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Wisdom of Walt Book Report – By Jeff Barnes

Favorite Quotes

“Happiness is a state of mind.  It’s just according to the way you look at things.” – Walt Disney

“When you love what you are doing, and you are having fun doing it, then you are living out your form of Fantasyland.  Your fantasy becomes your true north.” – Jeff Barnes

“The way to get started is quit talking and being doing.” – Walt Disney

Big dreams require big canvases – Walt Disney

If you can dream it, you can do it.  – Walt Disney

You become what you think about.” – Abraham Lincoln.

When an idea pops into our head and we think, “No it’s too crazy, that’s the idea we want.  When we think the notion is completely off the wall,…should I take time to work on this?’ the answer is yes.” – Stephen Pressler

“I’m a storyteller.  Of all the things I’ve ever done, I’d like to be remembered as a storyteller.” – Walt Disney

“Great stories happen to those who tell them.” – Ira Glass

Fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life…the great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear.” – Donald Miller

The tragedy in life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living about our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” – Benjamin Mays

“We are not trying to entertain the critics, I’ll take my chances with the public.” – Walt Disney


Key Takeaways

  • VISION FIRST – It all started on a park bench with Walt Disney and his two little girls, Sharon and Diane. He sat on a bench watching his two daughters on the merry go around and thought “There should be a place where children and parents can have fun together.”

Take time to Dream.  Walt never stopped dreaming.  His biggest dream started on a park bench.

In Disneyland Story, Sam Gennawey opens “Once upon a time, Walt Disney raised three wonderful children, Diane, Sharon and Disneyland.”

You need to treat your dreams like you treat your children.  You need a plan and you need to feed your dreams.

Don’t leave your thoughts, your ideas, your dreams, your goals, your vision behind on a park bench.”  – Jeff Barnes

“Every child is blessed with a vivid imagination.  But just as muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.”


“Our best leaders recognize that leadership has nothing to do with position or power.  Your followers want to know where you are going to take them.  Casting a compelling vision is critical to your success.  Your followers need a reason to go where you are going.  Leadership is not about managing things as they are today.  Leadership is about transforming reality into your vision for a better tomorrow.


Walt created Disneyland as a visual showcase for storytelling.  After controlling the “Opening Shot” on Main Street, Walt wanted guests to choose their own stories and adventures via the various attractions located throughout the park.

Walt envisioned his park as one big movie set, with forced perspective and transitions such as one might see in a movie.

Walt pictured his parking lot as outer lobby to the theatre that is Disneyland where costumed parking attendants would act like ushers.

Walt set up the train station up high above entrance as a marquee that everyone could see anywhere from parking lot.

Inner lobby is the floral Mickey that is one of the most photographed places in Disneyland.

Opening Scene – Like any good director Walt wanted to control the opening shot and set the opening scene.  That is Main Street USA.  Everyone has to walk through Main Street to get to the different lands.

Everything in each land fits the story.  From the scaled architecture on Main Street to the trashcans in Frontierland, served to support the story. Walt eliminated the freeway outside of the park by building a berm.

Each attraction tells a story.  Snow white represents drama.  Mr Toad represents humor.  Peter Pan provides beauty and wonder.

We do not have rides in Disneyland.  We have attractions, adventures, immersive experiences and of course stories – Marty Sklar


  • Walt’s Failures.

Bankruptcy.  His first studio in Kansas City “Laugh-O-Grams” went backrupt and prompted him to move to California

Loss of Oswald the Rabbit.  Walt’s first success, the character of Oswald was taken from him by the contact with Universal.

Snow White Sneak Peek.  The audience walked out halfway through the preview.  It wasn’t because of the film, it was because it was college students who had curfew.

Fantasia never made profit during Walt’s lifetime.  The music alone cost three times the average cost of a Mickey Mouse cartoon.


  • The 4 C’s

Curiosity, Confidence, Courage and Constancy


Walt was always interested in what was around the corner.  Sound in animation (Steamboat Willie), making the first full -length animated film (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) or building his first theme park (Disneyland), the first audio animatronic attraction (Enchanted Tiki Room)

Walt never lost the childlike curiosity.


“Psychological studies show that high achieving successful people are not overly concerned about what others think.  This was true of Walt Disney.  He never catered to his critics.  He never worried about rejection. He kept selling his dreams.”  – How to be like Walt – Pat Williams and Jim Denney


“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.”

Disneyland is open 365 days a year.  The people at Disneyland turn the park over day in and day out, 365 days a year.  Disneyland always shows up.

  • Building a Berm – Focus – Tune Things Out. “What kind of world are you trying to create?  Don’t let your success get swallowed up by your distractions.  Embrace your dreams and know that protecting them is a necessary step for creating your magical life.”
  • Make a Main Street Impression

-Start the show with a strong opener.

-Disneyland is the ultimate show and Main Street is the park’s opening act.  His goal was to hook his audience on Main Street so that they would continue to explore the rest of the park.

  • Design “Wienie’s in Your Experience.”

“What you need is a wienie, which says to people come this way.  People won’t go down a long corridor unless there’s something promising at the end.  You have to something that beckons them to walk this way.”

Walt designed Sleeping Beauty Castle as wienie for Main Street and then TWA moonliner for Tomorrowland and Mark Twain Riverboat for Frontierland.

  • Detail Your Destiny.

“People will visit this attraction again and again.  Each time, they’ll see things they never noticed before.”

