There’s no doubt that the world lost a true innovator, dreamer, and pioneer on December 15 ,1966, when Walter Elias Disney died. Walt was infinitely passionate about innovation, and I often find myself wondering what he would think about the world we live in now. Would he love his theme parks and marvel at the modern-day technological wonders of the world?
In celebration of his life, let’s enter the world of fantasy for a moment and imagine that we could have lunch with Mr. Disney today. Unless those strange rumors that he was cryogenically frozen are true, this is just that: a Disney fan’s fantasy.
While we’ll never really know what he would think about the inventions that came about after his death, it’s fun to think about sitting down with him and telling him what he’s missed. As a kid at heart and lover of all things technology, transportation, and fantasy, surely Walt Disney would be thrilled by what we could share with him today.
Here are just a few of the many inventions and advancements we’ve made in the 50+ years since his death that he’d be fascinated by.
This one goes way back – but the invention of fiber optics in the 1970’s was a huge deal. Unless you’re a science or tech nerd, this may not sound too exciting – but believe me, Mr. Disney would have been really into every single advancement that pushed telecommunications into the future! Now that’s progress!
The earliest PCs made their debut in the late 1970s, and today it’s hard to imagine life without a computer. Today, we’ve come to expect new technology constantly. It’s fun to imagine how Walt would have reacted when he put his first PC in his home or his office at Walt Disney Studios. Can you imagine showing him how computers are used today to create brilliant animation? Move over, Ub Iwerks!
As an avid traveler, Walt Disney would have likely been a huge fan of personal GPS devices. Knowing that this information could even help him track Guest behavior would just be the icing on the cake for him.
The International Space Station
Speaking of travel, Walt was very into space exploration. So, it makes sense that another thing I’d eagerly share with Mr. Disney is the usage of the International Space Station. Walt would have thought this was something directly out of one of his theme park attraction ideas. What’s more interesting than studying how life in space impacts humans? Probably nothing!
VHS, DVD, & Blu Ray
Walt Disney was a pioneer in the world of film. His famous work ‘Steamboat Willie’ was the first animated work that featured synchronus sound. I’d love to show Walt all of the media that’s been created to save and share works like his – from VHS, to DVD, to Blu Ray. And while we’re at it, how about…
Streaming Services (Disney+)
Can you imagine telling Walt about Disney+? “Mr. Disney, you’ll be pleased to know that 116 million households worldwide subscribe to your Disney+ service. Using the internet (which of course runs through the people’s “smart TVs”), folks are able to pay for the service and in exchange, we give them access to thousands of hours of content – including our original and acquired films, from Snow White to Star Wars, television shows, new Mickey shorts, and more.”
I wonder if Walt Disney would have been a big user of social media. At the very least, he would have been intrigued by it and would probably have been keenly interested in how people used it. It would have likely given him insight into his Guests, and he would probably like it for its communication and connection value.
Video Games and Virtual Reality Technology
Walt Disney’s dream was for parents and children to find activities that they could do together and both enjoy; for that reason, I think he’d be a fan of some of the video game technology available today. He would probably be “wowed” by the realism and the graphics, and he’d love systems that focus on family-friendly entertainment combined with movement and other cool features (like Nintendo Switch).
Disney Parks-inspired games, like “Disney’s Magical World”, would also probably get a seal of approval from Uncle Walt. The “future” scene in the Carousel of Progress even features a grandma playing a virtual reality video game with her grandson!
Electric Cars & Self-Driving Technology
I’m pretty sure that Walt Disney would have been an early proponent of electric vehicles. I think he’d agree that the Tomorrowland Speedway needs to partner with an electric vehicle maker (Tesla, perhaps) for an update as well. His obsession with an innovative, efficient tomorrow and with transportation lead me to believe that Walt would have been the first person zipping around the country in an electric car. I’m sure we would have seen them showcased at Walt Disney World in some unique ways, too, and we can expect that once self-driving cars become available, Disney will find a way to incorporate them into their transportation system.
“Alexa, resurrect Walt Disney.”
Okay, so that doesn’t actually work. I tried. (“Hmm, I’m not sure about that.”)
The first time I rode Carousel of Progress after having an Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) in my home, I had a real “wow” moment. The scene showing the future at the end of the attraction features a voice-activated oven “assisting” with the family’s Christmas turkey. Hearing John tell the oven to adjust temperature is no different than me telling Alexa to set a timer, and sometimes the results are equally incorrect (but less smoke-inducing). Walt would have loved how many things around our homes we can control with our voices!
We’re pretty desensitized to how amazing it is to be able to chat with someone around the world in real-time and see their face while doing so, but Walt would probably be pretty thrilled about it. In fact, two EPCOT attractions depicted a form of video chat well before it became part of our every-day life. Horizons and an earlier version of Spaceship Earth both featured video chat technology in their predictions of the future.
I can only imagine what Walt might have done with a 3D printer. He’d be floored at how accessible this technology is, and surely he would be creating his own 3D prototypes to illustrate his many ideas.
Google (and the Internet in general)
I suspect that if Walt had access to Google, he would never leave his computer. The idea that you can comb an entire world-wide web of information in less than a second and find information on anything that makes you curious would have no doubt thrilled Mr. Disney.
Smart Phones/ Mobile Devices
Let’s take it a step further and tell Walt Disney that you can not only access the Internet, but now millions of people have access to it at their fingertips- in their personal pocket telephone. I’d love to be the one to take Walt shopping for his first mobile device! He’d love to see how his Parks have leveraged the fact that most Guests have a mobile device with things like Genie+ and My Disney Experience. Whether or not he would agree with line skipping and other concepts, I don’t know – but he’d certainly like the innovation and convenience that a Disney Parks app brings to Guests!
Walt Disney would have loved the Magic Band. The ability to tap for Disney Park entry, tap to buy a souvenir, tap to buy a hot dog- that’s the kind of fun tech that Disney would have loved seeing in his Parks. The ability to track Guest behavior? Well, that’s just a bonus. Remember, Walt loved to observe and learn from his Guests. He would often watch how far people would walk with a piece of trash before discarding it on the ground; this helped him plan for an ample amount of waste cans in Disneyland.
Which inventions of the last 50-60 years would you love to share with Walt Disney? And what else do you think Disney would have invented himself?