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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Weird Wednesdays: Elias Disney's Soda Company

Walt Disney's earliest memories of his father weren't the greatest. Elias Disney was a tough man whose behavior would probably be seen as abuse these days. He never really supported Walt in his artistic endeavors and saw his sons as free workers who could help him with his various money making ventures. Walt Disney's oldest brothers ran away from home as teenagers to get out of Elias' grip.

Even after Walt and Roy had gained worldwide fame due to their famous studio, Elias would heap doubt upon them. He thought that the expansion his sons planned after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a mistake and instead of expressing pride in the fabulous studio his sons were building in Burbank, wondered aloud what they would do if the company failed. Walt joked that he could always convert the studio into a hospital, but the constant doubts weighed on him. Making one of the greatest films ever produced hadn't earned him the respect he sought from his father.

Knowing this, it's hard to see Elias as a sympathetic person. Certainly he did what he thought was best, but he's hardly the sort of person to base a company around. Yet rising from the ashes of one of his business failures is the new O'Zell Company, which has made him their mascot.

Drink this soda, kids or I'll make myself a switch and beat you with it!

O'Zell was a venture that Elias invested in as a way to capitalize on the non-alcoholic beverage craze that was foreseen as more and more states adopted prohibition. Elias had expected Walt to support this family business by working at the plant. As it turned out, while the demand for non-alcoholic beverages did take off, the world wasn't quite ready for O'Zell. (Plus the guy running the place was probably a con artist who just wanted to rip off investors like Elias Disney.) Isn't that just the perfect backstory for a company?

The company is supporting efforts to restore Walt Disney's Birthplace in Chicago, so it's all for a good cause, but using Elias as a company mascot is a bit strange. It's not like any other soft drink company used an unsympathetic spokesperson.

Oh wait...