Walter Elias Disney was a cartoonist, animator, film producer, and entrepreneur. He was a pioneer in sound animated films, feature-length animated films (he was the creator of the very first, 'Snow White'), and wildlife documentaries. He was the first to think of the now common concept of a 'theme park' and the first movie studio boss to understand that television could be used to promote feature films rather than just compete with them. He can be considered the inventor of the modern multimedia corporation. His impact on US and world pop culture was immense, with his characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck being recognized virtually in the entire planet.
Disney came from a family of modest background and he was largely
self-taught in drawing, starting with cartoons for local newspapers and
then discovering the field of animated short films. Certain traits were
already visible in Disney's career from the start and they remained
consistent to the very end: a fascination and enthusiasm for innovative
concepts; a greater skill in spotting and developing those rather than
as a hands-on artist (he stopped drawing, himself, at a rather early
stage); varying the intensity of his personal involvement in specific
projects according to how enthusiastic he himself was about them; and
genuinely placing more value on realizing his projects according to how
he wanted them than to their perceived profitability; he took huge
financial risks and they didn't always pay off.
his career, Walt Disney worked together with his brother Roy, who was
responsible for managing the studio, and then the corporation, on the
business side. Walt always retained ultimate control on the creative and
artistic side. That often led to conflict and resentment between the
two brothers: Walt acknowledged his own inability to run a business
profitably but disliked that he had to ask his brother for cash; Roy
disliked that Walt saw him as just having to finance his pet projects
while of course accepting that Walt's creative genius was what kept the
company going. In the end they always understood that they needed each
The above already suggests that Walt Disney
was of a type with low focus on P but probably not P4. His enthusiasm for new an innovative projects - which he then
later often got relatively bored with - suggest considerable focus on I.
He could spend huge energy and enthusiasm on a new technology or
concept or TV series but then lose interest and focus on other new
ideas, even if the previous idea remained successful (typical example:
the hugely successful TV series 'Zorro', to which he devoted all his
energies during the first season but then all but neglected during the
A similar pattern was seen in his approach
to short animated films, feature length animated films, and then live
animated films: he would be enthusiastic about them in the beginning,
while he felt personally interested, but once they became 'routine', or
just a form to generate income, he lost interest (although always
maintaining script control). However, to the end of his life, he could
suddenly involve himself deeply again in projects that interested him
personally, like "Mary Poppins". Less well-known is his later-life
fascination with miniature (but large enough to ride on) rail-roads.
above traits already suggest a person of the Alpha quadra, combining E
and I as values and little focus on P. Further Alpha characteristics are
seen in his completely genuine devotion to movies and parks focused on
creating a feel-good E+S atmosphere based on childhood themes of
anthropomorphized animals, idyllic small towns and countryside, and
happy endings. He himself said that what he aimed at was recreating his
own (idealized) memories of his childhood in a farm near Marceline,
Missouri, not for children but for everyone as he felt all would relate
to such memories.
His most personal creation was
Disneyland, which recreated a childhood utopian version of Marceline in
its Main Street, from which you could choose to explore different
"lands" in a safe, orderly, pretty and impeccably clean environment
whose 'nuts and bolts' workings were hidden from sight: Disneyland can
be seen as a concretization of the Alpha values of E, S and I, while
"hiding" P. This may seem commonplace now but it was totally novel and
unique when Disney first conceived of it. Disneyland remained Walt's own
"perfect world" and he liked to spend weekends and evenings in his own
private apartment there (second floor of the Main Street Fire
Interestingly, and consistent with the
above mentioned trait, he showed no interest at all in the Florida
version of Disneyland, the 'Magic Kingdom' in Disney World; his real
interest there was in (the original concept of) EPCOT, which he saw as a
real, functioning, experimental 'perfect city' in terms of orderliness
and organization - the combined Alpha values of S and L.
a person, according to those who worked closely with him, Walt was
indeed largely the benevolent 'Uncle Walt' of his public image but also
unpredictable in his moods (Donald Duck's personality was a caricature
of Walt's); his nephew Roy said that 40 people who knew Walt slightly
would give 40 different versions of what he was like. At the same time,
he was obviously a charming person when he wanted to and was actually
able to act out the expressions of his animated characters when telling
the animators what he wanted. All of this suggests a person high in E,
probably as an E1 or E2.
On the other hand, Walt
Disney had an authoritarian, controlling streak which, combined with
his moodiness, made his staff often terrified of him. This got worse at
the studio after an animators' strike in 1941 where he felt betrayed;
before that he was more like a benevolent yet paternalistic figure who
wanted to treat his employees like a family (as long as it was clear
that he was in charge). Walt's easy slip into authoritarianism in a way
that could intimidate others, especially when taken by negative
emotions, point to a rather strong F, consistent with F8.
What we have is a person of clear Alpha
values with E and I the most visible ones; with a grudging recognition
of the need to pay attention to P and with occasionally very visible F;
with no visible L in terms of L+T ideology or vision but with a need for
L+S order in his environment.
Everything fits ESE best as Walt Disney's type.
Recommended reading and sources: I have relied on Neal Gabler's 2007 biography, "Walt Disney". The entry in Wikipedia provides a list of useful links.
To learn more about the ESE, click here.
If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.