Imagination and Perseverance
Karen and Jay share thoughts on Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney and the ‘magic of Disney’ while on location at Disneyland in southern California.
That cute little mouse! The wonderful, iconic character known and loved by generations of children from all around the world. Along with his friends - Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and all those other fun, engaging Disney characters – all coming to life in cartoons. Such creativity and imagination! And, yet, while the story of Mickey Mouse and Disney definitely is one of ‘imagination,’ it is also a lesson in perseverance, positivity and maintaining an optimistic spirit in the face of adversity. In fact, the story of Mickey Mouse might never have happened at all if it were not for these great attributes.
In 1919, following the end of World War I, a young man from Chicago returned home from his post as an ambulance operator and began searching the classifieds for work opportunities. He came across a job in Kansas City as an illustrator and apprentice at a commercial arts studio. After only a year on the job, the company began losing revenue and was forced to lay off the young man. Having always wanted to launch his own company, he remained undeterred, enlisting the help of his brother to launch their own cartoon business. The company saw success early, but hardly enough revenue to keep the lights on and eventually, they declared bankruptcy and closed shop. It was a heartbreaking moment, one that almost convinced him he didn’t have what it took to be successful in the business. Once again though, he chose to remain steadfast, moving to California with only $40 to his name to try his hand in the budding motion picture industry.
After a few months of little success and living off inconsistent income, he finally came upon a producer who liked his work and hired him. With his brother in tow, they started their own production company to meet the demands of their new business partner. It would later turn out, on a visit to New York to renegotiate his contract, that the producer not only convinced the majority of the young man’s employees to come work for him directly but had also sold the rights to one of their best-selling characters to a rival studio. It was yet another setback that had him questioning not only his talents as an illustrator, but his acumen as a businessman.
Instead of fighting the loss, and now rid of the constraints of his old contract, he decided it was an opportunity once again to start fresh, while also learning a valuable lesson in trust. On the train ride back to California, he drafted idea after idea for new characters, but one stuck out from the rest, and his name was Mickey Mouse. The young man pitched Mickey Mouse to bank after bank, attempting to use the laurels of a character he no longer owned to help finance new, short motion pictures featuring a new unproven one. Over 300 banks said no to Mickey Mouse. Considering a move back to Kansas City, he received a call from one courageous banker who said he enjoyed what he’d seen and was willing to take a risk on this unproven character and this ‘up and coming’ illustrator, Walt Disney. Five years after losing his entire design team to his former business partner, Walt Disney would go on to win two Oscars during what were the beginnings of the now famed Walt Disney Studios.
“When you go to bat as many times as I do, you’re bound to get a good average.”, Walt Disney once said. He understood very well that sometimes in life, we don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to it. By choosing to embrace the imperfect, seeing it not through a vindictive lens or feeling as if we’re the victim of someone's misgivings, and instead as a learning experience, we present ourselves with more opportunities on the other side. Little by little, we are still able to make the progress we seek by choosing to respond positively to a negative situation. With all that’s happening in the world today, you’d be excused if you felt like trying to find the silver lining of it all was a futile exercise. That’s the thing though. In a world where much is out of our control, why wouldn’t we take ownership over what we can? Just think, had Walt Disney not done so, the world may have never been able to experience the magic he brought to the world. And millions of kids – young and old – would never have known that cute little guy – Mickey Mouse!
Comics with Roots in New Hampshire
Fondly known as ‘America’s typical teenager, the famous red headed-freckled comic character Archie Andrews has had many adventures with the gang in the fictional town of Riverdale. Archie made his first appearance for M.L.J. Magazine in 1941, and because it was so popular, the magazine was renamed ‘Archie Comics.’ Since then, Archie and the Gang have been portrayed in multiple media, such as radio, TV, and movies, both in live action and in animation. But did you know that hints of New Hampshire are hidden throughout the Archie Comics?
The artist who brought Archie’s red hair and freckles to life was Bob Montana. Montana went to Manchester’s Central High School and one summer in 1943 rented a cottage in Meredith which is where he started to insert local landmarks and personalities into his comics. He created parodies where Dartmouth College became Dartboard College and a local dentist Dr. Frederick Deneault morphed into Dr. DeMalt.
In 2018, as part of Meredith’s 250th anniversary celebration, a statue of Archie was placed on a bench near Lake Winnipesaukee to honor the legacy of Montana, who had passed away in 1975. Look for the statue while you’re doing Meredith’s Sculpture Walk.
However, Archie Andrews is not the only comic that has New Hampshire roots. Throughout the Marvel Universe of comics, there are at least 18 references to New Hampshire. They can even be found in the Captain America and the Incredible Hulk comic book series. Of course, we have to include our very own “Blue Ear,” a Marvel Superhero with advanced hearing aids that sense when people are in trouble, inspired by Anthony Smith of Manchester. Anthony’s mother had contacted Marvel to ask if Superheroes wore hearing aids as Anthony had refused to wear his because he had not seen any Superheroes wearing them. Marvel assured Anthony and his mother that Superheroes did indeed wear hearing aids and created “Blue Ear'' to inspire other children to wear their hearing aids.
In addition, Jack Kamen, father of New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, was one of the most prolific cartoon and comic illustrators in the country. His accomplishments include numerous assignments for EC Comics, drawing crime, horror, humor, suspense, and science fiction stories. And, of course, his role as artist at Mad Magazine.
Next time you see a comic book, look carefully as there just might be a Granite State connection or perhaps even a subtle reference to New Hampshire!
Walt Disney - The Man, the Mouse, the Legend!
