Walt Disney Personality Analysis Term Paper

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When the dentist asked Walt to come over to finalize the deal, Walt had to admit that he did not have the $1.50 to recover his shoes from the local cobbler. The dentist not only came to Walt to hand over $500 for the deal, but also gave him the cobbler's fee. Walt then began work on Alice's Wonderland, in which a child was placed against a cartoon background, but this stream of activity also went bankrupt. In 1923, Walt decided he was getting nowhere and left for Hollywood to work in the movies with just $40 in his pocket. (p. 5)

After he was unsuccessful in securing any other meaningful employment, Walt was encouraged by his brother Roy (who was living in Los Angeles at the time) to return to his earlier interest in animated productions and following Roy's successful negotiations in gaining some financial backing and a distributor, Margaret Winkler, who had been sent Alice's Wonderland, expressed interest in the work and provided further financial backing (Bryman). Thereafter, the company began production on a series of Alice adventures and Walt moved into offices whose front window were inscribed, "Disney Bros. Studio"; in February 1924, Walt hired his first animator and by May 1924, the series was complete (Bryman, p. 5).

Despite the successful completion of the series, the company did not realize as much return on their investment as they had initially expected, due in large part to rising costs of making technical improvements. As a result, Bryman reports that, "Walt decided to cease work on drawing and to concentrate on story-lines, and he persuaded Iwerks to join him. The Alice series then re-started. During this period Walt's romance began with one of the women working at the Studio-Lillian Bounds-whom he married in July 1925" (p. 5). Walt's brother Roy remained in charge of managing the business operations of the company and despite some setbacks when they lost their contacts with Margaret Winkler following her retirement after marrying Charles Mintz (who assumed control of the company), the Disney brothers relocated into a new studio location Hyperion Avenue near downtown Los Angeles where it became known as the Walt Disney Studio. According to Bryman, "The name-change occurred because Walt felt that the association of the studio with a single name would both appeal more to audiences and give it a stronger identity" (Bryman, p. 6).

Today, the Walt Disney Studio has grown into a global empire that operates the ABC Television Network and 10 owned television stations, the ESPN Radio and Radio Disney networks, and 46 owned radio stations. In addition, it various business segments own and operate ABC-, ESPN-, ABC Family-, SOAPnet-, and Disney-branded Internet Web site businesses, as well as Club Penguin, an online virtual world for children; the company's Parks and Resorts segment owns and operates the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida (including theme parks; hotels; vacation ownership units; a retail, dining, and entertainment complex; a sports complex; conference centers; campgrounds; golf courses; and water parks) (Walt Disney Company, 2008). The company's motion picture interests produce and acquire live-action and animated motion pictures, direct-to-video programming, musical recordings, and live stage plays and its Consumer Products business segment offers licensing for Disney characters, and visual and literary properties to manufacturers, retailers, show promoters, and publishers; in addition, the company publishes books and magazines, computer software, and video game products and markets its products through its own and licensed retail stores and through a Web site (Walt Disney Company). The road to this stellar level of success, though, has not been seamless or without its setbacks, but it is clear that the driving force behind the company's direction in the 21st century remains the blueprint established by Walt as discussed further below.

Cognitive Theory of Personality and Walt Disney.

According to Strack (2006), "The cognitive theory of personality is anchored in human evolution that emphasizes the adaptive function of genetically determined 'strategies' that facilitate survival and reproduction. Generally speaking, humans take in information from the environment, synthesize it, and develop a plan of action in order to survive in the physical and social environments" (p. 114). From this perspective, Disney's early efforts to salvage his first theme park by producing a series of Mickey Mouse Club episodes to secure the funding needed to complete it are completely understandable. Disney was "taking in information from the environment, synthesizing it and developing a plan of action in order to survive." Indeed, television programs such as the Mickey Mouse Club that specifically targeted young people as the audience were few and far between in the mid-20th century. In this regard, Baker and Dessart (1998) report that Disney's ambitious plans for this flagship theme park, Disneyland, required more funding than what he was able to secure but rather than simply give up, Walt persevered by conceiving and developing what was truly an innovation in television and in funding opportunities. According to these authors:

While neither NBC's nor CBS's actions represented, in and of themselves, a major shift in how children's television was perceived, ABC's actions clearly did. In October 1954, ABC, in a collaboration rich in meaning forty years later, premiered Disney's first foray into television, Disneyland; this show was remarkable because it represented the first time a major Hollywood studio had deigned to produce a series for television. The series became the ABC network's first hit. Both of the other networks had tried but failed to snare Walt Disney: among other things, they balked at his terms, which reportedly included $90,000 per episode (perhaps the highest cost per program at that time) and a $500,000 investment in a revolutionary idea, a theme park. As the world soon learned, Disneyland was successful as both a program and a theme park, and ABC made money on both. (Baker & Dessart, p. 163)

From a cognitive theory of personality development, Walt's early childhood experiences, although rich in affection in some ways and replete with numerous opportunities for youthful exploration and play, were still characterized by a lack of resources and it was this desire to achieve financial independence for himself and his flagship theme park that was the driving force behind the Mickey Mouse Club and Walt's subsequent endeavors. Such effective organizational leadership indicates that Walt possessed a charismatic personality but it requires loyal and dedicated followers for someone to be charismatic. Without the right people around him at the time, Disney's visions for the future would likely have failed. By surrounding himself with the right mix of professionals, though, Disney showed that his recognized what it took to survive and prosper in an unknown environment. In this regard, House, Spangler and Woycke (1991) point out that, "Certain leader personality characteristics contribute to the formation of a charismatic relationship with subordinates. Because charisma is a relationship and not a personality characteristic of leaders, charisma exists only if followers say it does or followers behave in specific ways" (p. 364). These authors provide the following example of such a relationship: "If man runs naked down the street proclaiming that he alone can save others from impending doom, and if he immediately wins a following, then he is a charismatic leader: A social relationship has come into being. If he does not win a following, he is simply a lunatic" (House et al., p. 364). Fortunately for Walt, though, enough of his subordinates (and financiers) believed in his vision to pull it off.

As Baker and Dessart (1998) point out, Walt was right on the money when it came to understanding what people wanted to see and when they wanted to see it: "The gamble was to pay off. The Mickey Mouse Club owned its time period, and the show's advertising strategy forever changed children's television" (p. 164). While the cognitive theory of personality development provides some useful insights into Walt's personality in later life, his approach to doing business can also be understood in terms of behavioral theories of personality development which are discussed further below.

Behavioral Theories of Personality and Walt Disney.

As the term implies, behavioral theories of personality development relate to how people form behaviors over time. According to Funder (2001), "The behaviorist approach to personality has undergone an interesting and even ironic evolution in recent years. Behaviorism began with the ambition of its founders -- John Watson (1925) and BF Skinner (1938, 1971) -- to excise from psychology all that is subjective and unobservable" (p. 197). Like bad habits being formed through the creation of a series of links in a chain, behavioral theories of personality development maintain that people acquire different attributes and traits over time that form the basis of their personalities. In this regard, Staats (1996) notes that, "It is suggested... that a personality level is necessary in behavioral theory,... that the individual learns enduring personality repertoires that determine his general behavior,... and... that behavior therapy…

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