The Walt Disney Productions Annual Report for 1966by Jim Korkis, contributing writer
While I am fortunate to have accumulated a large collection of research material over the decades, there are still many noticeable gaps in that personal archive. Just recently, after many years, I was able to purchase (at much more than I ever wanted to pay) the Walt Disney Productions Annual Report to shareholders and employees for the fiscal year ending October 1, 1966.
I bought it because I need it for a new project I am working on, and this particular issue doesn't often come up for sale. So I ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner for a week. I've done it before and will probably do it again.
Rather than hiding it away as, unfortunately, too many others do, I have chosen to share some excerpts from it to MousePlanet readers and future researchers. I hope, as always, that it will entertain and educate and perhaps provide a different perspective.
Walt Disney, unfortunately, had died December 15, 1966 but, as with many things, the annual report had already been prepared and approved by Walt himself to be distributed in early 1967. I consider it a pivotal moment as the company transitions from Walt to other leadership.
One of the many responsibilities of the late Imagineer Marty Sklar was to talk with both Walt and Roy and frame their statements that appeared in these reports. While their statements in the report reflect their feelings and ideas and had to be personally approved by them (and sometimes they wanted changes before it went to print), this is very much the work of Marty who left us with so much more he wanted to share.
Among other surprises, the report features Mickey Mouse's official passport. Again, this had to be approved by Walt and Roy. It lists Mickey's birth date as May 15, 1928. His birthplace is listed as Burbank, California. He has black hair and eyes. Even more amazing, it lists that Mickey's wife is Minnie. It includes Mickey's official signature at the time (with a backward "S" in the word "mouse").
There were also stamps of the many places around the world Mickey had visited because the theme of the report was Disney's success around the world. Each section devoted to publications, merchandising, motion pictures, and music emphasized the international connections and the impact the Disney brand had in those countries.
Of course, the report was meant to get people excited about things coming in 1967, including films like The Happiest Millionaire and The Jungle Book as well as "a whole new Tomorrowland" at Disneyland and the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Lots of color photos fill the 38 pages including Walt walking on Florida property and at the proposed Mineral King site which, according to this report, Disney planned to have in operation by 1971.
So join me in taking a brief time travel trip to that significant point in Disney history, reading Walt's enthusiasm and optimism for the coming years, but with the knowledge of what was really yet to come.
The report had a dull bluish-green attachment wrapped on the outside that stated:
An Important Message To Our Shareholders and Employees:
This annual report was prepared prior to Walt Disney's passing. The keynote of these pages is optimism for the future of the company, whose creative energies he directed for more than 40 years.
This enthusiasm for the future stemmed directly from Walt. You will find it in the message he prepared for this report, and in the story of our company's world-wide operations. And you will find it reflected by our key creative and management people, in every area of the company. We believe, as Walt did so strongly, in the future of Walt Disney Productions.
Walt would have wanted you, our shareholders and employees, to know and share this enthusiasm. That is why this report has been sent to you exactly as it was prepared early in December.
In this report are the facts which support this enthusiasm. It should confirm for you the substantial values – Motion Picture properties (completed and yet to be produced), real estate, Disneyland, Character Merchandising, Music, Publications and the world-famous Disney name – which we have confidence will result in a successful future.
Now, in view of Walt's passing, it is vitally important to the future growth and development of your company that key executive, management and creative personnel have an even greater stake in our continuing progress. To provide this additional incentive for those key people charged with carrying on the Disney tradition of quality family entertainment, we have developed a new Stock Option Plan, which has been mailed to you separately, along with the Company's Proxy Statement. I strongly urge your favorable action to approve this most important Stock Option Plan.
It was Walt's wish that when the time came, he would have built an organization with the creative talents to carry on as he had established and directed it through the years. Today, this organization has been built, and we shall carry out this wish.
