Walt Disney is an inspiration to many people around the world. His work brought Mickey Mouse on to the screens of people all over the world and made the fantasy of Disneyland a reality. He was an incredible businessman and an exceptionally creative mind who created hit after hit in the studio and sustained one of the largest and most successful businesses in the world. Even today, long after his death, Disney continues to go from strength to strength. Before Walt Disney passed away he left behind a small note for his team. While his work changed the lives of millions, this note changed the life of at two least men in particular.
The note had the title ‘TV Projects In Production: Ready for Production or Possible for Escalation and Story’. Under this title, four things were listed. They were:
- Ron Miller
- 2 Way Down Cellar
- Kurt Russell
The note appeared to be listing possible future projects for the company and we can only assume that it meant the names mentioned should be involved. Ron Miller was the son in law of Walt Disney and was rising through the ranks of the company at the time. After Walt’s death, he would continue to rise and years later he would become the CEO of the company. Was this note a message to the powers that be at the time that Miller should be groomed for the top seat?
2 way down cellar was a two-part show called Way Down Cellar that Walt wanted to make. Was he identifying two actors who could star in the show? Kurt Russel and Roger Mobley? Perhaps. Why their names were written down is a mystery. It is now known that after Walt’s passing Kurt was called into the head office and shown the note and shown his name.
This was done because they wanted to show him how fond Walt was of him and how much he was respected as an actor. He would go on to sign a ten-year contract with the company and become the lead star during the 1970s, four years after Walt’s death. Again whether this was Walt’s intention with his final note or coincidence is unknown.
It is clear from the time he was alive that Walt respected Kurt. He would often visit Kurt’s set and ask for his opinion on small video samples and ideas. At the age of thirteen Walt respected his young mind and often wanted that perspective on his work. Later Kurt was told that he was liked because he wasn’t intimidated either. If Walt Disney asked a 13-year-old version of myself if I liked his work, I would probably say yes, whatever it was. Kurt actually had the courage to discuss with Walt what was good and bad about an idea and Walt admired this and found it difficult to find this honesty given his position.
While Walt’s words have inspired many, and his creative endeavors have entertained millions this final note may have changed the lives of three men. Miller would end up CEO, Russel would become the best-known actor in the world for a time and Mobley would enjoy a nine-year stint of success overall. Although he later went on to fight in the Vietnam war and became a police officer on his return.
The last words of anyone are often treated with special significance. If that person happens to be famous they are often held in high esteem for much longer. Whether Walt’s last words were as heavy laden with intention as some read them to be is hard to know. What is clear is that he picked three people for success and two of them reached the very heights that were possible.