The Man Who Built Disney World

My biggest disappointment with my recent vacation to Disney World was that a statue was missing, a nice, bronze bench normally found on Main Street USA. I searched all over for it before marching to City Hall to inquire, only to find that in peak busy seasons, they move some of the benches, including the one with this particular statue.

Now, okay, it should be said that I’m not a ridiculously sentimental Disney fan. I will not get in line to get a picture taken with a person pretending to be an animated character, and I will most certainly not pay money for overpriced souvenirs. But I have this one weakness: the statue of Roy Disney.

This is what it did look like.

This is what it would have looked like had it been out.

Strange, I know. Walt Disney’s the big name. Most people don’t even know about Walt’s older brother, the financial mind behind the early movies and Disney World. I didn’t either until I read Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer (which you should all read ASAP especially if you are a writer, a dreamer, or a human). In it, Phil talks about the relationship between Walt and Roy Disney. “Roy didn’t work for Walt, and Walt didn’t work for Roy, but they clearly understood their roles. Walt dreamed up wild ideas, and Roy tried to make them happen. If the idea didn’t seem fundable or viable to Roy, Walt would usually honor Roy’s opinion, though not without long and sometimes heated discussion….If either brother had walked away, the company would have failed.”

“The key to the Walt Disney Company was the partnership of Walt and Roy. The key to the partnership of Walt and Roy was mutual submission, based in genuine love for each other. Walt knew he couldn’t do what Roy could do, and Roy knew he couldn’t do what Walt could do. So they submitted to each other’s area of expertize and worked together.”

Phil goes on to say that as Christians, particularly if we have an idea for a ministry, we should be seeking out the opposite type of person from what we are, looking for others to balance out our gifts and see our flaws and love us anyway.

I am clearly a Walt. There is no question here. I have a million ideas at once, many of them weird. Social norms confine me, planning stresses me out, and I just want to create stuff and love people and let the rest work itself out. You know, little details like taxes and future goals and balanced checkbooks and balanced diets and balanced schedules and paperwork of all kinds. It’s a pretty extreme case of Walt.

Let me introduce you to two of my Roys.


The one on the left is Ruthie, my college roommate for all four years, for which she deserves a trophy or something. The one on the right is Erika, my twin sister and roommate for the entire part of my life before college. (If you’re wondering why she doesn’t get a trophy, it’s because she’s family and stuck with me.)

First, Erika. We are opposite on our Myers Briggs test on every letter. Most relevant here is that she is an extreme J and I am an extreme P. Meaning she has a color coded closet, alphabetized spice drawer, and neat lists of plans and goals and tasks and lists she wants to make in the future.

I on the other hand, have never used a planning calendar of any sort, not for assignments or appointments or whatever else organized people call the things they do and the events they attend. Until my sister sent me a multiple category spreadsheet labeled “Fantastic Budget Yay!” my budget was the simple yet effective, “Buy everything you want. Don’t want anything.” I pack for trips in fifteen minutes, sometimes the fifteen minutes before leaving.

Erika also has significantly more common sense than I do. Insert every story from our childhood here. I remember vividly one day standing on a second story balcony where I was trapped with the two kids I was babysitting (don’t ask), staring up at the unlocked third story balcony, and thinking, “I bet if I used this sidewalk chalk on my hands and stood on the grill I could reach up, climb the drainpipe, and get there.” This brilliant and creative plan was immediately followed by a vision of Erika on one shoulder, Emperor’s New Groove style, saying, “Are you crazy? Don’t even think about it!” In deference to my caution conscience, I didn’t.

Our senior year of high school, I said to Erika, “You know, if it wasn’t for me, you’d never have any fun.” And she shot back, “If it wasn’t for me, you’d be dead by now.”

Yes. Well. Excellent point.

This is why family members who will go unnamed were worried about me parting ways with my better half for college. Never fear, God in his infinite wisdom and capacity to be amused by my shenanigans, brought me Ruthie.

After the first few weeks, she stopped giving me strange looks when I said ridiculous things…and wrote them down instead. She often inserted commentary on my less-than-thought-out life choices, such as “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be going to class now?” or “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” (It was almost always not a good idea.)

In some ways, Ruthie has a Walt side to her, but a thousand little things reminded me that she is way more practical than I am (which, I realize, is like saying someone is more intelligent than Jar Jar Binks, but still). She put a restraining hand on my arm when I was about ready to blow up at someone and helped me organize events and kept me from taking drastic measures on more than one occasion. We often compared our roommate relationship to Bob and Larry from Veggie Tales. (I’m sure it’s super difficult for you to figure out which one I am, but I’ll give you a hint: I can sing silly songs like nobody’s business.)

Those have been my two most consistent Roys, but I am so grateful for the dozens of others who have filled that role in different situations. For the ones who see the high potential for danger in the plan I concocted, like, two seconds ago, for the person who has my back on the logical side of a debate while I’m telling stories and being passionate and stuff, for the friend who will point out flaws in my reasoning or handle the details or explain the rules to the game in a way that makes sense the first time or do anything else involving making decisions or ordering things or coming up with a plan B that has a reasonably high chance of succeeding with no one getting injured or killed…if any of those have been you, I am so, so thankful.

Another great Roy-Walt relationship...and Ellie is easily the Disney character I'm most like.

Another great Roy-Walt relationship…and Ellie is the fictional character I’m most like (with the possible exceptions of Anne of Green Gables and Jo March).

Sometimes I decide I have the most awesome personality type and talents ever. Then I think of a world full of people just like me, and friends, it is terrifying. Because on their own, Walts don’t make movies or theme parks. They certainly don’t research or operate or organize or finance or make to-do lists and schedules to actually accomplish those goals. Dreamers need builders. Free spirited drifters need practical folks with both feet on the ground. Larrys need Bobs. Walts need Roys, and this, friends, is what 1 Corinthians 12-13 is all about.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t always appreciate my Roys. I don’t want someone to say “no” to my brilliant ideas or call my bluff or tell me I might be wrong or suggest that sometimes a little organization is a better way to do things. But even though I don’t want those things, it’s almost always what I need.

So, to all my Roys, past, present, and future, thank you. And if you’re a part of my life right now and you see me starting to climb on the grill…stop me. Please. Erika and Ruthie will be grateful.


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