Quotations from Chairman Roy

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Walt Disney's older brother, Roy Oliver Disney, shared the title of Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Productions with Walt from 1945-1960 when Walt decided to devote himself to the more creative aspects of the company. Roy also served other roles including CEO and President.

For MousePlanet, I wrote under my own name and my short-lived pseudonym Wade Sampson several columns filled with quotes from Walt Disney. They were so popular that I compiled most of them along with even more never before printed material for my book Walt's Words: Quotations of Walt Disney with Sources!

My goal was to provide unfamiliar quotes from Walt himself (trying to avoid material obviously written by studio writers or publicity hacks), list the source of the quote and fill a book with quotes not in Dave Smith's Quotable Walt Disney. I scoured obscure interviews, magazine and newspaper articles and more.

Even more challenging, I tried writing a book of quotes from his older brother, Roy. It was more challenging because for the most part Roy tried to avoid talking publicly and when he did he would try to shift focus to Walt.

I am a big fan of Roy and feel that he is very underrated in the world of Disney. He was much more than just the "financial" guy as he proved with the building of Walt Disney World. Here are a handful of Roy quotes that would have appeared in my never completed book.

As we celebrate the 50th of Walt Disney World, you may also want to check out this previous column by me about Walt Disney World and the forgotten brother:

"Walt found a pocket knife on the street in April of 1906. He was five years old. I took it away from him and must have said something like, 'Look, you can't be trusted with a knife. You'll be cutting yourself.' Within the last two or three years, here at the Studio, something came up and he accused me of bullying him and he said, 'You've been doing that ever since I was born. I remembered you tried to take that knife away from me in Marceline!' This is 60 years later. Talk about the memory of an elephant!"

Interviews with writer Richard Hubler (November 17, 1967, February 20, 1968, June 18, 1968) for a biography about Walt Disney.

"I was never in the creative side. My contribution was honesty to Walt."

Interviews with writer Richard Hubler (November 17, 1967, February 20, 1968, June 18, 1968) for a biography about Walt Disney.

"(Walt's) a grand guy. It has always been a job keeping up with him. He gets the ideas then I have to look at them from a practical, prosaic view. Sometimes I've had to say 'no' and he'll accept it if he knows that my decision didn't come from lack of vision. There have been times when I just couldn't get the money.

The Evening Independent January 22, 1964, Roy Disney Tends the Wallet of Walt's Motion Picture Empire by Bob Thomas

"Dad was a good dad and a rigidly honest man. He just didn't know how to handle boys. From the start, we were all as stubborn as Missouri mules. I guess we still are. We had all sorts of pets—even pigs. Walt always felt sorry for the runt of the litter. Walt's outstanding characteristic is single-mindedness. When he decides he wants to do something or do something a certain way, nothing stops him—literally nothing. He's a terrific optimist; he always thinks everything will turn out for the best. Usually, his plans and ideas do—in the long run. But this lack of realism can also be a handicap."

LOOK magazine for July 26, 1955

"The Disney organization brings to this project (Walt Disney World) the most highly creative, experienced and talented reservoir of personnel ever assigned to the development of an outdoor recreation attraction. The construction of Walt Disney World presents an immense challenge. However, I am convinced that we can bring to reality the greatest dream of Walt Disney's life.

"This is a big day for our company. I know Walt would like what his creative team is doing because these are the ideas and plans he began. Everything you see here today is something Walt worked on and began in some way."

Press conference April 30, 1969, Ramada Inn Ocoee, Florida

"I've never known him when he wasn't working."

July 17, 1965, issue of TV Guide

"As long as I can remember, Walt has been working. He worked in the daytime and he worked at night. Walt didn't play much as a boy. He still can't catch a ball with any certainty."

The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney by Robert De Roos National Geographic magazine, August, 1963

"On the day before Walt died, he lay in his hospital bed staring at the ceiling. Walt envisioned the squares of acoustic tile as a grid map of Florida's Disney World. He'd say, 'This is where we'll put the monorail. And we'll run the highway right there'.

