The Disney mission statement reveals its unique formula for making profits, which is different from most other major U.S. corporations that focus on profit from a strictly financial viewpoint. Disney’s mission, in contrast, focuses on the intangibles that make the Disney brand unique and distinct. Disney's leaders believe—as did founder Walt Disney—when you get the intangibles right, profits will flow.
In addition to the corporate mission statement, the Disney theme parks have a mission statement specifically designed for the employees who work at one of those "happiest places on earth." The Disney theme park mission statement is:
"We create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere."
With a desire to create the same time of magic that guests experience in the Disney theme parks, the Disney stores have a similar mission statement, which they refer to as their "vision."
"Create magical moments for guests of all ages."
Walt Disney's Early Influences on the Company's Mission, Vision, and Values
Some might say that Walt Disney's childhood was a setup for unhappily ever after. It could have easily gone that way, but instead, Walt turned trauma into animated drama and setbacks into comebacks. Like a trail of hidden Mickey, to examine Walt's vision, values and general business philosophy is to uncover the major influences of Walt's early life, some of which were not exactly a feel-good movie plot. Those early childhood influences were:
- The Disney critters – Walt discovered his drawing talent and his love of animals growing up on a farm in Marceline, MO
- Obsession with creating the "Happiest Place On Earth" – Walt's father reportedly had a violent temper and beat his children regularly with a switch. Walt reportedly found his happy place when he escaped into the world of his drawings.
- Workaholism and demanding leadership style – The Disney family moved away from the farm to Kansas City. Walt was forced to trade the drawings and animals that he loved for a paper route that he worked much of the free time for the rest of his childhood, before and after school and on weekends.
- Escape to a world of your imagination – Disney as a poor student because instead of paying attention in class, he was lost in his drawings.
- More escape – Walt forged his passport to join the army, but he was rejected. Instead, he trained to drive Red Cross Ambulances and didn't "escape" to Paris until after the war was officially over. (Coincidentally, during his training to be an ambulance driver, Walt befriended Ray Kroc, who would later be a co-founder of McDonald's.)
At some point in Walt Disney's life, he stopped being influenced and started being an influencer. Walt learned these leadership lessons from his entrepreneurial endeavors, and the company he founded is still benefiting from his experience.
- The business works best when everybody is doing what they do best – Disney lore has it that Ub Iwerks was a better artist than Walt. So when Walt asked Ub to work with him, it freed Walt to be more of a visionary leader and less of a production deadline-driven artist
- Know your own limits – His first company, Laugh-O-Gram Films went out of business, leading Walt to conclude that he wasn't such a great businessman. Because of this experience, Walt asked his banking brother Roy to be his partner, which probably saved the Disney Brothers Studio from inevitable ruin otherwise.
- Keep the gates locked so the critters are safe – Walt lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Charles Mintz, and learned a valuable lesson about ownership rights, which he applied to trademarks, copyrights, and licensing agreements in the future. It was the perfect time for Walt to learn this lesson because Mickey Mouse was about to be born.
- It's a Mickey Mouse operation – As the saying goes, "It all started with a mouse," which is supposed to be a reminder not to take things too seriously. Anecdotally Walt forgot this influence a little too often when dealing with his employees.
Expanding the Magic
When the Disney stores debuted in 1987, they were cutting edge in terms of creating an interactive customer experience. It is reported that Apple founder Steve Jobs actually studied and visited Disney Stores as he was conceptualizing the Apple Store retail chain. But as retail technology offerings grew, the magic of the Disney Store design became less special.
With the retail disruption that Apple’s retail stores created, Disney Stores quickly lost its innovative edge. At some point between 2011 and 2012, the tables turned, and it was Disney company leaders who were studying and visiting Apple retail stores for ideas about how to re-engage Disney Store customers at a higher level.
Today’s “standard” Disney Store design includes these interactive features:
- Pixie Dust Trail – a sparkly blue trail through the store which leads to ‘something special.”
- Storytelling Neighborhoods – Places in the Disney Stores where Disney Store cast members read classic Disney stories to Disney Store guests of all ages for free.
- Disney Princess Neighborhood & Disney Princess Castle – Play areas where the youngest of Disney guests can become part of their favorite Disney Princess fairy tale.
- Disney Store Theater – At the end of Pixie Dust trail, this space has a giant video library of Disney movies which can be watched on a 90” flat screen. Events and family activities also take place in this theater.