Walt's Masterworks
Other Dreams


Walt died all too young, less than two weeks after his 65th birthday. It's no surprise, given his ability to juggle a number of different projects at a time, that various efforts were still in the works when he passed on. In 1960, he had staged the ceremonies for the Winter Olympics. The success of that activity led Walt to make plans for an elaborate year-round recreational facility in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It was to be called Mineral King, and would feature skiing, an alpine village, skating rink, hotels, dormitories for young people, and restaurants. Walt's bid for the property was accepted by the U.S. government. But he met with resistance from environmentalists who worried that the development would destroy the natural beauty of the land. Walt argued that he was taking every measure to make sure the natural landscape was preserved -- by limiting automobile access, for example. The State of California was prepared to support the effort with highway construction, and Walt announced these plans at his last press conference, held on September 19, 1966. After Walt died, however, the environmentalists prevailed, and the project didn't come to be.

Another project didn't survive Walt's death was Walt Disney's Boyhood Home, a nonprofit tourist site that would help the economy of Marceline, Missouri -- the tiny community in which Walt spent his happiest childhood years. He bought land in Marceline and had plans drawn up. But that was about as far as things went. By happy contrast, his idea for a new kind of university education for creative people -- to be called CalArts -- fared somewhat better. For a long time, the Chouinard Art Institute had trained Disney artists. By merging the Chouinard Art Institute with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, supported by patron Mrs. Richard Van Hagen, the opportunity existed to create a new kind of university. It could educate students in all facets of the arts -- dance, music, drama, art, and film. Students wouldn't be trained in just one discipline, but rather treated to a multi-arts educational approach. This general idea was novel when Walt argued for it -- now, it's found in most major universities. Today CalArts is thriving, and "Smithsonian Magazine" has declared that it "has now become one of the great progressive forces for the arts it serves."