In observance of this Easter Sunday, our consulting historian Paul F. Anderson takes a few moments to reflect on the fundamental impact of charity and generosity of spirit, and Walt's commitment to these attributes.
I’ve written quite a bit about Walt’s sense of charity and giving back. He was always willing to help a good cause, but as you know he was especially fond of his roots (Chicago, Illinois; Marceline, Missouri; and Kansas City, Missouri). In the 1930s he was often sending off little things to help along the people and organizations from his “hometowns.” All of the big things he did are documented, but many of the day-to-day requests for help that Walt responded to are often forgotten.
Remember, it was the Great Depression, and Mickey Mouse became the everyman, overcoming odds and prevailing. As we have often heard, the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” was a rallying cry for many during the height of the Depression. The same can be said of a lot of small gestures Walt gave back to his communities to help out, such as these Easter Eggs.
Today, this may not seem much of anything, but during the Depression, this was something significant and important. It lifted people’s spirits. It helped the community. And it was a nice thing to do. As I preach to my students, “Historical Context,” I ask you to think about living through the Depression, and having someone from your community who has truly made good give something back. It was hope. Hope in the future and the American dream.
“If Walt Disney, who grew up right here in Kansas City, can make his dreams comes true, then so can I. To Hell with the Depression. And then, when I make it, I can give back too.” A worn-out cliché, “It was a simpler time”—but it really was, and it was people like Walt Disney who made the tough times bearable.
Paul F. Anderson is a noted researcher, interviewer, and writer on the subject of Walt Disney’s creative legacy. He edited and wrote for the Disney History Journal Persistence of Vision, and in 1999 was invited to teach “Walt Disney & American Culture” at BYU. He has lent his expertise on film, television, radio, and DVDs; and is the author of numerous articles and several books on Disney. Paul is now working on a book about Walt and World War II for the Walt Disney Family Foundation, and on May 21 and 22 will be at The Walt Disney Family Museum presenting two different programs on the subject.
(Special thanks to Reed Milnes and Tom Keaney.)