Marty Sklar spent over 50 years working at Disney — he’s the only employee to participate in the opening of all 11 Disney parks around the world, and he worked closely with Walt Disney as the company’s chief publicist and ghostwriter.
After Walt’s death in 1966, Sklar spent most of his years organising Disney’s Imagineering arm, which is responsible for conceptualizing, planning and constructing all of Disney’s rides and attractions.
In Sklar’s 2013 book “Dream It! Do It!”, he remembers one “scary year” in 1974, when the worldwide energy crisis drove up gas prices and drove down attendance at Disneyland.
Sklar, who had just been promoted to creative leader of the Imagineering department at the time, faced an uncertain road ahead: Disney had been considering building a new theme park based on one of Walt’s favourite ideas — the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or “EPCOT” — but the national climate surrounding the energy crisis made this new construction effort feel like a monumental challenge.
To motivate his team, Sklar likened their precarious situation to a blank sheet of paper:
There are two ways to look at a blank sheet of paper. It can be the most frightening thing in the world, because you have to make the first mark on it. or it can be the greatest opportunity in the world, because you get to make the first mark — you can let your imagination fly in any direction, and create whole new worlds!
Sklar spent the next eight years building EPCOT, with the help of the Imagineers and the Operations staff at Walt Disney World. And today, EPCOT is the sixth most-visited park in the world.
Also, Sklar’s comments about the blank sheet of paper have become legend: “Provide plenty of blank paper” was made one of Mickey’s Ten Commandments, a list of teachings you’ll find in most Disney offices, particularly owned by Imagineers, to serve as a reminder that starting something new is scary but also tremendously important to fostering creativity and evolution.
Sklar’s book “Dream It! Do It!” is a great read. You can buy it here.
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