Walt Disney is one of the best compen- sated executives in the U.S. these days, and, as he says himself, "It's about time." Hisrelationship to the company hefounded is an intriguing one-and it raises some questions about the company's future.
During most of his forty-three years in Hollywood, Walter Elias Disney was not a very profitable producer. The bankers called him a "spender," and, he recalled recently, "they stepped on my neck." It was not until the early 1950's, a quarter-century after his creation of Mickey Mouse, that Disney was able to transform his talent for fantasy and his own worldwide celebrity into more than a small business; in most of these early years it grossed $3 million to $6 million, and was often in the red. Today, however, the financial community's approach to Walt Disney Productions is somewhat different. At sixty-four, sitting in the corner of his office in the Disney Burbank studios, the jaunty proprietor lifts his eyebrows in delight, and in a voice that ranges between the high of Mickey and the low of Goofy mimics those bankers: "Now they say to me, Disney, don't you want some money?'
There are still skeptics in Wall Street who consider Disney to be too interested in the quality of his projects and too little interested in profits, but there's no reason to complain about the figures for the past twelve years. In fiscal 1965 the revenues of Walt Disney Productions were up more than 800 percent over 1954, to $110 million, and profits were up over 1,400 percent, to $11 million. In 1965 alone, revenues were up $23 million and profits up $4 million, owing mainly to the phenomenal box-office triumph of Mary Poppins. This production was last year's No. film grosser. The company expects the gross to climb to perhaps $47 million on the completion of the film's first round through the international markets.