Walt Disney needs no introduction, but we’ll give you one anyway. An artist, producer, entrepreneur and visionary, Walt Disney was a pioneer of animation and is one of the biggest household names in history. Once a high-school dropout who almost sold vacuum cleaners for a living, Walt rocketed to stardom through his work in animated shorts, live-action features and everything in between. One of the most prolific filmmakers to ever grace the planet, Walt broke ground on countless technological advances in sound, color and storytelling, and introduced us to the classic stories and characters that imbued our childhoods with magic. As a movie producer, he holds the record for most Academy Awards won by an individual with 22 Oscar wins and 59 nominations. Here are some of his greatest quips, tips and words of wisdom.
1. On curiosity
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Disney was truly a jack of all trades with his hands in animation, live-action film, entrepreneurship, producing and even amusement park planning. Constantly flinging open new doors for Disney and forging the path ahead for those behind him, Disney really did take his own advice to heart.
2. On storytelling
“That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
Disney was, first and foremost, a storyteller, and his stories were peppered with hopeful moments. Cinderella holds onto kindness and hope for a brighter future, despite being cruelly mistreated. Hope goads Peter Pan on as he saves Neverland. And of course, Jiminy Cricket urges us all to hold onto hope as he famously wishes upon a star, singing, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.”
3. On ignorance
“All you’ve got to do is own up to your ignorance honestly, and you’ll find people who are eager to fill your head with information.”
All of us are ignorant in some way about something, Disney reminds us. And all of us must take responsibility for our ignorance and listen to others who can help us curb it.
4. On adversity
“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
There was a time where Disney was down on his luck, just like all of us have been at some point in our lives. With only $40 in his pocket, a starry-eyed young Walt Disney set off from Missouri to Hollywood, and fell on hard times when he lost the rights to his first animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But that setback is what led him to creating the beloved Mickey Mouse, so a kick in the teeth really did put him on the track to greatness.
5. On teamwork
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
Disney knew he couldn’t have accomplished all of this on his own. Each film takes scores of animators, producers, writers and more working together to create a story worth watching. You can start with the greatest idea, but if you want to make it a reality, turn to others for help.
6. On exchanging ideas
“Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards—the things we live by and teach our children—are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.”
Disney exchanged ideas and feelings through his movies, teaching children heritage, ideals and values along the way. He know that only through openly sharing our ideas and feelings could we pass down what’s important to us to future generations.
7. On children and the future
“Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”
While not just for kids, Disney captured the hearts of children especially and became cornerstones of all of our childhoods. Disney knew our children are our future, and made sure we cultivated their imaginations and creativity with stories full of love, laughter and learning.
8. On laughter
“Laughter is America’s most important export.”
Dubbed the master of laughter and learning, Disney knew the importance of spreading laughter through stories and funny, zany characters like Mickey Mouse.
9. On what divides us
“We have created characters and animated them in the dimension of depth, revealing through them to our perturbed world that the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us.”
Disney made us relate to and see ourselves in cartoon animals, to laugh with them, celebrate with them, cry with them. If we can do that, then why can’t we have empathy for one another and tear down the walls that divide us?
10. On life’s shadows
“Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows.”
Even when producing children’s stories, Disney was never afraid of showing us the shadows of life. While filled with immense joy, his stories were also punctuated by moments of overwhelming grief. We watched and cried with him as Bambi mourned his mother’s death, Dumbo was rocked in his imprisoned mother’s gentle grasp and Pinnochio drowned trying to save his father.
11. On dreams and purpose
“Dreams, ideas and plans not only are an escape, they give me purpose, a reason to hang on.”
Disney always told us that all our dreams could come true if we had the courage to pursue them. As he turned his dreams and ideas into a wondrous, magical reality, he let us know that we could do the same and find a purpose in life through our dreams.
12. On what comes next
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
After pouring his blood, sweat, tears and $17 million into it, Disney oversaw the grand opening of Disneyland in 1955. After a crazy opening day full of mishaps, including hordes of counterfeit tickets, the amusement park quickly became a place of magic and wonder for children and adults alike. But the magic didn’t stop there. Disneyland, Disney World and Epcot have ballooned in size, even after Disney’s death, and branched out globally to Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Seems like there’s plenty of imagination left to spare.
13. On imagination
“Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.”
Exercising to build up muscle strength is the norm, but we tend to take exercising our imaginations for granted. Disney reminds us that, like anything else that’s important, imagination take practice, and won’t stay as limber and bright if we don’t use it even as we reach the throes of boring, soul-crushing adulthood.
14. On growing up
“That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.”
The best thing about Disney films is that they allow us all to become kids again, with all the wonder and imagination that childhood brings. From dressing up as princesses at Disney World to belting classic Disney songs, adults are offered the chance to relive cherished memories time and time again as Disney preserves the magic of childhood for us all.
15. On one little cartoon mouse
“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”
The greatest things always start from a single idea. Mickey Mouse was born as a simple idea in 1928. And, well, the rest is history.
Christine Fernando is an intern at Paste with an affinity for horror movies, pretentious poetry and trashy reality TV. Don’t try to follow her on Twitter because she doesn’t have one.