Monday, October 20, 2008

Tomorrowland and Inspiration

"A lot of young people think the future is closed to them, that everything
has been done. This is not so. There are still plenty of avenues to
be explored."
Walt Disney

I found this quote to be interesting, since Walt obviously said it many years ago. The book (How To Be Like Walt) that lists it does not give a date for it, but let's assume it is in the 1950's or the 1960's. But it could be said of today's youth also.

Americans are falling behind in the sciences, and the number of our children going into hard sciences and pursuing graduate level education in those fields is dwindling. Why is this? Are these fields of study inherently uninteresting? Is there a perception that there is not enough money in careers in scientific fields? Not enough security? Do we as parents not promote their interests in such fields enough?

Walt was as interested in the future as he was in the past, and it shows in his parks. Tomorrowland was, more than any other part of Disneyland, Walt's toy. Oh, he loved other parts equally - he was a nostalgist as well as being a futurist - but Tomorrowland, like the future, was a malleable thing to him, or so it seems to me. Sadly, he didn't live long enough to continue his tinkering with Tomorrowland - of course, later in his life he was consumed with a "real" Tomorrowland, his plans for EPCOT.

In 1955, the three episodes of Walt's "Man In Space" were shown, featuring on-screen appearances by rocket scientists Wernher von Braun and Heinz Haber, along with director Ward Kimball and Walt himself. The third episode, "Mars and Beyond", was shown on December 4, 1957, just a couple of months before the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and the U.S. plunged into the "space race". This series was very influential. Eisenhower even requested copies of the Disney episodes to show to his staff, and it inspired countless young people to become space scientists, and played a big part in getting the nation behind the space program.

Do our young people need inspiration at this point in history? I believe they do, and I wish that Disney was one of the vehicles for this inspiration. Do they want to do what Walt did forty years ago? I am not at all sure they do. It might not be profitable.

That's okay. 'Profitable' is a good thing. It's what all businesses aspire to. It's just that Walt realized that doing positive things could be profitable, too, and he was far- sighted enough to see that the results of doing something like "Man in Space" could be measured in more than just dollars and cents.


Future Guy said...

Walt had a real intellectual curiosity about him. How many CEOs of multimedia conglomerates can say that today?

Scott said...

Ditto on the thanks for reading and commenting.

I think most CEO's have tunnel vision, and at the end of that tunnel is the value of their stock options...