Last Updated 30 Dec 2020

Walt Disney: the Quintessential American

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You’re riding a rollercoaster in a Disney theme park in Orlando, Florida. You look around at the incredible architecture and imagination that is flowing throughout the park. You start wondering if your childhood would be the same without the man behind all this greatness. Walt Disney was a man full of charisma, joyfulness, and positivity. He never backed down or felt discouraged after failing.

He was a man who knew what he wanted and ended up getting it; he was a go-getter. His legacy is celebrated every year by the making of new Disney movies and he is appreciated throughout the world. If you ask an average person who is the quintessential American, his or her response would be someone like George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, or Abraham Lincoln. Although those are great examples, they don’t portray the same traits as America would. This paper will show how Walt Disney is the quintessential American.

Just like America, Walt Disney is prejudiced, catalytic, and persistent. Many people use “racist” in a wrong form. To be racist is to keep one race from doing something; while Walt Disney never did that. He was prejudiced against other races, which means unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group. Although there is no hard proof to show that Walt Disney was prejudiced, he did show it in his creations, or so we think (Gabler). The Three Little Pigs" featured the wolf dressed as a Jewish peddler. The American Jewish Congress protested that the characterization was so "vile, revolting and unnecessary as to constitute a direct affront to the Jews. " According to Walt Disney Archives, Walt referred to Italians as "garlic eaters" and used a variety of crude terms for blacks. To this day, many critics assume that the crows in Dumbo are shown as stereotypes. But Walt was no closet racist. At home he always preached racial, religious and ethnic tolerance to his two daughters.

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Under his supervision, Disney studios was inhospitable to many minorities, few of whom said to worked there, said that they were virtually verboten on the screen (Gabler). Everyone sees America as this “welcoming” and “interracial” country, but no one remembers all the terrible and hypocritical things that America has done in its history. Some would say America is paradoxal, or hypocritical, or contradictory, and while all those words do describe America, no one seems to describe America as prejudiced. The Chinese Exclusion Act was brought up in Congress due to the overflowing population of Chinese in the United States.

The US needed workers to build the Transcontinental Railroad, so they brought in the Chinese to build it. After it was all done, no one knew what to do with the Chinese that were left in the country and the incoming ones. So Congress decided to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, which permitted the Chinese entering the US starting from 1882. Congress passed the National Origins Act in 1924 because of the crazy amount of immigrants moving to the US. It excluded any Eastern and Southern Europeans and almost all Asians and other nonwhites from entering the US.

This act instituted admission quotas by using the 1890 census to determine the population of a particular nationality group; the government then only allowed 2 percent of that population into the nation. After the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued an order to “punish” all the Japanese living in the United States. The order gave the military broad powers to ban any Japanese citizen from a fifty to sixty mile wide coastal area stretching from Washington state to California and extending into southern Arizona.

The order also authorized transporting these citizens to assembly centers, or concentration camps, hastily set up and governed by the military in California, Arizona, Washington state, and Oregon (Executive Order 9066). What does it mean to be persistent? According to the modern day dictionary it means, persisting, especially in spite of opposition, obstacles, discouragement, etc. , persevering, lasting or enduring tenaciously. Walt Disney was seen as determined and hard working, never giving up, and always having faith.

His views and visions came from the fond memory of yesteryear, and persistence for the future. Disney’s brothers, Roy and Raymond, had gone off to war and although he was too young to enlist his parents insisted on him not going to war. So he forged his parents’ signature on a passport to go over to France as part of the Red Cross Ambulance Corps (Cole, 21). This particular action shows that Disney would not take no for an answer. He wanted to help out, so his determination showed the most during this event in his life.

After completing a set of his 1st cartoons, and working every night in his garage with a borrowed camera, he sold his first set of cartoons to a local theater in Kansas City, Newman Theatre: Newman Laugh-O-Grams” (Cole, 25). His 1st production of Alice in Wonderland had failed, so he started working on his other cartoons but when his first animations company had failed, declaring bankruptcy in the spring of 1923, he had asked Margaret Winkler, who was previously interested in Alice in Wonderland, to distribute the money in the creation (Cole, 28).

Although there was a nasty court case after, Disney focused on the positives and kept on moving forward. After his bankruptcy in New York, Disney moved to California, but he was simply too young and inexperienced. So he started the same business as he did in Kansas City and started advertising his cartoons. At first, he had trouble-finding buyers, but finally he sold a serious to a local theater (Cole, 30). His life motto, “Keep Moving Forward” was included in a Disney creation of “Meet the Robinsons” to show Walt’s persistence and optimism.

It meant to never stop, never give up, and just to “Keep Moving Forward”. This motto also shows that Disney chose to stay positive. He was never pessimistic and tried his hardest to give his all. He worked hard and even after having failed attempts at starting his own animation company, he never gave up and just kept on going. All of his hard work paid off, and we can see his magnificent work and amazing determination today. When you think of America, what is the first thing that comes to mind? First man on the moon, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the Apollo Program, and the struggle during the Cold War perhaps?

All those things were achieved by America because, America always needs to be the best of the best and beat everyone in anything. Russia sends in a man in space, America tries to override it by sending rockets in space and trying to land on the Moon. The Apollo Program was commenced because of this crazy race/competition going on with the U. S. S. R. The program was designed to land humans on the surface of the Moon. Six of the missions completed their task by landing on the moon, while the others only orbited Earth’s surface. This shows how hard America tried to get someone on the Moon, in which they succeeded (Williams).

