Walt Disney's Failures Could Inspire Entrepreneurs (Pinocchio)
By Stephen Schochet
You are a struggling entrepreneur and sometimes it feels like you are pushing a 3 ton boulder up a steep hill. Costs keep mounting and you are considering giving up. Well before you do, check out these 10 setbacks that Walt Disney had, some were financial nightmares that put him millions of dollars in the red:
1) Walt formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921. He made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. Flushed with success, he began to experiment with new storytelling techniques, his costs went up and then the distributor went bankrupt. He was forced to dissolve his company and at one point could not pay his rent and was surviving by eating dog food.
2) Walt created a mildly successful cartoon character in 1926 called Oswald the Rabbit. When he tried to negotiate with his distributor, Universal Studios, for better rates for each cartoon, he was informed that Universal had obtained ownership of the Oswald character and they had hired Disney's artists out from under him.
3) When Walt tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927 he was told that the idea would never work-- a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.
4) The Three Little Pigs was rejected by distributors in 1933 because it only had four characters, it was felt at that time that cartoons should have as many figures on the screen as possible. It later became very successful and played at one theater so long that the poster outside featured the pigs with long white beards.
5) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was sneak previewed to College Students in 1937 who left halfway during the film causing Disney great despair. It turned out the students had to leave early because of dorm curfew.
6) Pinocchio in 1940 became extra expensive because Walt shut down the production to make the puppet more sympathetic than the lying juvenile delinquent as presented in the original Carlo Collodi story. He also resurrected a minor character, an unnamed cricket who tried to tell Pinocchio the difference between right and wrong until the puppet killed him with the mallet. Excited by the development of Jiminy Cricket plus the revamped, misguided rather than rotten Pinocchio, Walt poured extra money into the film's special effects and it ended up losing a million dollars in it's first release.
7) For the premiere of Pinocchio Walt hired 11 midgets, dressed them up like the little puppet and put them on top of Radio City Music Hall in New York with a full day's supply of food and wine. The idea was they would wave hello to the little children entering into the theater. By the middle of the hot afternoon, there were 11 drunken naked midgets running around the top of the marquee, screaming obscenities at the crowd below. The most embarrassed people were the police who had to climb up ladders and take the little fellows off in pillowcases.
8) Walt never lived to see Fantasia become a success. 1940 audiences were put off by it's lack of a story. Also the final scene, The Night On Bald Mountain sequence with the devil damning the souls of the dead, was considered unfit for children.
9) In 1942, Walt was in attendance for the premiere of Bambi. In the dramatic scene where Bambi's mother died, Bambi was shown wandering through the meadow shouting," Mother! Where are you, Mother?" A teenage girl seated in the balcony shouted out, " Here I am Bambi!" The audience broke into laughter except for the red-faced Walt who concluded correctly that war-time was not the best time to release a film about the love-life of a deer.
10) The sentimental Pollyanna in 1960 made Walt cry at the studio screening but failed at the box office. Walt concluded that the title was off-putting for young boys.
Walt was human, he suffered through many fits of anger and depression through his many trials. Yet he learned from each setback, and continued to take even bigger risks which combined with the wisdom that experiencing failure can provide, led to fabulous financial rewards.
Want to hear more stories? Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks "Fascinating Walt Disney" and "Tales Of Hollywood". The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says," these two elaborate productions are exceptionally entertaining." Hear MP3 samples: http://www.hollywoodstories.com.