I picked up a copy of Walt Disney: An American Original in a bookstore at (of all places!) Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was not a “puff piece” but an interesting look into the life of a man whose creativity still impacts Americans — and people all over the world who seek entertainment — today. Though not particularly religious, Disney’s vision and commitment to excellence can serve as a model for those of us in the Lord’s work. I marked the following quotes from the book which might serve as illustrations for sermons or Bible study lessons:
“Walt once expressed his feelings bluntly in a talk with a young animator, Ken Anderson. ‘I’m impressed with what you’ve been doing, Ken,’ Walt remarked. ‘You’re new here, and I want you to understand one thing: there’s just one thing that we’re selling here, and that’s the name, ‘Walt Disney.’ If you can buy that and be happy to work for it, you’re my man. But if you’ve got any ideas of selling the name ‘Ken Anderson,’ it’s best for you to leave right now.'” (p. 192)
In the same way, there is only ONE whose name we must be committed to exalt in the church: not ours, but the Lord’s.
“But change in fortune had little effect on Walt’s personal life. Nor did he glory in the company’s financial health. ‘I’ve always been bored with just making money,’ he said. ‘I’ve wanted to do things, I wanted to build things. Get something GOING. People look at me in different ways. Some of them say, ‘The guy has no regard for money.’ That is not true. I HAVE regard for money. But I’m not like some people who worship money as something you’ve got to have piled up in a big pile somewhere. I’ve only thought of money in one way, and that is to do something with it, you see? I don’t think there is a thing I own that I will ever get the benefit of, except through doing things with it.'” (p. 276)
Late in life, Roy Disney (who handled business affairs for Disney) was asked by an associate about his loyalty and service. He responded: “My brother made me a millionaire. Do you wonder why I want to do everything I can to help him?”
If Roy was so with his brother, how much more should we be to serve God with gratitude, in light of all that He has done for us?
The following two illustrations might inspire those of us who serve in local churches and Kingdom organizations to constantly seek to glorify God in what we do:
“During his visits to Disneyland, Walt was always ‘plussing’ — looking for ways to improve the appearance of Disneyland and provide more pleasure for the customers. He would study an area and tell his staff: ‘Let’s get a better show for the customers; what can we do to give this place interest?'”
“While he respected the financial needs of his company, Walt refused to be limited by them. At a meeting to discuss some major changes in Disneyland, Marc Davis, who had worked on the plans, began his presentation by saying, ‘Well, I’ve got an expensive way and a cheap way of doing this.’ Walt rose from his seat and walked to where Davis was standing. Placing a hand on Davis’s shoulder, Walt said, ‘Marc, you and I do not worry about whether anything is cheap or expensive. We only worry if it’s good. I have a theory that if it’s good enough, the public will pay you back for it. I’ve got a big building full of all kinds of guys who worry about costs and money. You and I just worry about doing a good show.” (p. 325)
While our concern in the church is not “doing a good show”, many of us in Kingdom work can learn from Disney’s commitment to excellence, to the glory of God.