SLIDESHOW: Bizarre Habits of 9 Highly Obsessive CEOs
Walt Disney, Co-Founder and Former President of The Walt Disney Company
Leave it to a depressive to create the happiest place on Earth.
In 1956, the year after opening Disneyland (NYSE:DIS), Walt Disney opened up to the Saturday Evening Post about his self-described 1931 “nervous breakdown” and “crack-up.”
“I kept expecting more from my artists than they were giving me,” Disney said “and all I did all day long was pound, pound, pound. Costs were going up. Somehow, each new picture we finished cost more to make than we figured it would earn.”
Disney’s doctor diagnosed him with “an acute attack of perfectionism.”
But five years after his admitted “emotional tailspin,” Disney still hadn’t entered recovery mode when it came to the unrealistically lofty and confusing demands he continued to make of employees.
In 1936, Disney animator Berny Wolf suffered weeks of undue stress over a few-second throwaway gag of three pelicans doing a Jimmy Durante impression in the Silly Symphonies cartoon short “Elmer Elephant.” During one infamously grueling sweatbox session, Disney seemed to expect Wolf to intuit what he was thinking when he criticized him saying, “You should know better than that.”
Twelve pencil tests later -- and with none of the project crew, including director Wilfred Jackson, being able to make heads or tails of Disney’s discontent -- Wolf took a guess that the birds were facing the wrong direction and traced and re-shot them so the action flowed the other way. On the 13th try, he took it to back to the sweatbox.
"I got it in the reel and Walt looked at it and at me and said, Finally, finally!" Wolf said in Walt's People - Volume 9: Talking Disney With the Artists Who Knew Him (Xlibris, 2010). “You would just want to die.”