The Sidekick

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When Roy O. Disney and his younger brother, Walt, were growing up, they often had to share a bed. That wouldn’t have been a problem except that Walt wet the bed when he was young. In later life that allowed Roy to quip that he was the only person he knew “who had been peed on by a genius.”

That’s how most people thought of Walt, he was a “genius.” And his big brother, Roy? Roy was the sidekick in the best tradition of sidekicks from Dr. Watson to Tonto to Robin. Sidekicks live to serve the hero.

That’s what Roy did, pretty much from the beginning. He was eight years older than Walt, but they were great friends as well as brothers. When Walt moved to the West Coast, he lived with Roy. When the brothers built their homes, they built matching ones next to each other.

Walt was the one with the grand imagination and the gifts for drawing and storytelling. He was the prescient technologist who often spied the future where others could only see something new. Roy was the sidekick who helped turn the ideas into reality. In the beginning, he helped set up the camera for Walt’s short features in the garage. Later, he managed the business.

As Walt said, “If it hadn’t been for my big brother, I swear I’d have been in jail several times for checks bouncing. I never knew what was in the bank. He kept me on the straight and narrow.” That continued their whole lives. Walt had the big ideas. Roy helped turn them into reality. Walt could concentrate on the things he loved and did well. Roy made sure there was money to do them.

The Sidekick Rule: Someone must choose to be the sidekick and subordinate his or her goals to the hero.

Even though Roy was older, Walt died first. Roy put off retirement to make sure that Disneyworld was finished. Then, as one of the last things he did before his death, he renamed the place Walt Disney World, in honor of his brother.

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