Shoeless Walt Disney

More from Walt Before Mickey.

As the end of 1922 loomed, Laugh-O-gram Films was, as Rudy, Max, and Walt Pfeiffer later agreed, “down to the last penny,” and the payment deadline for the $11,000 owed to the company by Pictorial, January 1, 1924, was still over a year away. In late November or early December, an unexpected opportunity presented itself to Walt when he was asked to make a live-action educational film. Dr. Thomas B. McCrum, forty-six, a dentist with the Deaner Dental Institute in Kansas City, asked Walt to produce a film that Dr. McCrum could use to educate children about dental care. Dr. McCrum offered to pay $500 for the film, but Walt’s dire financial straits prevented Walt from agreeing to meet with Dr. McCrum:

[O]ne night the doctor called [Walt] to say, “I’ve got the money. Come on over and we’ll set the deal.” “I can’t,” [Walt] told him. “Why not?” the doctor asked. “I haven’t any shoes,” [Walt] said. “They were falling apart. I left them at the shoemaker’s shop downstairs and he won’t let me have them until I dig up a dollar and a half.” “I’ll be right over,” Dr. McCrum said.

He paid the shoemaker, took [Walt] back to his office, and together they worked out am agreement to make the film he had in mind.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Now imagine.

Imagine if Walt had been too full of pride to admit his shoe problem.

His pride might have caused him to turn down that opportunity.

Laugh-O-gram Films would have gone out of business sooner.

As it was, the $11,000 Walt expected to come from Pictorial was an illusion. That company filed for bankruptcy shortly after signing the contract! And Walt didn’t know that until months later, after running up company bills he thought the $11,000 would pay off.

In the end, Walt just walked away from it all, leaving behind losing investors, creditors, and unpaid employees. At the urging of his brother, he moved to California. And still believed he had missed out on breaking into animation.

The writer of this book is a Fortune 500 attorney and the text reflects that. There’s just about zero emotion or drama in the book despite circumstances such as the above. But the depth of the research is formidable. With all the screaming about immigrants these days, it’s an eye-opener to read just how many people back then were immigrants. And that’s about one hundred years ago. A blink of the eye.

Previously here:

The Book Walt Disney Read

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