22 Jun 2020 12:31 IST

Creative thinking, the Walt Disney way

Walt Disney built an entertainment empire that sustains even today. Here’s why

The Walt Disney Company is rated as one of the most innovative companies in the world. This should come as no surprise as Disney thrives on ‘innovation’ and it is practically Disney’s second name. Innovation should be the topmost priority for every design, and through this article, I want to throw light on one of the most creative and innovative leaders in business history — Walt Disney.

What can we learn from Disney?

Let's take a look at Disney’s business practices to see if we can discover anything riveting and different about them.

Disney created a media and entertainment corporation that remains even today one of the world’s most successful, one that has won more awards than any other in the Academy Awards’ history, built a cinematic art form, and also designed a new brand of holiday destination. Disney’s work has both die-hard fans across regions for its resolute optimism and feel-good historical relevance and also detractors who have criticised its smooth facade of sentimentalism.

Desire. Inspire. Execute.

Walt Disney’s original experience and expertise were in making comics and, although he later founded Disneyland, he wasn’t qualified as a theme park architect or a civil engineer. But he was an untiring visionary, a creative leader, and a dreamer who dared his team to veer towards new forms of entertainment and formulated, in the process, an entertainment brand unlike anything before.

Disney’s imagination was also his drive to build fantasy worlds that made people happy by entertaining them in humorous and compelling ways. He created characters with passion so the audience would develop a deep interest in the dramatic upshots of his tales. After many years of comics making, he realised that he wanted his company and brand to become known as “The Premier Storytelling Entertainer.” And, as the Disney Company expanded and evolved over many decades, he never lost sight of the vision.

Walt Disney, a true brand visionary, built a compelling future for his company and the whole entertainment industry with what “Walt Disney Presents” coming to stand for fun and family entertainment.

The Disney organisation devised many innovations in storytelling and film production, which covered new techniques to achieve greater reality, a novel artistic style, storytelling imagination through the discovery of storyboards. He formulated aesthetic quality standards, a scientific approach to animation and conceived a new university to teach those methods. The Disney organisation developed ‘Technicolor’ so that comics could be seen in colour, and invented innumerable, amazing stories and characters, all toward the purpose of “making people happy.”

A thought-provoking quest

About 30 years after he founded the Walt Disney Studios, Disney understood that he required to diversify and his indefatigable quest for inspiration drove him all over the world. Disneyland remained largely inspired by “Tivoli Gardens” in Copenhagen, and Disney realised that his goal was “to formulate a living, vibrant entertainment.”

Later, while on a goodwill tour during World War II, he found some inspiration for the Disneyland feature rides, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, the “Jungle Cruise”, and the “Tiki Room”, and his fascination and hobby with quarter-scale miniature trains also steered numerous theme park rides. Disney explored the use of storyboards as a technique to set the direction of a feature-length comic, and designed and directed the development of Disneyland using the storyboard, through which he was able to communicate the inherent features of the theme park he wanted to build.

A key insight behind Disney’s remarkable ability was reinforced a few days before he passed away on December 15, 1966. His closing piece of business advice, addressed to a few animators from his hospital bed, was, “Get the story. The story is the most important thing. Once you’ve got the story then everything else will fall into place.”

The same applies, of course, to storytellers in all media, which encompasses those who create, design, develop, and manage brands. The most important aspect of a brand is nothing more than a story told to entertain, excite, entice, and engage.

You can truly say that there is always something in store for everyone when it comes to being a Disney fan. We can’t wait to see what The Walt Disney Company does next.