This is How Disney Nurtures a Culture of Innovation


Behold, the business of magic.

Mickey Mouse waving during a parade

Direct from the house of mouse, Kylie Watson-Wheeler, senior vice president and MD at The Walt Disney Company, Australia and New Zealand, shares how Disney nurtures a culture of ideas and innovation, capitalises on ‘new nostalgia’ and keeps the magic alive through answering (and predicting) the ever-evolving needs of digital consumers.

It always starts with a great story, so that’s at the centre of everything

One of the things that we’ve been at the cutting edge of, for many years, is the way in which that story is delivered to consumers. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the first ever animated full-length feature film and Disney-Pixar Toy Story was the first ever computer animated film. Our recent acquisitions are Marvel and Lucas Film – Lucas Film also have ILM, Industrial Light and Magic, which is the industry’s leading special effects house, [and] we were the first business to stream content on iTunes. So we’re very much at that cutting-edge focus of ensuring that the way in which consumers are receiving our content is the way in which they want to in an evolving space and industry.

“Our content is timeless, and that’s important.”

A great idea can come from anywhere

We brief the entire team on things that we’re working on and there’s a call out [for ideas]. We have something we call an incubator program where we bring people together from all around the business and their different levels and skill-sets to tackle a specific area, idea, or challenge. The group then is given time and resources to really dig into that issue over the course of several months, and then they have the opportunity to present that back to our leadership team.

We also have intraprenEARS, a shark-tank style innovation program

Obviously a warm and friendly shark tank, but it’s an innovative competition where employees get to move outside their comfort zone and area of business and expand their skills by working across teams. Basically they’re pitching for seed money to be able to bring that idea to life, and we’ve had some absolutely phenomenal ideas come out of it.

Kylie Watson-Wheeler

As a business we’re an ‘act quickly, fail fast’ company

There is definitely a culture of preparedness to try new things, think outside the box and innovate, and that’s something very much at the core of how we operate.

Our content is timeless, and that’s important

But all of our brands [Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucas Film] are elastic. They appeal to multiple demographics, multiple age groups, males and females – the appeal is very broad – and as a result we’re able to continue to evolve and stretch our content to maintain that appeal, and continue that extended reach.

Beauty and the Beast is a story that was held in the hearts of consumers when they were young

The story still really means something to them. That’s something that we call new nostalgia. Belle has been explored more deeply and that additional depth of character has made her more relevant to women of today. In addition, technology has allowed us to bring to life that film in a new way. The content remains really relevant because it’s able to remain true to its original story, but evolve with both the audience and modern society.


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