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The 9 Most Famous Things Walt Disney Never Said

Who would have thought that a mouse on a steamboat could lead to an entertainment empire that spans the globe? Well, that's what Walt Disney achieved. He dreamed big and never gave up on those dreams, something reflected in the spirit of Disney productions — and one of the reasons Walt remains such a quotable figure.

Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901, and four years later moved with his family to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. It was there that he developed an interest in drawing, copying cartoons from newspapers, and working with crayons and watercolors.

Wherever the young Disney went, he drew. At high school he became the cartoonist for the school newspaper and took night courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He lied about his age to join the Red Cross just before the end of World War I, and during the war he drew cartoons on the side of his ambulance and had some work published in Stars and Stripes. Then, at 18, he began an apprenticeship at a commercial art studio.

Disney became increasingly interested in animation in the burgeoning silent film industry, and in 1921 founded his Laugh-O-Gram Studio. His short cartoons didn’t earn enough money, and the studio went bankrupt in 1923. Later that year he moved to Hollywood and founded the Disney Brothers Studio‍ with his brother Roy — the same studio that would later become the world-famous Walt Disney Company. With the help of his creation, Mickey Mouse, Disney became more and more successful during the following decade, despite plenty of bumps along the road. He won his first Academy Award in 1932, his second a year later, and went on to win 22 Oscars during his career — more than anyone else in history.

Beloved animated classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, and Sleeping Beauty made Disney a cultural icon, and his theme parks, merchandise, and other interests made him a wealthy man. Disney died in 1966, but remains a towering figure in pop culture. Today, he is widely quoted online, for his words of inspiration and his business and leadership acumen. But, much like Mark Twain and Winston Churchill, he has also been attached to many famous quotes that he never actually said. Here, we set the record straight with 9 quotes often misattributed to the legendary animator.

If you can dream it, then you can do it.

One of Walt Disney’s most famous quotes was actually created by Tom Fitzgerald, a Disney “Imagineer.” He came up with the line to use at the Horizons attraction at Epcot.

[The secret of making dreams come true], it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy, and the greatest of these is Confidence.

Frequently attributed to Disney, this quote actually comes from an article titled "The Amazing Secret of Walt Disney” by Don Eddy, published in The American Magazine in 1955.

You can't just let nature run wild.

Said by U.S. businessman and politician Walter “Wally” Hickel, not by Walt Disney.

Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.

Often attributed to Walt Disney, but with no supporting evidence. The line is also sometimes attributed to Tinker Bell, despite the pixie character having no dialogue in Disney's 1953 take on Peter Pan.

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.

This quote is often attributed to Disney, but there is no evidence to suggest he said it.

The more you are in a state of gratitude, the more you will attract things to be grateful for.

Again, no evidence exists to suggest Disney said this. It sounds more like something from the Law of Attraction, the idea that positive thoughts bring positive results.

Forever is a long, long time and time has a way of changing things.

This was not said by Disney himself, but rather by Big Mama, the owl from the 1981 Disney production The Fox and the Hound.

Leadership shows judgment, wisdom, personal appeal, and proven competence.

The internet is awash with this quote attributed to Disney, but there is no evidence to suggest he ever said it.

The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.

This pretty little quote is sometimes attributed to Disney, but it was said by Timothy Q. Mouse in the 1941 Disney movie Dumbo. The Brooklyn-accented rodent’s precise words were, “The very things that held ya down are gonna carry ya up, and up, and up!”

Photo credit:  Donaldson Collection / Contributor/ via Getty Images

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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