Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

Summary: There's a solid argument to be made that Steve Jobs was the digital version of Walt Disney. Focus. Entertainment. Delight. Emotional attachment. Theatrical.

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Steve Jobs has been compared to multiple business icons---Thomas Edison and Henry Ford to name a few---but the best comparison may be to Walt Disney.

There's a solid argument to be made that Jobs was the digital version of Disney. Focus. Entertainment. Delight. Emotional attachment. Theatrical.

The Jobs-Disney comparison isn't entirely my own argument. Daring Fireball's John Gruber connected the Disney-Jobs dots last year in a talk we caught on video below.

Pixar and Disney's John Lasseter also indirectly made the Jobs connection to Disney:

Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply 'make it great.' He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time.

Obviously the animation angle screams Disney, which happened to acquire Pixar. Jobs was Disney's largest shareholder. Pixar's characters will last generations much like Mickey Mouse did.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also compared Jobs to Disney in an interview with CNET.

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But the comparison to Disney stretches to multiple areas. As Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said last night in an interview with Charlie Rose: Jobs showed that artists trump nerds.

Walt Disney recreated industries. Disney was among the first to create animated feature length films. Then, Disney created his own worlds via Disney World and Disneyland. Jobs also recreated his share of industries. Apple created a viable digital music delivery model. The iPad popularized the tablet. The iPhone revamped smartphones. And Jobs created the app ecosystem that's commonplace today.

Walt Disney marveled at the future. Jobs did too. Jobs saw an era where hardware and software worked together so well it blended into the background leaving you to your content. Any trip to DisneyWorld highlights a focus on the future---an optimistic one.

Just make it great was Disney's mantra. Jobs had the same focus. Anything---even the impossible at the time---was considered to make a product great. When Disney's first Mickey Mouse cartoons didn't sell he added synchronized sound. Magic soon followed. Jobs took that approach with his products, which combined technology, industrial design and art.

Disney and Jobs were showmen and sales masters. Disney had Bambi, Pinocchio and Dumbo. Jobs could sell and promote with the best of them. Jobs also had a nose for the storyline. Pixar movies and Apple devices all inspired emotional connections with their users.

Both men knew failure. Disney's first efforts flopped. Disney's first venture focused on animated shorts for a movie chain and quickly went bankrupt. Then Disney went to Hollywood. Apple was started in a garage by Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Later Jobs was fired at his own company. Jobs later said that failure made him what he became later.

Disney knew about land grabs. Jobs too. Disney procured a massive chunk of land in central Florida to build his dream resort. Jobs procured flash memory and components in the supply chain in massive quantities to build the iPad, iPhone and iPod.

Disney and Jobs both left physical monuments. Disney obviously left his fantasy worlds in Orlando. Jobs has his Apple stores around the world. A new Apple headquarters could turn out to be Jobsworld at some point.

And Disney and Jobs both left us too soon. Walt Disney died at 65 from complications from lung cancer. Jobs passed away at 56.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Enterprise Software, Hardware

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22 comments
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  • He studied and adopted the Disney model

    so it makes sense that they both followed the same paths to success.
    William Farrell
  • Jobs created Pixar?????

    The first (John Gruber) video in this article states at 6:18 "Jobs . . . to the other company he created . . . , Pixar." It is well known that he PURCHASED Pixar from Lucasfilms in 1986. I don't intend to diminish what Pixar accomplished after that. But let's not distort history.
    Smittiemail
    • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

      @Smittiemail

      Actually, he purchased the Graphics Group from Lucasfilm. It wasn't Pixar then, just a small group of people doing some CGI work for films and advertising.
      msalzberg
      • RE Pixar creation

        @msalzberg

        Sorry, you are wrong. It was indeed called Pixar before then. My work took me to the Pixar facility a couple of times (in unmarked Lucasfilm buildings in San Rafael at that time), and it was called Pixar even then. Also, many of the great (for their time) short story animations already produced clearly showed the name Pixar in their credits. Perhaps the only thing may be that Pixar was not registered as a separate business entity until it was sold off to Jobs.
        Smittiemail
      • RE Pixar creation

        @msalzberg

        Sorry, you are wrong. It was indeed called Pixar before then. My work took me to the Pixar facility a couple of times (in unmarked Lucasfilm buildings in San Rafael at that time), and it was called Pixar even then. Also, many of the great (for their time) short story animations already produced clearly showed the name Pixar in their credits. Perhaps the only thing may be that Pixar was not registered as a separate business entity until it was sold off to Jobs.
        Smittiemail
  • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

    I worked for Apple on two seperate occassions: tech support and in the retail store. I am certainly heartbroken that Steve is gone. But his legacy will definitely live forever.
    trinarenee
  • Steve's Legacy Will Always Live On

    So sad to hear of Steve's passing. His impact will be felt by generations. There's a nice convo going on at http://www.facebook.com/bluewheelmedia. Remembering Steve and all his contributions to the world.
    cassiev
  • Well...

