I walked down the long, narrow hallway with a fair degree of trepidation. Like Moses, I felt I strode on hallowed ground. This was the third floor of the Animation Building on the Disney Studio lot and this hallway led to the office of Walt Disney.
Why would I put myself through this fearful task, you ask? The new book, The Art of Animation had just shipped and I was one of the eager young artists to get his hands on the first few copies that had arrived on the Walt Disney Studio lot. While a handful of us poured through the pages of the magical new book, I knew there was one thing I definitely had to do before the task became impossible. It was well known that Walt Disney seldom signed any books or documents if it wasn’t required. Walt was a busy man and so he had a few staffers who were good at faking the Old Maestro’s signature. They would tackle this redundant task for Walt and give him time for more important matters. I didn’t want a “fake Disney signature.” I wanted the real deal. I knew there was only one way to nail an authentic Walt Disney autograph and that was to go to Walt Disney himself.
And so, with book in hand I headed down the long hallway to the office of the boss. I can honestly tell you I considered turning back a number of times. How would Walt react, I wondered? Would he be upset, or annoyed that I was interrupting his busy day? There was only one way to find out. I approached one of Walt’s two secretaries and made my request. “Is Walt in?” I stammered. “I was wondering if he might have time to sign my book.” “Let me check,” said Tommi. She was Walt’s senior secretary and she knew pretty much everything. I stood in the office glancing around at the numerous Academy Awards and other tributes to the animation master. It felt like an eternity, but I waited. Suddenly, the door opened and a man wearing a grey suit emerged. He didn’t have a smile on his face but he didn’t seem angry either. This made me feel just a little bit better. “What have we got here,” he grumbled. Walt often grumbled. It didn’t mean he was angry - it was simply his manner.
“Oh! This thing. It’s about time.” I handed Walt the book and he pulled out what appeared to be a Sharpie. He signed the book and handed it back to me. “Here ‘ya go, kid!” He turned and headed back into his office before I could barely mutter, “Thanks, Walt.”
As I headed back down the hallway I couldn’t resist glancing at the treasure I had just received. I had Walt Disney’s personal autograph. Not a phony signature by one of the Disney artists, but an autograph by the Old Maestro himself. And then, I remembered one final thing. As I stood transfixed waiting for the boss autograph my book I had forgotten to give him my name. Yet, here it was in my book. “To Floyd with all Best, Walt Disney. Did Walt’s secretary, Tommi give the boss my name - or did he already know it? I’ve wondered about that every since.