The following post about Walt Disney is one of the most read pieces I’ve published. Turns out lots of people are looking for information on Walt’s perseverance. In any event, I’ve been reminded again how important it is for us to persevere even when we’re tired – maybe especially when we’re tired – of keeping at something.
Well, have you been trying for twenty years? Me neither. Keep pressing on….
Walt Disney’s Perseverance Originally posted February 22, 2011
Travel with me back in time to 1938. It was four years past the original book release of Mary Poppins and Walt Disney made his first attempt to gain rights to transfer the beloved story to film. Mickey Mouse was a big hit and this was the year that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, winning Disney an Oscar (accompanied by seven miniature statues). Really, the Snow White story provides another wonderful example of perseverance, but I’ll try to stay on track.
Anyway, 1938 was a big year for Walt (understatement), so you’d think that when he approached Helen Lyndon Goff (pen name P. L. Travers) she would have been flattered at the opportunity to work with him on a film adaptation of Mary Poppins; but no. Turns out that she didn’t think a film version of her books would do justice to her story; she didn’t want it to be turned into a cartoon.
So Mr. Disney asked again… and again… and again… and again… for 20 YEARS! During that time he released animated classics like Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi. He opened Disneyland. He moved out of animated films with Treasure Island, Old Yeller and The Disney Club. These were the golden years of Disney and of course I can’t begin to do justice to these 20 years with a little paragraph here.
And yet year after year, he’d pick up the phone, send a letter, drop by – however it was that Mr. Disney courted Ms. Travers’s business – to try to get the rights to Mary Poppins.
Here’s my commentary: really? Why? How did he see the potential? Why was he so driven? Or was it just a crazy obsession because he’d been told no? And didn’t he have enough going on? Why this? We won’t know… but my mind wanders. Back to the story….
Finally, P. L. Travers gave in and the rest, as they say, is history. Mary Poppins released in 1964 as one of Disney’s most successful musicals. It won Oscars. Julie Andrews won an Oscar. The songs, editing, and visual effects added even more Oscars, resulting in a total of 13. (BTW – all this information is available on Wikipedia and Answers if you want even more information on the topic.)
As you can see, Walt Disney’s perseverance paid off. In my post yesterday, I cited this as something that I found more applicable to me personally than the “hey, look how they picked up after failure” stories. I can relate to doggedly going back to something that I think really needs to get done – just like Disney did with Mary Poppins. I know I wouldn’t have had the insight to see the potential in Mary Poppins, but I can think of things in my life that I shouldn’t give up on. For that I can learn a lesson from Walt.
Even if it takes 20 years.