I remember exactly where I was when I heard that Walt Disney had died. I was in the living room of my house watching TV when the news came on.
It's hard to explain exactly how I viewed Walt as an 11 year old boy. To say he was larger than life doesn't quite hit the mark. Walt was literally on the same level as Santa Claus in my young mind. He was mystical, magical and legendary. Of course he was just a man, but the worlds he created permeated my life so completely that he seemed to transcend his own humanity.
When he died, something changed in me. It was the first moment of my life that I recall feeling the suffocating sensation of loss and tragedy. My initial and somewhat selfish reaction was that all his creations would also go away. There would be no more Disneyland, no more Mickey Mouse, no more Pinocchio....it would all vanish with Walt's passing.
But that didn't happen. Walt was still on TV. Disneyland was still open for business. Jungle Book was released to theaters. Walt was still alive. That's why I have such a palpable sense that Walt is still with us. I miss him. I wish he could have lived to be 109 and beyond, but in so many ways we never lost him at all. His presence is still felt, we are still influenced by him. The products of his imagination, both past and present, still resonate today.
Was Walt an ethereal genius or just a frail and flawed human being who happened to make cartoons? That question is still debated. The exact answer is no longer important to me. I don't feel the need to view him as anything more than the sum of his legacy. I know full well that Walt was only human. I'm not confused as to whether or not Walt was perfect. But there are still people who worked with Walt who find it difficult to speak of his passing without tearing up. Whoever he was, whatever he was, he was loved. He is still loved and I hope his inspiration lives on for centuries.
There will never be another Walt Disney in my life. A person only gets one chance to have their youthful impressions imprinted on them. I am very grateful so many of mine came from Walt Disney.