What would Walt do? A letter of hope to furloughed Disney cast members

What would Walt do? A letter of hope to furloughed Disney cast members
What would Disney do? (WFTV.com News Staff)

Dear Furloughed Disney Cast Members,

Recession can be terrifying, and crisis will test what you believe. Our country is spiraling toward an economic recession resulting from COVID-19 and you can’t stop it – but you can stop an emotional one.

You did not fail; you faithfully served a hospitality company that doesn’t have any guests to show hospitality toward right now. A publicly traded company is on hold because a country is on lockdown. But what happens on Wall Street is not as important as what happens on your street.

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Even now your fellow Cast Members are finding artistic ways to build social connections during social distancing. Some creatives are sharing how they are learning new skills on Masterclass or LinkedIn by shifting from ‘shelter in place’ to “strengthen in place.” They will emerge from this time better equipped to serve future guests. As lockdown ends some will come out with new skills, strength, connection, and resilience. Others will come out shell-shocked and scared. It’s all about what you believe.


If you have studied Disney history you know how Walt continually faced economic crisis and each time he got more creative. When he first drew Mickey Mouse he was facing bankruptcy on the outside, while building a better future on the inside. If you described this process, it would involve asking “What Would Walt Do?” (WWWD?). Because Walt Disney was genius at perspective. The more pressure, the more creative he became. It’s like an old poem. “Two men looked through prison bars – one saw the mud – the other saw the stars.”

Each economic crisis squeezed imagination out of Walt and the nine old men, (the term he called his most skilled animators). The Great Depression caused some film companies to fold up. It led Walt to find Snow White, Seven Dwarfs and invent Mickey Mouse wristwatches. A recession can destroy – or develop.

American’s may not agree on much – but they stand united in facing a crisis. Blue states/ red states become “United States” during California fires, Oklahoma tornadoes and Florida hurricanes. After the storm people come together to rebuild. Tragedy can shatter a community – or connect it. Orlando was divided before the Pulse attack. Then became #OrlandoUnited as people stood together to heal. We will find our way there again.

Pre-crisis people fight about opinions. In a crisis it is all about survival and then post-crisis - it is about opportunity. You always have options and opportunities. Viktor Frankel, Nelson Mandela, John McCain, Harriet Tubman and more strengthened when locked down because they always looked up, they saw the stars. That was their story. It can inspire you to see things in your story too.

The biggest question now is, “What do you see?”

General view of Epcot International Flower And Garden Festival at Epcot Center at Walt Disney World.
General view of Epcot International Flower And Garden Festival at Epcot Center at Walt Disney World. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Walt Disney never seemed to notice the bankers and lenders standing in line to shut down his dream, (he had his brother Roy for that). Nope, he saw something bigger than money – he saw magic. And I believe he will live on through your fellow Disney cast members who have not lost the magic. They will come together with faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust and they will rebuild.

Creative souls get better in a crisis. Right now, someone is figuring out how to guide people through queues while actively protecting the health of every guest. Graphic designers are crafting amazing face masks and hand-sanitizer carriers. Safety was a core value for Walt, so was cleanliness. A virus may slow down the Disney company, but it cannot stop it. You cannot stop creative energy, but you do have to look up and move forward, or to quote wisdom from a favorite Disney character, "Just keep swimming!”

My favorite memories are standing on Main Street USA watching fireworks over Cinderella’s castle with family. Looking up at the sky and being thankful for so many things. Those fireworks were always there when I was a kid growing up here in Orlando, and they will be there again.

I still believe in the magic, do you?

Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor who writes on managing crisis to create positive change. He lives in Orlando with his wife, two kids and four cats.

Follow him across all social media @DwightBain

(Handout/Getty Images)