Reader's Digest June 1967, The Living Legacy of Walt Disney by John Reddy

"It's strictly a team effort now. We're trying to be as smart collectively as Walt was individually."

Roy Oliver Disney, shared the title of Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Productions with Walt from 1945-1960.

Reader's Digest, June 1967, The Living Legacy of Walt Disney by John Reddy

"I think it (Disneyland) started with his toy trains. He always wanted to build a big play train for the public. For years, too, he has been talking about some kind of park where people could enjoy all these creations he dreams up. It sounded crazy. We were in the movie business, not the amusement park business.

"We didn't know a thing in the world about amusement parks. None of us around Walt wanted any part of his amusement park. His banker used to hide under the desk when Walt started talking about that park. But you couldn't stop him. He was confident it would be wonderful.

"The first thing I knew, more than a year ago, he had artists drawing sketches and blueprints. I wondered where the money was coming from, but I didn't ask. It was his baby and he could have it. The next I heard, he had hocked his life insurance. Still I kept quiet.

"Finally one day, Walt's banker called up and said Walt had been in to see him. 'It's about that park,' the banker said, 'We went over the plans. You know, Roy, that park is a wonderful idea!' I nearly fell out of my chair. I asked whether Walt had tried to borrow money. The banker said, 'Yes, sir, he did. And you know what? I loaned it to him'."

From Reader's Digest February 1969 Unforgettable Walt Disney by Roy Disney

"Not long ago, at our Burbank, California studio, a group of animators and writers were holding a story conference on a new Disney cartoon feature. They were having a tough time agreeing on a story line, and the atmosphere was as stormy as the weather outside. Suddenly, lightning scribbled a jagged streak over the San Fernando Valley and there was a rolling clap of thunder. "Don't worry, Walt," once of the animators quipped, glancing heavenward, "We'll get it yet."

"My brother Walt has been gone for more than two years now, yet his influence lingers like a living presence over the studio where he turned out the cartoons, nature films and feature movies that made him known and loved around the world. Even now, as I walk around the studio lot, I half expect to encounter that gangly, country-boy figure, head bowed in thought about some new projects. Walt was so much the driving force behind all we did, from making movies to building Disneyland, that people constantly mention his name as if he were still alive.

"Every time we show a new picture, or open a new feature at Disneyland, someone is bound to say, "I wonder how Walt would like it?" And when this happens, I usually realize that it was something he himself had planned. For my imaginative, industrious brother left enough projects in progress to keep the rest of us busy for another twenty years.

"Walt was a complex man. To the writers, producers and animators who worked with him, he was a genius who had an uncanny ability to add an extra fillip of imagination to any story or idea. To the millions of people who watched his TV show, he was a warm, kindly personality, bringing fun and pleasure into their homes. To the bankers who financed us, I'm sure he seemed like a wild man, hell-bent for bankruptcy. To me, he was my amazing kid brother, full of impractical dreams that he made come true.

"Recently, his family and mine – wives, children and grandchildren – went back to our old hometown of Marceline, Missouri for ceremonies celebrating the issuance of the Walt Disney commemorative stamp. As the gleaming Santa Fe train rolled across the green Midwestern prairie, memories of the pleasant years that Walt and I spent there inevitably flooded back.

"The apple orchard and weeping willows stand green and beautiful at our old farm, where Walt sketched his first animals. Walt and I would snuggle together in bed and hear the haunting whistle of a locomotive passing in the night. Our Uncle Mike was an engineer, and he'd blow the whistle – one long and two short – just for us. Walt never lost his love of trains. Years later, an old-fashioned train was one of the first attractions at Disneyland.

