I was at MGM, in that store they have of Hollywood memorabilia. I’d just ridden a Disney bus, the driver of which, a woman full of life, had used the small trip as an occasion for quizzing people about Walt Disney and telling interesting facts of his life. There was always someone in that well assorted bus who knew the answer to her questions. She’d started as a joke, asking if we guys knew why MGM is called MGM, proceeding to explain that it stands for Mickey got Minnie, or Mickey got money. Then, came the serious questions. I couldn’t answer any. At the end of the trip, the driver asked whether anyone knew why they wore purple uniforms. No one could answer that one. She said : “ Purple was Walt’s favorite color”…
After a brief silence, she continued:
“ You know what is good about wearing a uniform?”
Again, no reply.
“Disney takes care of it for us. They wash it and press it…”
“Disney” had been in her mouth to designate Walt himself, the Disney family, a brand and finally the staff. She was proud of her job, reverent of Walt and moved with Disney. The “Disney” that takes care of was all of those together, I guess.
Embarrassed of my ignorance after the little bus trip, I was, at the MGM store, examining Bob Thomas’ biography of Walt Disney, thinking of buying it. But I generally don’t like biographies. Tried reading a few of Proust, my favorite writer, and abandoned them all. Biographies generally give me the feeling that the writer wants, somehow, to “own” his subject, that person he either loves, hates, or loves and hates at the same time. Biographers generally want to know more about that person than the person himself, and assert their cleverness at the expense of the latter.
But I had to know something about Walt Disney. The book was 15 dol. Wondering whether, in buying it, I would just have one more book piling up dust on my bed side table, I heard these two ladies, who seemed to be somewhere in their sixties, commenting on what they saw around. They were very proper, sweet and, one could see, good friends. They looked like two English ladies ready for their five o’clock afternoon tea. On the shelf I got Bob Thomas’ book from, there were a few pictures of Walt Disney stacked up on a corner. The first one was the same as the one on the cover of Thomas’ book. A young Walt, kind of shy looking, by a door, certainly the door of his office, dressed in an angora sweater. Projected on the wall to his left is the shadow of Mickey Mouse. Everyone knows what picture I am talking about, no more need for descriptions. So far, I had no idea of how Walt Disney looked like when he was young, and I was kind of intrigued by it, trying to match that image to the one of Uncle Walt that is generally promoted. Then, I heard one of the ladies say to the other, with the same warmth a mother may talk about a baby son, or of some creature she admires and at the same time is protective of.
“Oh, I love him in that picture…”
The tone that was said with revealed a knowledge of cause. That lady for sure knew all of Walt Disney’s pictures that are available to the public. And her picking that one to “love him in it” and share her opinion with her friend transmitted pure affection. They obviously had their personal way of relating to Walt Disney. Like the bus driver did and like many other people do.
After reading Bob Thomas’ biography of Disney I read many others (of Disney too). Disney made a point of his characters, the good ones, being lovable. I think that the Disney style is remarkable for “babying” characters and also things. That certainly arouses “the license to touch” that was reported of Mickey Mouse, a license also to feel like playing with. An endearingness that accounts for physical closeness. Walt was reported for having the gift to reach the human heart, after all. His power of endearingness pervaded animate and inanimate things alike. The Disney settings make one wish to be in them, they are cozy as can be and at the same time delicate and mysterious. One wants to be protected by them as well as to play with or to be protective of them. The same goes for the buildings on Main Street USA. You like to be kind of cradled by them and also playful with them. Such constant interchange of affection makes up for the ideal in personal relationships. You are constantly given and you constantly give.
Walt Disney made loving a fundamental part of being entertained. To feel taken care of by Disney might have something to do with this lovingness, this exchange of affection. The same for having a personal way of relating to Walt.
I wonder how many people might have their own personal stories to tell about experiences with Disney ( visits to the Magic Kingdom, watching of a Disney movie, thoughts about Walt, particular appreciation of his team and so on). Like the two ladies in the store, or like that bus driver, they could enrich others in participating a unique way of feeling, or in telling their own little stories. In being, a little bit, like Walt Disney.