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How Disney Culture Values Excellence

Few corporations have maintained such high standards as Disney.

Chris Queen


May 17, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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We live in an era of disposable pop culture. All around us we see vapid reality series, uninspired (and uninspiring) music, movies that are little more than retreads of other bad ideas, and starlets who are famous merely for being famous. Of course, this stuff is not necessarily bad in and of itself — in fact, mindless pop culture can make for some great “guilty pleasure” moments.


The truth is, when any form of entertainment achieves excellence, we notice. Television programs like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, music by artists such as Mumford & Sons and Zac Brown Band, and films like Lincoln and Les Miserables attract attention because they raise the bar in their genre.

The idea of excellence as something for which to strive goes back to the Bible. Jewish and Christian believers alike are aware of the admonishments in Scripture to give our all. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon advises:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)

And the Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Colosse:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:17, 23-24 (NIV)

Walt Disney felt the pull to achieve excellence, in part because his name was on every product the studio created. He once said, “Anything that has a Disney name to it is something we feel responsible for.” He instilled the value of excellence in his staff as well — he once hailed his staff as “the ones who insist on doing something better and better.” A sign on a construction wall from my last trip to Walt Disney World expresses this value.

Over the course of the next couple of pages, we’re going to take a look at how this value of excellence shows up throughout Disney culture.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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I recommend that EscapeVelocity's comment be unreported. Until then, I recommend clicking on it. It is why I have no plans to ever visit any Disney park.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Song of the South" was a magnificent recognition of the little known reveries alluded to, an older ex-slave, "Uncle Remus"!
"Uncle Remus" actually was a very popular historical "character", created by a journalist at the turn of the last century, and written, in a very classic interpretation of a southern drawl!
The "Uncle Remus" stories were actually the insights of a fine mind, albeit formal education. and they were often the modernization of many traditional African stories told by African fathers and mothers, to their children.
The local animals were often the basic "Characters" of the stories, and they were given human insight!! Bre'r Bear comes to mind!
I believe the rabbit was the most ingenious of the lot having outsmarted the fox and others, who were hell-bent on having the "RABBIT" FOR dinner!
Walt Disney's movie portrayal was "spot on", as far as the loving and grandfatherly approach, of the ex-slave for ALL the youngsters of the neighborhood, regardless of their social status and color!
Misguided pressure of the 'sixty's drove the show out of the theaters, similar to the pressure always brought when discussing "Huckleberry Finn"!
Many cannot get beyond the rhetoric to see the real message, and it's a perfect setting for the "Usual Suspects" to get out, and bang their racial drum!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When I was coaching basketball I had seen a quote that I had put on the shirts of the players.

On the front was the single word EXCELLENCE

on the back was

CARING more than other think is wise
RISKING more than others think is safe
DREAMING more than others think is practical
EXPECTING more than others think is possible

It was taken from a comment made by an Olympic athlete, and in the spirit of the Olympics, in the spirit of Coach Wooden, excellence isn't about winning, it is about striving to do one's best and not settling for anything except the best that one can do

The result will sort itself out later.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've enjoyed to Disney World parks nearly every year for over 20 years now. But, I have noticed to steady creep away from Walt's ideals. Walt never allowed alcohol to be sold in his parks. He was dead against it. Now you see people walking all over the park drinking beer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The decline of Disney quality is so acute that it pained me to see this headline. Nevertheless, I skimmed the article. It's telling that Chris Queen's story of Disney quality ends with Walt's death.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Disney a great company? MY ASS IT IS!

Are you at all familiar with the Copyright Term Extension Act?

NOTHING ever enters the public domain anymore just to pick at the bones of Walt Disney.

"The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier"

WAY easier to just live off Mickey Mouse than create ANYTHING creative.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"starlets who are famous merely for being famous."

And who is the biggest generator of these pop tarts? Why, Disney! It's the House of House whose kiddie-star PR factory created Britney Spears, Cristina Aguilera, Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus.....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A friend of mine told me that Disney was making excellent movies for teens with good acting and content before the death of Disney president Frank Wells in 1994. Wells was overshadowed by Eisner in the public eye, and there were disagreements between them.
After his death in a helicopter accident, my friend said the good movies stopped and the "kiddie-star PR factory" started.
I am not implying that there was foul play involved at all, but as a Disney historian of sorts, Mr. Queen, could you investigate this downturn in the quality of the movies and programs? Did it coincide with the death of Wells?
Just look at the insipid shows for teens that today bear the Disney name. They are pretty silly fluff, barely rising above sit com standards. Most of all, I would like a source for and names of the quality movies produced during Wells' tenure.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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