Book Jeff

The Wisdom of Walt D’Isigny

Statistically, the name is not at all common, yet it seems everyone knows the name “Disney.” Out of 350 million plus people in the United States, fewer than 5,000 have the surname Disney. Nonetheless, it is a name synonymous with success. Why? Because of a man, a mouse, his movies, his theme parks, and unrivaled excellence in hospitality and customer service. Today, Disney isn’t just a name but also a brand. A brand that represents the world’s largest entertainment company with Walt Disney World being America’s largest single-site employer and the most popular vacation destination on the planet.

You see, there is more to the name, more to the story, and more to the brand than what you’ve experienced as a Disney fan watching the latest movie or as a Disney guest walking through your favorite park. And that’s the point behind The Wisdom of Walt. My mission is to give readers and audiences more than just the Disney marketing, i.e., that its parks are just an escape and a place where “Dreams Come True.” Instead, I go behind the stories, behind the shared guest experience, to create actionable narratives that can transform businesses, transform teams, and transform lives. Then, the parks become more than just an escape, but an example. You learn how to leverage the themed lands you love and start seeing your own dreams come true!

For example, did you know that Walt’s family name is honored via the family crest that adorns Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland? His family roots reach as far back as the Norman conquest of England in 1066; Walt’s ancestor Hughes D’Isigny fought as a knight during the Battle of Hastings and later settled in Ireland. The surname originally meant that Hughes was from the small, French Norman town of Isigny. By the time Walt’s great-grandfather emigrated to Canada, the family was spelling their name “Disney.” Walt’s father, Elias, was born in Canada in 1859. Walt Disney, of course, would be born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 5, 1901.

Like you, Walt wasn’t born successful. His life was an endless cycle of failure and success, followed by more failure. Sound oddly familiar? His story teaches us how to rise above the conflicts, setbacks, and challenges that come both in business and life. And just like Walt, at every hint of crisis, we too have choices—we can panic or pivot, implode or innovate, retreat or be resourceful. Looking at Walt’s inspiring life allows us to lean in and discover the compelling transformations that are paramount to realizing our dreams and goals. When you hire a Disney speaker, when you hire me to speak on The Wisdom of Walt, you and your team will be encouraged and motivated as, together, we explore how Walt’s deliberate choices laid the foundation for a legacy of leadership and success.

When your people hear the name “Disney,” chances are they think loveable mouse and magical lands. When they hear that a Disney speaker will be at their event, you can bet that they will be excited because the name and brand is associated with fun and fantasy. Before hearing the first word, they already know they will be both entertained and educated. “Edutained” as Walt himself liked to call it! Key takeaways from my magical presentations include:

  • Discovering little-known turning points in the life of Walt Disney and how failure was his springboard to a life of creativity and innovation.
  • Learning how setbacks can be the catalyst to becoming the hero of your own story.
  • Exploring how limiting beliefs are the biggest obstacle to realizing your goals and how to defeat them so you can achieve lasting success.

Now that live events have finally returned, I look forward to seeing you at a conference, association meeting, or workshop near you. I love talking about Walt Disney, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World. And if you see the name “Barnes” on your upcoming agenda, there’s a one in 250,000 chance that it’s me!


“He affects all of us. No one is untouched by Walt Disney.”

— PBS Documentary The American Experience: Walt Disney


Hire Jeff Barnes, a top Disney and Leadership Keynote Speaker.




We use cookies on this website. To learn about the cookies we use and information about your preferences and opt-out choices, please click here. By using our website, you agree to the use of our cookies.