Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2005 (Revised May 2014)

Walt Disney and the 1941 Animators' Strike

by Nitin Nohria, Anthony Mayo and Bridget Gurtler


Focuses on the leadership lessons drawn from the events precipitating the Animator's Strike of 1941, depicting the growing pains of a company that was as much formed and changed by American culture as American culture was formed and changed by it. The tale of Walt Disney's roller-coaster journey from small-town paperboy to underage ambulance-driving serviceman to amateur animator and thrice-failed businessman to iconic leader is told against the backdrop of swift and seeping change in the beginning of the 20th century. An ambitious creative genius, he masterfully pursued emerging technological advantage and uniquely grasped and personified American social mores, but was reckless and naive about strategic business issues, especially concerning intellectual property and human resources management. A rewritten version of an earlier case.

Keywords: Business History; Leadership; Creativity; Culture; Business Strategy; Technology Adoption;


Nohria, Nitin, Anthony Mayo, and Bridget Gurtler. "Walt Disney and the 1941 Animators' Strike." Harvard Business School Case 406-076, December 2005. (Revised May 2014.)