"As far back as I can remember Walt was drawing. The first money he ever made was a nickel for a sketch of a neighbor's horse. He studied cartooning in Chicago, and then started a little animated-cartoon company in Kansas City that flopped. I was in Los Angeles when Walt, just 21, decided to try his luck in Hollywood. I met him at the station. He was carrying a cheap suitcase that contained all of his belongings.

"We borrowed $500 from an uncle and Walt started a cartoon series called Alice in Cartoonland. It was tough going. Walt did all the animation and I cranked the old-fashioned camera. The Alice cartoons didn't make much of a splash, so Walt started a new series called Oswald the Rabbit. Oswald did better, but when Walt went to our New York distributor for more money he ran into trouble.

"'What kind of a deal did you make, kid?'I asked.

"'We haven't got a deal,' Walt admitted.'The distributor copyrighted Oswald and he's taking over the series himself.' Strangely, Walt did not seem downhearted. 'We're going to start a new series,' he enthused. 'It's about a mouse. And this time, we'll own the mouse.'

"The rest is history. Walt's mouse, Mickey celebrated his 40th birthday last year and a happy 40th it was. A quarter of a billion people saw a Disney movie in 1968, 100 million watched a Disney TV show, nearly a billion read a Disney book or magazine and almost 10 million visited Disneyland. And Mickey, as Walt used to say, started it all.

"The construction of Walt Disney World presents an immense challenge. However, I am convinced that we can bring to reality the greatest dream of Walt Disney's life."

"Mickey was only the first successful product of Walt's matchless imagination and ability to make his dreams become reality. It was an ability he could turn on for any occasion, large or small. Once, when my son, Roy Edward had the measles, Walt came and told him the story of Pinocchio, which he was making at the time. When Walt told a story, it was a virtuoso performance. His eyes riveted his listener, his mustache twitched expressively, his eyebrows rose and fell, and his hands moved with the grace of a musical conductor.

"Young Roy was so wide-eyed at Walt's graphic telling of the fairy tale that he forgot all about his measles. Later, when he saw the finished picture, he was strangely disappointed. 'It didn't seem as exciting as when Uncle Walt told it,' he said.

"Like many people who work to create humor, Walt took it very seriously. He would often sit glumly through the funniest cartoon, concentrating on some way to improve it. Walt valued the opinions of those working with him, but the final judgment was always unquestionably his.

"Once, after viewing a new cartoon with evident displeasure, Walt called for comments from a group of our people. One after another they spoke up, all echoing Walt's criticism. "I can get rubber stamps that say, 'Yes, Walt'," he snapped. Then he wheeled and asked the projectionist what he thought. The man sensed that dissent was in order. "I think you're all wrong," he declared. Walt just grinned. "You stick to your projector," he suggested.

"Bankers, bookkeepers and lawyers frequently tried to put the brakes on his free-wheeling imagination and were the bane of Walt's existence. As his business manager, I was no exception. "When I see you happy, that's when I get nervous," he used to say. Since Walt would spare no expense to make his pictures better, we used to have our battles. But he was always quick to shake hands and make up.

"Walt thrived on adversity, which is fortunate because we had it in spades. Even with Mickey a hit, we were constantly in hock to the banks. When he made his first real financial bonanza with Snow White, he could scarcely believe it.

"Sure enough, the good fortune was too good to last. Snow White made several million dollars when it came out. But Walt soon spent that and then some by plunging into a series of full-length cartoon features and building our present studio.

"To keep the studio afloat we sold stock to the public – and it sank immediately from $25 a share to $3. Troubles piled up. The studio was hit by a strike. Then World War II cut off our European market. More than once I would have given up had it not been for Walt's ornery faith that we would eventually succeed.

"He drove himself harder than anyone else at the studio. His two daughters Diane and Sharon learned to ride bikes on the deserted studio lot on weekends – while Walt worked.

"Walt involved himself in everything. During one story conference on the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, the story man, pointer in hand was outlining a sequence called 'How to Ride a Bicycle.' 'Now when you get on your bicycle…,' he began. Walt stopped him. 'Change your bicycle to a bicycle," he said. 'Remember every kid isn't fortunate enough to have a bike of his own.'

