In-Depth Look at Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

by Rose Folan, Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the March 26, 2002, Issue #131 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Gazing into his office, you feel that Walt Disney could walk in at any moment to begin his workday. It looks much the way it did during his life — his large, polished, wooden desk with pencils and pens ready, scripts neatly stacked, and the well-worn briefcase easily within his reach.

This illustrates what the attraction "Walt Disney: One Man's Dream" is — a visit to the life, the work and the dreams of the man whose vision made it all possible.

A new attraction that opened at Disney-MGM Studios as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration, One Man's Dream is referred to on the park maps as a "multisensory entertainment experience." Indeed, it is that — surrounding visitors with sights and sounds and unique experiences — but it's also more.

It begins when you enter the theater-like foyer where you're surrounded by photos, written quotes and the voice (yes, the voice) of Walt himself saying those now famous words, "I only hope we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse."

Walt's office, his second-grade desk, and costumes from Disney movies and television are only a few of the things you'll see. One Man's Dream features more than 400 artifacts, many never seen before by the public, from sources including the Walt Disney Archives Collection, the Walt Disney Foundation, and the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

If you think this sounds more like an exhibit than an attraction, you're correct. But what makes it different, and in my opinion a must-see attraction, is the opportunity to see into the life of this man who brought so much pleasure to our lives, and maybe — if only for a moment — to imagine being Walt.

The most compelling part of this attraction, for me personally, was hearing Walt explain things like the "multiplane camera" or his concept of "Project X" — the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). I felt that I was walking with Walt as he explained his life, his work and his visions.

A curving timeline (1900s, 1910s, 1920s, etc.) with the familiar white-gloved Mickey hand pointing out highlights leads you through some amazing visuals and memorabilia. The lighting is subdued with bright spotlights focusing your attention on various items. Voices, of Walt and others, echo all around.

Something to note as you move from the black-and-white era into the era of color is that not only does the scenery change, the CMs' vests also change. Subtly, as everyone moves through the automatically opening doors, each CM reverses his vest from one with black-and-white animation to one splashed with brushstrokes of vibrant color.

There are lots of details, facts and tidbits to note here, for example: Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was one of Walt's boyhood heroes? Do you remember that the Oscar for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1939) was unique because it had one large and seven small statues mounted on a wooden-staircase base? Do you know Mickey's first three starring films? I won't give you the answer for that one — you'll have to go find out yourself!

Also throughout One Man's Dream you'll have the opportunity to see the architectural models created for many of Walt's now real visions. You'll see the Disneyland castle model (be sure to look for the tiny figure of Walt, as he appears in the photo at the beginning of One Man's Dream); the Tree of Life; the Fortress from Tokyo DisneySea; the icon of the 100 Years of Magic celebration, the Sorcerer's Hat; and lots more. All of these models have been painstakingly created in exquisite detail.

One Man's Dream ends with a short film about Walt's life. Introduced by Michael Eisner and shown in the tiny "Walt Disney Theater" this is yet another opportunity to see and hear Walt telling his story.

The most interesting, and surprising, moment for me was seeing Walt on screen doing Mickey's voice for "Steamboat Willie." Somehow, I could never imagine that voice coming from him — not until I saw it with my own eyes!

The message here is that Walt was a true visionary who believed that "quality will win out" and whose dreams are still being implemented today. The film ends as the attraction opens, with a memorable quote. This time it's Eisner who reminds us that in reality "it was all started by a man with a dream."

Is this attraction for everyone? Perhaps not. But during my visits it appeared that everyone was enjoying it – adults, of course, could be heard recalling many of the moments recreated here; children seemed to enjoy the references to Mickey or operating the amazing Audio-Animatronics figure; others, like me, just stood and marveled at the incredible detail and thought that went into this attraction.

According to CMs, guest questions tend to be more about what they don't see rather than what's displayed. They ask about Walt's family, if his wife is still alive, or how and when he died. One CM recalled a little girl asking her about Minnie — when she was born and if she and Mickey were married. So, yet another thing One Man's Dream does is to stimulate our curiosity.

No, this attraction won't make you scream or give you big belly laughs. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's an "E-ticket" attraction as compelling as any of the "mountains" because it introduces — or reacquaints — us with Walt Disney, the man whose visions and dreams delight us even today.

Visit for more information on this attraction.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.