A look inside the daily routine of Walt Disney, who wandered through the office after hours and always carried snacks in his pockets

Disney always capped off the workday with a Scotch Mist and a massage.

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Disney always capped off the workday with a Scotch Mist and a massage.
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General Photographic Agency / Stringer / Getty Images

• Walt Disney’s daily routine involved long workdays.

• Sometimes he didn’t leave his studio; other days he wound down with a Scotch Mist and headed home for dinner.

• Disney had a lot of usual habits that defined his managerial style.

Walt Disney’s daily routine was far from static.

Disney didn’t just have to contend with all sorts of disparate tasks, from reviewing film storyboards to planning the construction of Disneyland to establishing the studio’s television presence.

His role also shifted as The Walt Disney Co. changed drastically over the years, from upstart animation studio to a powerful Hollywood icon.

Still, Disney had a few habits and strategies that did stick with him over the years. Some of these practices even helped shape his work.

Here’s a look at Walt Disney’s daily schedule:


To get pumped up for work, Disney sometimes woke at 5:30 a.m., played five holes of golf, and then skipped ahead to the 18th hole.

Source: “The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney


Breakfast was a simple affair for Disney. He’d typically have toast, eggs, juice, and maybe a sausage.

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Olha Afanasieva/Shutterstock

Source: OhMy.Disney.com, “Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food,” The Orange County Register


Biographer Bob Thomas wrote that Disney would often come into work around 8 a.m. He’d start the day off by reviewing storyboards or holding conferences in his office.

source
Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original


Disney kept some of his most prized awards on the table behind his desk, including his first Oscar. He won a total of 32 Academy awards between 1931 and 1968.

Source: “Disney Trivia from the Vault: Secrets Revealed and Questions Answered,” The Walt Disney Family Museum


Later in the morning, Disney would take a look around the studio or go check on WED Enterprises, the theme-park research-and-development team that’s now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. He’d typically be back in his office by noon.

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Wikimedia Commons

Source: “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination


He drank coffee around lunchtime and reportedly insisted that coffee at Disneyland cost only a dime.

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richardsummers/Flickr

Source: OhMy.Disney.com, “Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food,” The Orange County Register


Otherwise, lunch typically consisted of light fare and a glass of V8 tomato juice. According to his biographer Neil Gabler, Disney thought that “too much food made you think confusedly” and disapproved of employees taking long lunch breaks.

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Ofer Deshe/Flickr

Source: “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination


He did, however, snack while he worked. Disney was known to constantly carry around nuts and crackers in his jacket pockets.

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Flickr/Sander_123

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original


As a boss, Disney was never effusive with praise, but Thomas wrote that his employees considered it “a triumph” if Disney shed a tear over the script or scene they were working on.

source
Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original


Whether he was on set or into the studio, Disney “didn’t like to be accosted,” according to Thomas. He did attempt to memorize employees’ names, even as the studio grew, studying files that matched employee photographs to their names.

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original


The rest of Disney’s afternoon was packed with meetings until 5 p.m. Then, Gabler writes, Disney would make phone calls and sign letters.

Source: “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination,” The Walt Disney Family Museum, IMDb


Secretary Tommie Wilck would prepare Disney a Scotch Mist drink at the end of the workday. The beverage was “mostly ice,” Wilck said, in an interview with The Walt Disney Family Museum. “He may have consumed a lot of liquid but I don’t think he really got much liquor,” she said.

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Wikimedia Commons

Source: The Walt Disney Family Museum


Because of an injury he got playing polo in 1938, Disney would also receive a massage treatment from his personal nurse and confidante, Hazel George. Then, he’d head home for dinner with his wife, Lillian, and their two daughters.

Source: “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination,” The Walt Disney Family Museum, IMDb


Disney’s favorite dish was chili and beans. Thomas wrote that he was “a connoisseur” of the food, “preferring to combine a can of Gebhardt’s, which had more meat and few beans, with a can of Dennison’s, which had less meat and more beans.”

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Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

Source: OhMy.Disney.org, “Disney Trivia from the Vault: Secrets Revealed and Questions Answered,” “Walt Disney: An American Original


When it came to dinner, his tastes were reportedly simple, and he preferred chicken liver and mac and cheese over “expensive cuts of meat.”

Source: OhMy.Disney.com, “Disney Trivia from the Vault: Secrets Revealed and Questions Answered,” “Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food,” The Orange County Register


Occasionally, Disney wouldn’t even make it home for dinner. He would sometimes remain in the office overnight, and often startled employees with late-night check-ins.

source
Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original,” “The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney


His massive office on the third floor of the company’s Burbank studio even included a place for him to sleep.

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original,” “The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney


Sometimes, he didn’t go to bed until midnight.

source
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Source: “How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life


When he wasn’t working, Disney had a number of hobbies. He had a love of polo, and also tried his hand at calisthenics, ice skating, and dancing. Many of these activities came about after his nervous breakdown, in 1931, brought on by overwork and anxiety.

Source: “The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney


Gabler wrote that Disney’s studio headquarters also featured a number of outlets for employees, including a penthouse with a soda fountain, gym, showers, a snack shop, and lawns on which people could play badminton, volleyball, and baseball.

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Tretyakov Viktor/Shutterstock

Source: “Walt Disney: An American Original


Outside of work, Disney also had a lifelong fascination with trains, and he even built a model steam engine and tracks that circled his house in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles.

Source: “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination,” The Walt Disney Family Museum


In a 1957 Time magazine profile, Disney claimed to have forgone vacations and worked 14 hours a day at certain points in his career.

Source: “Walt Disney: Conversations, Part 52


But as The Walt Disney Co. stabilized, Disney and Lillian took time away to go on cruises, take road trips, and visit resorts.

Source: “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination


Still, even as his company expanded and developed over the decades, he remained unable to stay away from it for long. “People often ask me if I know the secret of success and if I could tell others how to make their dreams come true,” he wrote in a 1959 edition of Wisdom magazine. “My answer is, you do it by working.”

source
Keystone / Stringer / Getty Images

Source: “Walt Disney: Conversations, Part 52,” “The Quotable Walt Disney