Matterhorn Mountain & What Would Walt Do


While it looks like winter on Matterhorn mountain year-round, there’s no time of the year more beautiful than the holiday season at Disneyland. For years, these decorations have graced Disneyland and, at one time, a large, revolving star stood at the top of the Matterhorn. It even lit up and rotated.

The annual Christmas star, which lasted only a few years after Walt’s death. Photo courtesy of Davelandweb.com

Unfortunately for Disney’s Cast Members, the month of December has not always been a happy time. It was during one of these holiday seasons that the Cast learned that Walt Disney had passed away very unexpectedly. In their shock, several managers sought refuge across the way at a lounge located at the Disneyland Hotel. There they shared remembrances and drinks for several hours.

As they got ready to leave, one member of management turned to the other and mentioned that the star on top of the Matterhorn had again broken down. The other manager shrugged it off, as if to say, “why bother?” At that moment his colleague turned to him and exclaimed, “You wouldn’t shrug it off if Walt were here.”

A few years later, the star was removed but the conversation marked the beginning of a dialogue that has continued to this day, with Cast Members¬†asking, “What would Walt do?” That philosophy carried the organization forward for many years, partly out of loyalty, and partly out of habit.

Still, one of Walt’s most tenured animators, Ward Kimball, noted that if you were instinctively in tune, you wouldn’t have to ask the question. He himself had learned excellence intuitively. Moreover, he learned that excellence was not in repeating one’s self, or in going back in time to consider what others would do, but in moving forward and in bringing new ideas to the table. After all, he reasoned, that is just exactly what Walt would have done.

Ask Yourself:
  • What are those activities, systems, or processses that require our attention when they break down?
  • How do we get everyone intuitively on board to a vision of creating and maintaining excellence?

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