February 1, 2020

Never just one thing

I think there’s a secret to the most recent run of Mickey Mouse. The most recent Mickey Mouse television series, which ended a multi-decade era where new Mickey content was absent from American television, began airing in 2013. Each season is a set of one-off shorts starring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, with occasional cameos from Pluto, Pete, Daisy, Chip, and Dale. If these names are unfamiliar to you, you are definitely forgiven. Up until this most recent run of Micky Mouse, these characters had faded from the Disney Pantheon and mostly appeared in the parks. They have been given new life by this series.

This series is remarkable. Not only is it re-invigorating these characters in pop culture — with a new art style and all the copyright benefits that entails — but every season features multiple episdoes that are utterly targeted at a non-American audience. Episode 3 of the first season, Croissant de Triomphe, is set in Paris and performed entirely in French. The new run of Mickey Mouse has taken its cast to France, Tokyo, Beijing, Venice, Brazil, Mumbai, the Netherlands, Pamplona, London, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Hawaii, Egypt, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, the Serengeti, and Thailand. In most of these episodes, the cast is performing in the native language of the setting. The episode in Thailand, Our Floating Dreams, became such a phenonenon that clips from it started being used for political memes in Thailand.

This series is doing at least two things with every season:

  1. Revitalizing a Disney property in a way that feels charming and modern.
  2. Authentically connecting Mickey Mouse to an international audience.

I’ve thought a lot about not doing anything for one reason as I’ve been growing as a leader, first at Patreon, then with Galaxy Brain, and now with Trim. Never just one thing” is one of the unofficial mottoes of Galaxy Brain, so much so that my co-founder Liam and I say it to each other often. What’s interesting to me is that I had been thinking about this motto as something you only need to do when you’re starting out or scaling up. In my mind, I implicitly thought that if you reached a certain scale your organization had more slack and didn’t have to be as focused on optimization.

I thought that until I watched the documentary series The Imagineering Story, and started watching the new Mickey Mouse. The Imagineering Story chronicles the rise and fall and rise of Disney Imagineering, the workshop behind the Disney Parks internationally. There was a real concern that at the end of Michael Eisner’s reign as CEO of The Walt Disney Company that Disney Imagineering would be shut down completely. What they couldn’t know was that Bob Iger would have three foci when he came on as CEO, three foci of which Disney Imagineering and Disney Animation Studios would play a major part:

  1. Generating the best creative content possible.
  2. Fostering innovation and utilizing the latest technology.
  3. Expanding into new markets around the world.

The Walt Disney Company is massive, and one of the oldest contiguous companies on Earth. To hear the CEO of that company call out a multiple-focus approach, and then to see it in action with the new Mickey Mouse series, drove home something that I now think is true of all successful organizations of any scale:

Never do anything for just one reason.

Never just one thing.

As a post-script, this isn’t a new idea, and is in many ways a return to what Walt originally designed for the Walt Disney Company. To my mind, this is more evidence that the idea was always solid, and that large organizations forget it at their peril.

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