Today I am going to return to my A Few Questions With segment here on Disney Avenue. I recently was able to send a questionnaire to Disney Legend Jack Lindquist, Disneyland’s very first President. Jack started with the Disney Company and for Walt in 1955, two short months after Disneyland opened, to become the Park’s first advertising manager. Jack eventually worked his way up until, to Jack’s surprise; he was made President of Disneyland in 1988 by Michael Eisner. He eventually retired after 38 years with Disney and was honored with a window on Main Street, USA, and then became a Disney Legend in 1994.
- What was your first week like working for the Walt Disney Company, and what was your first experience with Walt like?
Just a series of several instances of interest, intrigue, excitement, enchantment, perseverance, personality clashes, serendipity, desire and determination. It was scary meeting new people, experiencing and discovering new things. I go into more detail in my book.
- What was the best thing about working for the Walt Disney Company back then?
Just being involved with a totally new concept in entertainment, there wasn’t any book to go by; you got a chance to write a new page in the book every day. The best thing going for us was “Ignorance”; we didn’t know something couldn’t be done so we just did it. Walt gave us freedom to try things and experiment. You didn’t get fired if something didn’t work or if it failed; you just didn’t do it again.
- What’s your hope for the future of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts?
That it maintains, lives up to, and expands on its’ unique position as a world acclaimed leader in Theme Parks; as well as a Global force in the total universe of Entertainment. Also, that it remains true to its’ legacy and heritage.
- Do you trust the current leadership of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts?
Yes I do but I think what I think is not relevant. The WDC faces a completely different set of problems and circumstances than I faced during my tenure with the Company. The world is so much more sophisticated, small, diverse, instant gratification oriented, and communication challenged. How the Disney leadership faces these challenges within the framework and core of their heritage and legacy is the issue as it relates to their future.
- How does someone become an Executive for the WDC in your opinion? What degree, what type of school etc…
Like anywhere else one should learn your job, learn your company and learn as much as you can about every Division in your company. Be an innovator; in your job, in your company. Believe and fight for your ideas; they will only see the light of day if you sell them. If you are lucky someday you will find yourself alone on the stage. Now is your show so you better be damn well prepared. One last thing, leave the stage while there is still applause; don’t wait until people are yawning and half-asleep waiting for you to leave.
- What is the best advice you could give someone wanting to become involved in a leadership role within the Parks?
Don’t give up on your Dream. Believe in yourself!
- How do you feel about the recent announcement of an Avatar themed land coming to Animal Kingdom?
Big job, James Camron is a genius who is tough, opinionated, and smart and delivers. John Lasseter is also a genius who is tough, opinionated, and smart and delivers. Together they could make it happen. Together they could be a disaster. I wish the best of luck to everybody.
- How did you feel about the original Disney California Adventure and how do you feel about the current enhancements and changes to the Park?
DCA was only half a Park, at most. I believe, and hope, the current enhancements will change that.
- How often do you visit the parks?
3 – 4 times per year.
- What changes, if any, would you like to see take place in the parks?
Check out chapter 6 in my book.
- What was it like, to have what many would consider being one of the BEST jobs in the world, being president of Disneyland?
It was hard work but I had a great staff. It was the Funest, best job ever. It was like having a little Tom Sawyer, Willie Wonka, Prince and the Pauper, and What makes Sammy Run all mixed together.
- What was it like to be around Walt and what was the biggest thing you’ve taken away from that experience?
Not realizing until years later that I was in the presence of greatness.
- Besides all his accomplishments, what in your opinion was the number one thing that made Walt Disney so special to all of us today?
His vision, his self confidence, his willingness to back up his ideas, whether it was “Snow White” or Disneyland with his money, his reputation; against all the so-called experts in Hollywood, Wall Street, and the Financial community. The ability to make us feel like a child again, if only for a moment.
- Finally, what was your fondest memory of you and Walt?
Every moment, long or short, alone or in a group, in the Park or at the studio or at the opening of Anaheim Stadium or on an aircraft carrier for the premiere of “Lt. Robinson Crusoe” or at the opening and dedication of It’s A Small World at the New York World’s Fair and at Disneyland.
I want to thank Jack Lindquist and his daughter Kim for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little insight into his 38 years with Disney and working with Walt. These short answers are just a tiny bit of information compared to the myriad of stories that can be found in Jack’s book “In Service to the Mouse.” I have personally read it and can tell you it is my absolute favorite Disney insider book. I read it in two days as I couldn’t put it down. Each chapter is filled with new and exciting stories that I have never heard anywhere else before. Jack also pioneered the way for several Disney ventures and items such as the Disney Dollar. So if you are a Disney fan and a fan of the parks in general, then you are going to want to run as fast as you can to the nearest bookstore or go to http://www.inservicetothemouse.com/ and grab a copy for yourself or for any Disney fan you know!