Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Billion Fearless Dollars

Mark Eades recent story about Disneyland's Million Dollar Dazzle charity campaign got me thinking about the stories which are told by the animated films which Walt was personally involved in making. It's an impressive list. From Snow White to Mary Poppins, over the course of three decades, a dozen movies explored how love overcomes hate, hope vanquishes despair, persistence pays and optimism is always the better play. The box office figures support this hypothesis; Averaging just under $86 million per film, the dozen Disney classics have generated just over $1 Billion to date.

Since Walt's death some have questioned whether the company which became his avatar has held true to his vision, carefully and persistently preserved in those foundational animated features. I believe they have, even with the occasional stumble. Beginning with Toy Story and carried thru another dozen films, from Monster's Inc. to Zootopia, the viewing public has responded time and again with their hearts and their wallets to a very simple fact; fear kills all the things which make life worth living.  Walt knew this.  It was a guiding principle which he had learned the hard way.

I witnessed this recently at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was late afternoon on one of those days when all of Florida is trying hard to impersonate a sauna. While waiting in the gift shop near the Star Wars Launch Bay I noticed that a crowd had gathered outside. Looking out the door I saw this scene;

This August Saturday was one of those 90 degrees @ 90 percent afternoons that make you grateful for $4 frozen lemonade. Yet, here were a dozen Storm Troopers marching thru the courtyard, with two others standing guard at the Launch Bay entrance. I stopped the camera once they'd passed, but should have kept filming because what happened next made someone's day Magical.

The two Storm Troopers who'd been standing guard walked over to a young girl in a wheelchair who clearly had special needs. One of them said to her; "Come with me." The three of them followed by the girl's family, proceeded to the middle of the courtyard, where they posed with the Troopers for photographs, flanking the girl on both sides were the elite shock troops, fanatically loyal to the Empire, impossible to sway from the Imperial cause, clowning a bit for the camera. After the pictures were taken one of the troopers said to the girl;

"That will be all. "Don't cause any further public disturbances." 

The smiles all around were contagious. At this point I had two types of moisture running down my face and it wasn't raining.  I can't even imagine how hot and humid it must have been inside those Storm Trooper suits.

That's what Disney does; They take things which are frightening, flip them on their head and turn them into lifelong memories of family and friends, converting our monster nightmares into giant blue furry snuggle buddies.

Even for just a little while, they bring us onto the stage of a different type of story, one in which its safe to trust, good to believe and even better to be unselfish. It's a world where we can be scared for a while without always being afraid and it's OK to fail because you can get it right the next time, or the time after that, or after that. (Walt went bust five times before he got it right.)

We'll talk more about fear and creativity in another post. For now, just know that these are the troops you are looking for and I think Walt would have approved.

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