Walt always wanted things “just so”.  When Art Linkletter met Disney for the first time, it was at a press conference for Fantasia and Walt was there early before everyone else rearranging chairs.  Art asked why are you arranging chairs?  Walt said, well, because I like things ‘just so.”

Walt would focus on Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch.

“The fact is, as we stand here right now (In Disneyland), there are literally hundreds of stimuli etching and impression and an experience in our minds through every one of our senses.”

  • Take Care of Your Team – The original Disney Training.

Walt’s words from original orientation program.

Welcome to Disneyland.  To make the dream of Disneyland come true took the combined skills and talents of artisans, carpenters, engineers, scientists and planners.  The dream they built is now your heritage.  It is your who will make Disneyland truly a magic kingdom and a happy place for millions of guests who will visit us now and in future years.  In creating happiness for our guests, I hope that you will find happiness in your work and in being an important part of Disneyland.”

  • Having a Next Always. “Disneyland will never be completed.  It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Walt was always onto the next.  The morning after Snow White and Seven Dwarfs premier, animator Woolie Reitherman ran into Walt and instead of talking about taking a little rest, he began talking about the next animated feature and how he wanted to get started right away.”


What Will You Implement?

  • Soft Openings and More Rehearsals. After “Black Sunday” Opening in Disneyland where the opening was a disaster with gas leaks, overcrowding, no drinking fountains, Mark Twain riverboat sinking, rides breaking down, women’s high heels getting stuck in asphalt….Disney committed to opening new shows, attractions and even parks to small crowds to get all the kinks out.
  • What is our Window on Main Street? We need to find new ways to recognize our teammates in a meaningful way. How can we have their name and legacy a part of our stadium and Banana Land?    With Disney, there is no higher honor for Disney employee than to receive a famed “Window on Main Street.”  These notes represent the form of opening and closing credits – recognizing the significant contributions team members who have helped make the dream of Disneyland a reality.   To receive them the requirements include 1.) Only on retirement.  ) Only the highest level or service/respect/achievement. 3.) Agreement between top individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering.


We need to find our place at the stadium to honor these special teammates who helped make the Bananas Dream happen!


  • Create E-Ticket Experiences.

When Disney opened on July 17th, 1955, the General Admission price was $1.00 and then you had to buy tickets for different attractions that ranged from .10 cents to .35 cents.   Three months after the opening Walt realized that he needed to develop system to simplify guests expenses and create a better experience, so he developed the Disneyland Ticket book.

The ticket book classified attractions as “A”, “B” or “C” with “C” attractions being the best experiences in the park.  In 1958 “D” attractions were included.

In 1959, Disneyland expanded and added the monorail and Matterhorn and submarine voyage.  All of these became “E-Ticket” attractions for the newest and best.

How do we create Over the Top, Must See Attractions at our ballpark?  What’s next level?  Ziplining across the field during the game?  Dugout seats with players?  Playing Catch on field during game?  How do we create VIP memorable experiences that people will never forget?

  • Always Be Plussing and Be Complacent

In 1959, after the six-million dollar expansion of Tomorrowland and with attendance at record levels, Walt wanted to spend another $350,000 on a Christmas Parade.  His managers argued against it, especially as it was just for the Parade and wasn’t even another ride to generate revenue.  Walt rejected their arguments and said, “We can’t be satisfied, even though we’ll get the crowds at Christmastime.  We’ve always got to give them a little more.  It’ll be worth the investment.  If they ever stop coming, it’ll cost ten times that much to get em’ back.”

This should lead us to continue to invest in surprise fireworks shows, surprise halftime shows, surprise characters and events.  Surprise giveaways.  Never promote a giveaway – just always plus and give a little extra!

  • Keep going undercover and experiencing the game as a fan. Be clear on the goals and expectations of Undercover Fan. What are the fan frustrations?  What can be improved?  How can the experience be plussed?  Walt did this often and would stand in line and take in the guest experience.  He once went to Dick Nunis running the park after riding the Jungle Cruise and was very disappointed.  He asked how long is the ride suppose to be?  Dick said 7 minutes.  Walt only experienced a 4 minute ride that was super fast and not as enjoyable.  Dick immediately fixed it.


How does it fit in Fans First Way

 Our mission remains Fans First. Entertain Always.  Our entertainment and fun is how we put our fans first.   “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” – Walt Disney

“When you love what you are doing, and you are having fun doing it, then you are living out your form of Fantasyland.  Your fantasy becomes your true north.” – Walt Disney

You always get more of whatever it is you choose to focus on.  Instead of “tearing down,” focus on “building up.”  Focus on building fans up, focus on the joy we bring, and the gratitude for what we get to do on a daily basis for our fans.

Disneyland is not just another amusement park.  It’s unique and I want to keep it that way.  Besides, you don’t work for a dollar, you work to create and have fun.” – Walt Disney

“Most answers reveal themselves through doing, not thinking.” – Jen Sincero.

Remember Disneyland was constructed in one year.  What commitment can you make today to complete something epic for tomorrow?

Always be growing and hungry.  Walt was never satisfied with the status quo.  In his movie making or in his thinking about Disneyland.

On Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary Walt Disney announced to his team “I just want to leave you with this though, that it’s been sort of a dress rehearsal and we’re just getting started.  So if any of you start resting on your laurels, I mean just forget it, because…we are just getting started.”

You must launch and launch again.  What is your impossible next? Never rest on your laurels, and know that you are always just getting start – Jeff Barnes

My favorite quote from Walt “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

By following the Fans First Way, we will always be seeking to do the impossible and pushing the boundaries on what can be done for our fans.