Born in Chicago in 1901, Walt Disney loved cartoons from his childhood and would sell sketches to his neighbours.

When the First World War broke, he joined the Red Cross and was deployed to France, where he drove an ambulance that he decorated with the cartoons he drew.

After his return and one failed commercial film business later, he went to work for the Kansas City Film Ad Company. There, Disney partnered with another employee to start an animation company that produced short cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams.

The business was wildly successful but soon became bankrupt when Disney was unable to manage the company. He then moved to Hollywood where with his brother Roy he started a new studio in his garage. Soon after, Disney opened Disney Brother’s Studio and went on to produce classics such as Snow White, Bambi, Pinocchio and Beauty and the Beast.

Key achievements

  1. Disney was among the first to produce full-colour TV programme with his Wonderful World of Color (sic) in 1961.
  2. Producing what is considered one of the greatest feats of the motion picture industry, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  3. Winning 22 Academy Awards during his lifetime and founding theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Lessons for your store

  1. Protect your ideas – Disney had the rights to some of his first characters stolen by one of his distributors.
  2. Management skills are essential – Disney’s early business failed because he lacked the know-how to manage it.
  3. Recruit the right people – through-out his life Disney befriended and recruited exceptionally talented people who helped him carry Disney forward.