Wednesday December 5 6:03 PM ET
Walt Disney Honored on 100th Birthday By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press Writer
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) - Inspired by the movie ``Fantasia,'' jeweler Harry Winston made a $2 million Sorcerer's Hat of satin, velvet, silk, gold and a 20-carat diamond for the occasion. And a hundred Walt Disney World workers in chef's hats carried out 100 pieces of sheet cake that formed a portrait of
Walt Disney when placed together.
Walt Disney, who with his brother Roy created an entertainment empire built on cultural icons such as Mickey Mouse, was honored Wednesday at the theme park resort that bears his name on what would have been his 100th birthday. Walt Disney died in 1966.
His nephew, Roy E. Disney, was on hand at Walt Disney World to remind everyone that Walt Disney was not just a corporate name.
``There's a tendency to mythologize things in the past and of course there is a tendency for people to say 'Oh well, Walt Disney is just the name of a company.' We'll just keep insisting that he was a real man and he really did all this stuff attributed to him and he had his foibles too,'' Roy Disney said in an interview, adding:
``Walt always said 'This whole thing started with a mouse.'''
Through animation, movies, television shows, merchandising and theme parks, Walt Disney turned the ``mouse'' into the world's second-biggest media company with annual of revenue of $25 billion and a worldwide influence.
``Everyone smiles in the same language,'' said Mayas Kano, a 38-year-old housewife who came to the 100 Years of Magic celebration from Japan.
But smiles at the Walt Disney Co. have been few and far between in recent months. Reliant on theme park attendance and advertising revenue from its ABC network, the company's profits dropped 68 percent to $53 million in the fourth quarter. Operating income for the first quarter of the company's fiscal year is expected to decline by 50 percent.
Corporate profits, though, weren't on the minds of most of the visitors.
Roger Yamashita, a 40-year-old aerospace engineer from Anaheim, Calif., looked for someone to trade Disney pins with him. He has more than 2,000 pins at home, and he brought several dozen from his collection.
``I think Disney is something that has pulled the world together,'' Yamashita said.
It's almost impossible to grow up without being bombarded by Disney on television, on T-shirts, in movies and in advertisements, said Steve Stanley, who was visiting Walt Disney World from England with his wife, Michelle, and 7-year-old daughter, Stephanie. They paid several thousand dollars for their 14-day trip in Orlando.
Stephanie jumped up and down and shouted ``I saw Pinocchio'' after getting the character's signature in her autograph book.
What would life without Disney be like for the Stanleys?
``A lot cheaper,'' said Steve Stanley.