"Very little escaped Walt's perceptive eye. Animators often found their crumpled drawings retrieved from the wastebasket with a notation from Walt: "Let's not throw away the good stuff." And that, I think was his greatest genius: he knew instinctively what "good stuff" was. After others had worked on a story plot for months, Walt would often come in, juggle things around a bit, add a gag or two – and suddenly the whole thing came to life.

"Walt demanded a lot of people, but he gave a lot, too. When the Depression hit, and it looked as though we might have to close the studio, Walt gave everyone a raise. Some thought him crazy, but it gave morale a big boost. He hated to fire anyone, and if someone didn't work out in one job Walt would try to find a niche where he was better suited. Once, when we were faced with having to drop some animators, Walt found places for them at WED Enterprises in nearby Glendale, where he was secretly developing plans for what eventually became Disneyland.

"The story of Disneyland, perhaps better than anything else, illustrates Walt's vision and his stubborn determination to realize an idea he believed in. For years, Walt had quietly nursed the dream of a new kind of amusement park. It would be a potpourri of all the ideas conjured up by his fertile imagination. But the idea of sinking millions of dollars into an amusement park, seemed so preposterous that he wouldn't mention it to anyone. He just quietly began planning.

"As usual, though, he infused all of us with his own enthusiasm when he finally told us about the project. Predictably, we had trouble raising money, but Disneyland did open, in July 1955. Since that first day, millions of people, including eight kings and eight Presidents, have flocked to see the unique creation of Walt's imagination. Like a kid with a new toy – the biggest, shiniest toy in the world – Walt used to wander through the park, gawking as happily as any tourist.

"The overwhelming success of Walt's 'crazy idea' triggered a dramatic about face in the Disney fortunes. Yet success never changed the simplest of men. He hated parties, and his idea of a night out was a hamburger and chili at some little restaurant. His only extravagance was a miniature railroad that ran around the grounds of his home.

"'What do you do with all your money?' a friend once asked him. Pointing at the studio, Walt said, 'I fertilize that field with it.' And it's true that Walt plowed money back into the company almost as fast as it came in. When Disneyland opened, it had 22 attractions and cost $17 million. Today it has 52 attractions, and the total investment is $100 million!

"Typical is what happened one day when Walt and Admiral Joe Fowler, Disneyland construction supervisor were looking over the park's Rivers of America attraction. It was the scene of feverish activity. The paddle-wheeler Mark Twain was puffing around a bend. Two rafts crowded with children were crossing to Tom Sawyer island. Several canoes, manned by real Indians, were racing. It looked as though the whole flotilla was about to converge in one huge collision.

"'Gosh, isn't that great!' Walt exclaimed. 'Do you know what we need now?'

"'Yeah,' grunted Fowler. 'A port director.'

"'No,' said Walt, 'Another big boat!' And he got one, the Columbia, a full-scale replica of the first American square-rigger to sail around the globe.

"Being solvent for the first time since he started in business gave Walt a chance to develop other ideas. These included the development of Mineral King (an alpine-like valley high in the Sierra Mountains); a California Institute of Art, for which he donated the land and several million dollars; and most ambitious of all, a 100 million dollar Disney World and City of Tomorrow in Florida.

"Tragically, in the midst of all this activity, Walt was stricken with his fatal illness. I heard him refer to this cruel blow only once. "Whatever it is I've got," he told me, "don't get it."

"I visited him in the hospital the night before he died. Although desperately ill, he was as full of plans for the future as he had been all his life.

"Walt used to say that Disneyland would never be finished, and it never will. I like to think, too, that Walt Disney's influence will never be finished; that through his creations, future generations will continue to celebrate what he once described as "that precious, ageless something in every human being which makes us play with children's toys and laugh at silly things and sing in the bathtub and dream".