The first man on the Moon was the result of the Apollo Program. The legendary man’s name was Neil Armstrong. As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface. After the tragic events of 9/11, there was a hunt to find the leader of the Al-Qaeda. After a crazy and hectic search for Osama bin Laden, the elite American forces had found him in a custom-built hideout, not far from a Pakistani military academy. It was long believed that he was hiding in caves around the world.

His body was quickly buried at sea with a stunning finale to a furtive decade on the run (Osama bin Laden). Despite the inconclusiveness of the Korean War, the existence of Cuba as a Soviet satellite 90 miles from Florida, the draft dodgers and Weathermen terrorists, despite the American retreat from Vietnam, the Watts riots of 1964, the Watergate, the humiliating 1979 occupation of the U. S. embassy in Tehran, from 1947 to 1989, the U. S. successfully contained and defeated the Soviets in the Cold War's long and tedious struggle (Bay). That took extraordinary persistence.

It took resilient, adaptable, creative and able military and security services. But most of all it took the basic, consistent support of the American people. The ones, who go to work, pay the bills; wear the police and military uniforms. And as John Kennedy once said "bear any burden ... to assure the survival and the success of liberty. " (Bay). “It all started with a mouse” is what everyone says about the Disney franchise. If you think about it, Disney had drastically changed our lives. Walt Disney can be described as catalytic, which means to be relating to or causing or involving catalysis; "catalytic reactions", revolutionary.

The Disney franchise is a big part of American culture. Kids would do anything for tickets to one of the theme parks. Florida is the top tourist city in America and the only reason it is, is because of the Disney theme parks. Just like America has affected the world with its charm and magic, so has Walt Disney. We celebrate his birthday and his accomplishments every year. His legacy will remain forever. Walt Disney has affected our generation so much and it all started when a mouse character appeared in his series of cartoons, “Oswald”.

When Steamboat Willie opened at the Colony Theater in New York on November 18, 1928, Walt knew that he created something that will change the whole world (Crafton, 5). It signaled the beginnings of animation history. Most people credit Walt Disney as the one who started the animation history, however some critics say that animations have been around since late 1800s (Crafton, 6). If you travel to any country abroad, everyone would know of America as these “cowboys” who run around with lassos, on horses, chasing Native Americans. That, dear readers, is the magnificent influence of America all over the world.

Although everyone sees Americans as these fat, lazy, stupid human beings who eat McDonalds and watch television everyday, Europeans, Asians, Indians, Africans, etc. , praise the United States. Believe it or not, American culture has been so influential everywhere, that everyone wants to live in the US. The culture and entertainment are huge aspects of the influence that America has had on these second world, third world, and even first world European countries. There are KFC’s, McDonalds’, and other “typical” American fast food restaurants all over the world.

America is so powerful, that the celebrities, movies, and any television shows are shown in, almost, every country in the world. Entertainment and culture are not the only features that America has brought over to the rest of the world. After the all-known Revolutionary War, War of Ideas was going around the world. And what it was is that, all the countries that were ruled by kings and queens were starting to ponder upon their rulers. They wanted independence and freedom of speech. The French Revolution that happened shortly after America gained independence from Great Britain can prove that.

Now all these countries were starting to revolt because they thought if an underdog, like America, can defeat and break away from a powerhouse, like Great Britain, so can they. To be the quintessential is to be the essential part of something. Walt Disney is indeed the essential whole of everyone’s lives. America and Walt have both been persistent, catalytic, and prejudiced to the world. And although they’ve been the bad guys sometimes, they have tremendously affected the whole world by their great determination and willpower.

They have done great things like the Apollo Program, creating Mickey Mouse, landing a man on the Moon, leaving a tremendous legacy behind, etc. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be great, is to be misunderstood ” (Emerson)

Works Cited

  1. Bay, Austin. "RealClearPolitics - In Praise of American Persistence. " RealClearPolitics - Opinion, News, Analysis, Videos and Polls. Creators Syndicate Inc. , 3 May 2011. Web. 11 May 2012. . Bell, Elizabeth, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells. From mouse to mermaid: the politics of film, gender, and culture.
  2. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. Print. Cole, Michael D. Walt Disney: creator of Mickey Mouse. Springfield, N. J. , U. S. A. : Enslow Publishers, 1996. Print. Crafton, Donald.
  3. Before Mickey: the animated film, 1898-1928. University of Chicago Press ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Print. "Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation. "
  4. History Matters: The U. S. Survey Course on the Web. N. p. , n. d. Web. 17 May 2012. . Gabler, Neal. "Walt Disney--prince or toad?. " Los Angeles Times 22 Nov. 2009, sec.
  5. Entertainment: n. page. Los Angeles Times-California, national, and world news. Web. 14 May 2012. "Osama bin Laden is dead - CBS News. "
  6. Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News - CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. , 1 May 2011.
  7. Web. 17 May 2012. . Peet, Bill. Bill Peet: an autobiography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989. Print.
  8. Williams, Dr. David R. "The Apollo Program (1963 - 1972). " Welcome to the NSSDC!. N. p. , 24 Nov. 2008.
  9. Web. 17 May 2012.. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self reliance. Hoboken, N. J. : BiblioBytes, 199. Print.


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