There are generations of Disney fans out there and I’m proud to be one of them. We thoroughly enjoyed taking our own children to the parks and Karen and I love seeing the pictures of our friends taking their kids and grandkids. Disney is amazing with all its rides, the entertainment, the attention to detail - so many things that make a place so great! But as described above, the creation of the Disney parks was accomplished mainly through perseverance, determination, and the taking on of huge risks by Walter Elias Disney and his partner and brother Roy Disney. To cast a little more light on this topic, I reached out to a young man who is ‘all Disney,’ a mere 11 years old - Elliot Perry has been to Disney World and Disneyland more times than you can count, has journeyed through the Caribbean on a Disney Cruise, all the while investing hundreds of hours discovering the inner workings of Disney. He knows his stuff.
So here we go and hang on tight as it’s quite a ride! Walt Disney didn’t just build an amazing film company and theme park company. He was an artist who literally crawled his way to success. In the late 1920s, Walt created a cartoon character named Oswald along with a series of short cartoon skits that he sold for $1500 which were shared at local movie houses. After a series of setbacks and rejections, including more than 300 unsuccessful pitches, he brought to life a new character in 1927 that could amazingly be both seen on the screen and heard as well. That character was… you guessed it Mickey Mouse! Mickey quickly became an international star with the release in 1928 of ‘Steamboat Willie.’
The success of Mickey Mouse paved the wave for Walt and his brother Roy to create other short films and new characters including Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck. This wildly popular short film company then took a big risk by going in a new direction and creating feature films. With the help of his staff, Walt Disney ‘Heigh-Ho’ed’ to work and created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and paved the way for other amazing films such as Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo, and many more. Now keep in mind while the feature film business was making its mark under Walt’s direction, his short length cartoon business was still rolling along. In fact, Walt was the voice of Mickey Mouse till 1947.
You would think he could just rest on his laurels at this point; however, he decided to do something no one else had ever done in the movie business. He combined real live actors with animated characters. The risk turned out to be a huge success with one of the first being the smash hit ‘Mary Poppins.’
Around this same time in the 50’s, home televisions were popping up in living rooms across the country. Seeing this new wave of opportunity, Walt started his television studio company and launched hit shows such as the Davy Crockett series along with my favorite The Mickey Mouse Club. These TV industry and corporate relationships grew for Walt and that's how he funded his next endeavor, Disneyland.
Everyone said he was crazy and that he couldn’t do it let alone fund it. He mortgaged himself to the max and borrowed every possible dollar he could to finance the creation of this one-of-a-kind park. In fact, his money was so tight that he sold the rights of opening day to ABC to help pay off the final funding piece he needed. The success of Disneyland paved the wave of opportunity and all the while continued learning from his mistakes.
Walt’s original purchase of land in Anaheim turned out to be limiting as he couldn’t expand his theme parks and add more thrilling attractions. He also needed more space to execute his next passion project along with bringing on more partners.
At that time, organizations were relying on Walt and his team of designers who were called “Imagineers” to build amazing presentations and experiences at the World’s Fairs. In fact, some of these creations are now at his parks today, they include: ‘It’s a Small World,’ ‘The Carousel of Progress,’ and ‘Great Times with Mr. Lincoln’ which actually is the first multi-moving and speaking animatronic production in history. Walt used new capital from these creations to begin purchasing parcels of property in the state of Florida through holding companies. It was finally revealed that Disney World would be created and along with the popular Magic Kingdom there would be a totally new experience - EPCOT - Environmental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. He envisioned people living at Disney World and incredibly becoming its own city. Unfortunately, Walt didn’t live long enough to see the opening of Disney World but his brother Roy and dedicated cast members (that's what employees are called in the Disney Corporation) ensured his vision and legacy lived on.
Today, millions of people from across the globe visit this one-of-a-kind place. Rides are cutting edge while innovation and creativity are pushed to the limit everyday just like Walt did.
You see Walt had his ups and downs, but setbacks never stopped him. He continued to do more, always pushing the limits to reach new heights. We can all be a little like Walt Disney and welcome everyone to a happy place!
Positive Profile of the Week: Bob Lawton and Funspot
Bob Lawton was the man who brought fun and joy to hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters with his famous Laconia business - Funspot. Founded in 1952 when Bob was 21 years old with a $750 purchase, Funspot would become the world's largest arcade. True to its name, Funspot is a must-visit location for every New Hampshire family with its bumper cars, putt-putt, and of course the wide variety of arcade games. The games themselves are a huge attraction, and amazingly, Funspot is the only known location in the world where the "perfect" game of Pac-man was played during a tournament hosted by Bob.
Bob's legacy is not limited to just his arcade. He was a veteran as well as a former State Representative and he also made a huge and lasting impact on our state in a way you would never suspect. Bob Lawton is the man credited with getting our state motto "Live Free or Die" onto New Hampshire's license plates. His heart was always at Funspot where he worked up through his passing last year at the age of 90. Up until his death, he was actively working at the arcade with his iconic red suspenders. He was well known for going up to children and filling their cups up with free game tokens so they could continue to have fun. He had his own favorites with the KISS pinball machine being a game he would routinely gravitate towards.
Bob may no longer be with us but his legacy lives on through Funspot for everyone to enjoy. So, if you are up in the Laconia area near the Weirs, please be sure to pay a visit and put it on your list to try your hand at the KISS pinball machine! You’ll be glad you did. Thank you, Bob Lawton!
Quotes of the Week: Mickey Mouse
“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing- that it was all started by a mouse.”
– Walt Disney
“All you need is a little bit of magic.”
“To laugh at yourself is to love yourself.”
“Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes.”
“Best friends stick together.”