Walt Disney's preparation for the future is a solid, creative foundation. All the plans for the future that Walt had begun – new motion pictures, the expansion of Disneyland, television production and our Florida and Mineral King projects as outlined in this report – will continue to move ahead.
Roy O. Disney
President and Chairman of the Board
Walt Disney Productions
The Disney World: A Look To The Future
By Walt Disney
The past year has been one in which many groups around the world, both inside and outside the entertainment industry, have paid high tribute to our creative staff. For all these honors, we are all very grateful indeed.
In accepting the 'Showman of the World' award from the people who own and operate the nation's theaters, I looked to the past, recalling some of the wonderful people in the theater business who helped us get where we are today because they had faith in the things we did, from Steamboat Willie to the present day. There was always someone – some wonderful exhibitor or an understanding banker – willing to take a chance on another crazy Disney idea.
Today, I propose to look to the future…to tell you about some of the plans, and some of the philosophy that makes us tick here in the Disney organization.
Many people have asked, 'Why don't you make another Mary Poppins?' Well, by nature, I am a born experimenter. To this day, I don't believe in sequels. I can't follow popular cycles. I have to move on to new things -- there are many new worlds to conquer.
As a matter of fact, people have been asking us to make sequels ever since Mickey Mouse first became a star. We have bowed only on one occasion to the cry to repeat ourselves. Back in the '30s, The Three Little Pigs was an enormous hit, and the cry went up – 'Give us more Pigs!' I could not see how we could possibly top pigs with pigs. But we tried, and I doubt whether any one of you reading this can name the other cartoons in which the pigs appeared.
We didn't make the same mistake with Snow White. When it was a huge hit, the shout went up for more dwarfs. Top dwarfs with dwarfs? Why try?
Right now, we're not thinking about making another Mary Poppins. We never will. Perhaps there will be other ventures with equal critical and financial success. But we know we cannot hit a home run with the bases loaded every time we go to the plate. We also know the only way we can even get to the first base is by constantly going to bat and continuing to swing.
And so we're always looking for new ideas and new stories hoping that somehow we'll come up with a different kind of Mary Poppins…or even a different kind of Disneyland.
As 1967 begins, we have high hopes that some of our current projects may measure up to this exciting challenge. Perhaps it will be a motion picture like The Happiest Millionaire. Perhaps it will be our so-called 'Disney World' in Florida. Or perhaps it will our year-round recreation facility in the High Sierra of California, Mineral King. On the pages that follow in this Annual Report, we'll try to tell you why we believe so strongly in each of these fascinating projects and many more our creative staffs are now producing.
You know, the Disney organization today has more than four thousand employees. Many have been with us over 30 years. They take great pride in the organization they helped to build. Only through the talent, the labor and the dedication of this staff could any Disney project get off the ground. We all think alike in the ultimate pattern.
We're all proud of the honors that many groups around the world have given us. And we're even more proud that the public – whether in theaters, at Disneyland, or in their own homes – continues to express its faith in the kind of family entertainment we produce.
I promise you that all the honors in the world won't go to our heads – we have too many projects for the future to take time out for such a thing.
Each year, the Disney audience 'round the world continues to grow. For 1966, the world-wide impact of Disney entertainment and its associated products included:
- 240 million people who paid and saw a Disney feature motion picture.
- 100 million people each week who watched a Disney television show.
- 800 million people who read and heard Disney stories in books and magazines.
- 50 million people who listened and danced to Disney music and records.
- 80 million people who bought Disney licensed merchandise.
- 150 million people weekly who read Disney comic strips in daily and Sunday newspapers.
- 80 million people in schools, industry and churches who watched Disney health, travel and safety films and more than
- 6.7 million people who participated in the personal adventure of a day at Disneyland.
Yet, with all this coordinated entertainment impact upon the world's population, the measure of Disney is far more than numbers can ever say. The impact of Disney upon people the world over is in their hearts and minds, through the A-B-C's….acceptance by people of all ages….belief by people in all lands…and the wholehearted confidence of people everywhere.
