Interestingly, while many public figures are known to nearly everyone, nobody really knew Walt Disney. According to biographers, his closest associates and even his family, there was always a part of him that was out of sight and out of reach. But when it came to communicating his unique vision, Disney spared nothing to interpretation.
Competitors mistakenly assumed that the secret of Disney's success was with the high caliber talent he employed. They speculated that if these talents were lured away, the Disney Studio would collapse. There are many anecdotes recalling the great "artist chase." One recounts how residents around Burbank, California could tell when a major Disney project was completed by the flurry of business at local bars and restaurants.
But even as Disney's star artists left, many among them important to such masterworks as Fantasia and Pinocchio, the magic flowed unabated. Eventually the rival studios themselves were the ones that folded, making it amply clear that the true heart and creative soul of Disney Studio rested with the creator himself.
Disney claimed that everything he did pinioned from his desire to produce things that were purely for the enjoyment of escape. In his movies, good was good, bad was bad; difficult choices were simplified into questions of right versus wrong. As an entertainer, he often said, his job was to provide a respite from the struggles of daily life; a time to relieve the pressures of reality. Simplistic but effective, the Disney vision spread outside the company itself and into a subculture that is quintessentially American.
Writes British journalist, Simon Hoggard, "Disney...has acquired by now something of the air of a national shrine. American parents who don't take their children there sense obscurely that they have failed in some fundamental way, like Muslims who never made it to Mecca."
For a man who found it difficult to be close to those closest to him, the most intimate qualities of his vision endures as one of the most successful businesses in history.