    But Disney became the Evil Empire *after* Walt's death.
    rberman
    • Ah,,, no they didn't

      @rberman
      William Farrell
  • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

    Disney left a legacy of accomplishments that still give pleasure to young and old after 50-60-70 years, and yes, he made money at it, but that's secondary because the products survive and bring pleasure even today, despite the current 'Disney' being simply profit-motivated.

    Jobs was a marketing genius; he knew how to work on peoples' minds to make them feel that if they used his products, they were special. He deserves credit for being that, but not the Edison or visionary that some think he was. He bought many of his "innovations" from the real visionaries, but just knew how to implement them to the masses in a very effective way. He was not a Disney; I shudder to think what things will be like in 50 years if the legacy of pointless gadgets are still around...people still walking around staring at their phones, or thinking they need an electronic tablet to jot down an address. Please give him credit for the marketing genius he was, but don't try to make him into something he wasn't; he was not a deity, not a hero, and what he 'gave' (sold) us was nothing compared to what Disney gave us as a legacy.
    garyleroy@...
    • Shut Up

      @garyleroy@... Every portable computing device that you use today bears the mark of Jobs and Apple. Practically every last one. That you think Apple's products sold because they were marketed well is an idiotic and trite cliche.
      His_Shadow
    • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

      @garyleroy@...

      What a bunch of rerun children's cartoons foisted on us by a master salesman?

      See things are relative.

      Jobs and Disney are driving forces behind world changing things.

      Maybe men like them are what changes things from mediocrity to greatness, pushing others to go beyond what is thought to be possible.
      bannedagain
    • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

      @garyleroy@...

      Thanks, that was well put.

      This media gushing over Jobs is getting really ridiculous and in some cases completely out of hand.
      TongueDar
    • More Edison than Disney

      @garyleroy@...
      Quite right. Edison prospered on the labours of his personnel and was not the great inventor he has been acreditted as being. He owned the patents but some other nameless technician did the hard work. Edison even got it wrong with electrical power having to later adopt the ideas Tesla had suggested in the first place. Jobs was a great showman and marketer, consequently he could see how to sell a product by talking up the pros and leaving out the cons. No system is perfect and Apple is clearly not. Jobs rode high on the efforts of the many bright people in the company. To make a comparison with Disney is unrealistic as Disney is entertainment which will please on into the future as Shakespeare entertains. IT products have their day and like all technology pass into history with alarming speed. If Apple is to make a mark on a grander scale in IT then they should unburden the hardware from the OS and let others use it with whatever hardware and software can be matched to it. The IT world is moving to the browser where the OS is possibly becoming less relevant. If Apple doesn't move that way it might soon be the purveyor of expensive hardware.
      DOSlover
  • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

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    ZombieSteveJobs
  • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

    Definitely I agree with the case you make. I tweeted this very thing last night @dvchris and @echrisy. "As a leader, a marketer and a visionary, Steve Jobs was the Walt Disney of our time."
    cypriiva
  • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

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    azsxa
  • RE: Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

    If Jobs is like Disney... how about Gates?
    TheFilipinoFlash
    • Now THERE's a Henry Ford.

      @TheFilipinoFlash

      Neither Gates of Ford are known as inventors or for particularly exciting products, but both were key to reducing the price of a new technology to a degree that it became possible for it to penetrate mass markets. Before Ford, cars were expensive novelty items. The open architecture PC with a common operating system took PCs out of the expensive novelty category and made it part of the common way of doing business.

      Both Ford and Gates are known for their charitable foundations as well as their business accomplishments.
      Lester Young
  • Disagree with this however ...

    "And Jobs created the app ecosystem that???s commonplace today."
    I don't think it can be claimed that Jobs created this, since there have been Linux repositories for quite a while longer than The App Store. I am sure (but correct me if wrong) that Lindows was an early pioneer of the online App store.
    I think "Jobs popularised the online App store" might be a better homage.
    Sepius