Future: Project Florida
In November 1964, Walt Disney announced the purchase of 27,433 acres of land near Orlando, Florida, as the site for a so-called 'Disney World' project. On this 43-square-mile parcel, twice the size of Manhattan Island, Walt Disney Productions proposes to build not only a recreation and entertainment complex but a community whose impact upon the quality of urban life will be measured for generations to come.
Preliminary plans for Disney World – and a review of local legislation necessary to make the project a reality – will be revealed at a public hearing called by the Central Florida legislative delegation in Orlando during the first week of February 1967.
During the past year, a detailed program of research and preparation for this enormous project has moved steadily forward. Among these activities was the formation of the Reedy Creek Drainage District, a legal entity which makes it possible for the company to reclaim and prepare its property for subsequent development.
Company representatives have worked closely during the year with state and county officials, to prepare legislation clarifying legal matters vital to the success of the project. These will be presented to the Florida Legislature during its 1967 session.
In addition, the state of Florida has begun planning and design of roads and major interchanges which will provide access for the more than 6 million visitors expected during Disney World's first year of operation.
During 1966, company vice-presidents William E. Potter and Jack C. Sayers met with senior representatives of more than 65 major American industries to inform them of potential areas of participation. The response has been most encouraging.
And, most importantly, Walt Disney and his design staff at WED Enterprises have begun preliminary planning of the many attractions proposed for Disney World. It is, as Walt himself has said, 'an exciting challenge – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone who participates'.
Future: Mineral King
When Walt Disney Productions was chosen in December 1965 to develop year-round recreation facilities at Mineral King, California, the announcement by Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman was greeted by great interest and enthusiasm, both within and outside the company.
An alpine wonderland of vast natural beauty in the High Sierra, Mineral King has been virtually isolated from the public. Despite its central location in California (about equidistant from Los Angeles and San Francisco) only a handful of people have been able to reach its majestic valley and snow-capped winter ski country.
Throughout he past year, the company's efforts toward making Mineral King available for public use and appreciation has centered in gaining commitments for an all-weather access road. Forest Service procedure requires assurance of such commitments during the three-year term permit granted Walt Disney Productions. At the completion of these arrangements – and finalizing of plans for the company's development of Mineral King – the Forest Service will issue a 30-year lease.
In October 1966, the federal Economic Development Administration approved the grant of $3 million to help construct the new road, as requested by the California Department of Public Works. The contract implementing this grant is now being negotiated. Subsequently, an access corridor through proposed wilderness regions was recommended by the National Park Service. However, at a public hearing in November, preservationist groups opposed an access road into Mineral King.
The public, however – including California's highest elected officials and many newspapers – rallied in support of Walt Disney's plans. In an editorial headlined 'Obstructionism at Mineral King', the Los Angeles Times expressed the public sentiment:
'Disregarding the millions who might be able to enjoy an accessible Mineral King, (preservationist groups) demanded that the valley be kept in a pristine state…Such a belated proposal should be rejected promptly by the appropriate federal agencies. Approval would be an act of bad faith toward the successful bidder. Far more important, it would be breaking faith with the public for whom the land is held in trust for the best possible use.'
California Governor Ronald Reagan, Lt. Governor Robert Finch, U.S. Senator George Murphy, and former Governor Edmund G. Brown have all gone on record favoring the Disney plan, as have Jess Unruh, Speaker of California's Assembly; Hugh Burns, the State's senate leader; and many governmental, civic, sports, business, and professional organizations.
Walt Disney's $35 million plan at Mineral King calls for a self-contained village, ski-lifts, and overnight accommodations for use year-round. In 1969, according to the present timetable, the road contingency will have been met and construction would begin on initial elements. Opening date would be 1971, when the new road would be completed.
The past year also saw the beginning of an intensive winter survey of snow, water and geological conditions at Mineral King.