and he knew that Walt’s dreams, especially this one, didn’t come cheap.
Now for Walt, these reasons did nothing to change his mind. After all, as a company they had always been evolving. Being pioneers in new areas of animation and film making is what they did. So Walt was confident they could continue to change. This was just going to be another form of entertainment to figure out and succeed at. The expertise they needed, could be learned. Walt was all about learning new things and instilled that in others. The last problem, was always the problem and one he had no response for – that was the money issue.
So the money problem put Walt’s dream on hold. But Walt could not let the idea go. He believed it was good, he knew it would work, and he spent hour after hour planning and figuring out how to make this park work and how to pay for it. Roy remained unmoved by his brother’s latest dream.
Walt decided to begin a campaign to constantly prove to Roy how serious he was about this idea and how important he believed it to be. Walt told long time staffer and nurse, Hazel George… “I’m not getting anywhere with the financial people. Now, you go around and get different people at the studio to make commitments.”
So Hazel did just that. Among the staff she got people to make commitments of $10 or $100 so the park could be built. This grass roots approach caused Hazel to create the Disneyland Backers and Boosters, it was a group of informal investors. It was no where near enough to even begin work on the dream of Disneyland but the investment group had the desired impact on Roy. In March of 1952, after the official formation of the Disneyland Backers and Boosters, Roy Disney wrote a memo to his brother, which included the following… “I don’t see it clearly yet, but I do think the idea should be considered and studied on its merits.”
Roy then allocated the first $10,000 to be used officially toward the development of Disneyland. The reason? It was because Roy saw the way Walt’s own employees and staff bought into the vision. Their response, their commitment, and their belief caused Roy’s own reluctance to melt away and he would eventually buy into the dream in a much bigger way.
It was a start and the beginning of bringing Disneyland to life.
It is easy to see that without the Disneyland Backers and Boosters, there might never have been a Disneyland. Those investors were willing to listen, trust, and follow the dream that Walt laid out for them. It was a vision that helped change their lives and changed the lives of many for years to come.
So it goes with big dreams and big visions. Walt had a vision of what could be and he chased it. Not only did he chase it, he shared it and worked to make it a reality. Often dreams never happen because the dreamer will never chase it or work to make it happen. Allow Walt’s example to inspire you as you seek to touch and change the world. You can do it – you really can. But rest assured it will not be easy…most things worth doing are not. And dreams take time!
Keep dreaming – keep trusting – keep chasing it to make it come true.