“All it takes is tuppence from you…” Reflecting on 50 Years Since Walt Disney’s Passing
December 15, 2016 marks fifty years since Walt Disney’s passing. It has been half a century since the world lost one of its greatest visionaries. In the lives of dreamers to come, like Walt’s own daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and artists and leaders and innovators all over the world, the legacy of Walt Disney is as strong and vibrant as ever.
When still a young woman, Diane would tell reporter Pete Martin, "My dad said that biographies were sort of like epitaphs after a completed life or endeavor. And he is always in the midst of a million new ideas and ambitions and so the thought of being a biographical subject seemed almost insulting to him. Dad feels he hasn't reached all his goals yet. There's always something new to do…." The museum that Diane would build decades later, her enduring testament of love and affection to her beloved father, speaks to the continuation of Walt’s legacy. With each piece of history comes inspiration and meaning for the future.
With projects as varied as EPCOT, Mineral King, The Jungle Book (1967), and the California Institute of the Arts, Walt hadn’t come close to slowing down in 1966. As historians Katherine and Richard Greene would write, “One of the most remarkable aspects of Walt’s final years was the hectic pace of his workday. Entering his 60s and approaching an age when many begin thinking of retirement, Walt worked as if he were just getting started.” He never slowed down and never considered stepping back, for there were always more stories to tell and more good work to be done.
Now fifty years since his death, we find in every good story, every act of kindness, every new innovation, a bit of that Walt Disney spirit, that hope for the future and belief in the goodness of people. Walt is still with us.
The day after Walt’s passing in 1966, The New York Times published an extensive obituary, hailing Walt as “a weaver of fantasies” and taking readers on a journey through his life in all its trials and triumphs. “One day, when Mr. Disney was approaching 60 and his black hair and neatly trimmed mustache were gray, he was asked to reduce his success to a formula. His brown eyes became alternately intense and dreamy. He fingered an ashtray as he gazed around an office so cluttered with trophies that it looked like a pawn shop. ‘I guess I'm an optimist. I'm not in business to make unhappy pictures…Maybe it's because I can still be amazed at the wonders of the world.’”
“Feed the Birds,” written by Richard and Robert Sherman for Mary Poppins (1964), was one of Walt Disney’s favorite songs. A mere six stanzas in length, it spoke to his personal view of life, affirming the power in a simple, random act of kindness.
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Robert Sherman would describe, “[…] as Walt said referring to ‘Feed the Birds,’ ‘That’s what it’s all about,’ doing just a little extra and going just a little bit out of your way to make someone feel special. Sometimes it can make all the difference in the world to a person.”
With every cherished memory and each new joy, Walt Disney continues to make a difference in the world, and reminds us that we too can bring joy into people’s lives, “all it takes is tuppence from you.” As Ray Bradbury would say, “[…] when you drop [Walt] in a glass of water, like a Japanese flower he just expands in all directions. It’s the expanse of Disney that’s moved out into the world in so many different ways and has done nothing but good…It’s the total man that’s a gift to our time,” and indeed, to all time.
Lucas O. Seastrom is a writer, filmmaker, and contracting historian for The Walt Disney Family Museum.
-Greene, Katherine, and Richard Greene. Inside the Dream: The Personal Story of Walt Disney. New York, NY: Disney Editions, 2001.
-Korkis, Jim. "Remembering Diane Disney Miller." Mouseplanet. November 20, 2013. https://www.mouseplanet.com/10546/Remembering_Diane_Disney_Miller.
-Sherman, Robert B. Moose. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2013.
-"Walt Disney, 65, Dies on Coast; Founded an Empire on a Mouse." Editorial. New York Times 16 Dec. 1966: n. pag. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1205.html>.