Don Hahn's commencement speech Don Hahn's commencement speech

With the coronavirus impeding traditional graduation ceremonies, public figures have taken to delivering virtual commencement speeches to the class of 2020. Pharrell Williams and Ryan Reynolds have done it — and now Disney heavyweight Don Hahn has joined the club.

In a five-minute video posted to Youtube, Hahn — a veteran producer and key figure in Disney’s 1990s resurgence — delivers a few pearls of wisdom on the subject of success:

Hahn only addresses the crisis in passing, and doesn’t touch on its effects on education and the jobs market. He keeps his advice general. Be yourself. Take time to reflect on your achievements so far. Don’t expect to have your life mapped out already: “The way to find your dreams is to move.” Learn your craft, as “it’s a competitive world out there.” And, crucially, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

Hahn’s words carry weight, because he knows a thing or two about success. He has produced Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and several other major productions at Disney. Yet even he started at the bottom: as he explains, he joined Disney by taking a summer job in the 1970s, aged 20. “I asked questions, and I felt stupid,” he reflects. “But eventually I learned.”

The history of Disney’s renaissance, and Hahn’s role in it, are depicted in more detail in a 2009 documentary he directed, Waking Sleeping Beauty.

Who from the animation world would you like to hear give a commencement speech? Let us know in a comment below.

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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