Walt Disney

Imagine a world without Mickey Mouse, a world without Donald Duck, a world without Disneyland. None of these entertainment icons would exist without their idealistic creator, Walt Disney. Walt changed the face of movies and television when his dreams of a whimsical bunch of cartoon characters came to life in the early part of the 20th century. A pioneer and visionary, Walt Disney’s ideas blossomed from mere pencil sketches to one of the most influential companies in the entertainment industry.

Walt, The Early Years

Elias Disney and his wife, Flora Call Disney, were blessed with a son they named Walter Elias Disney on December 5, 1901. The family lived in a small Irish community in Chicago until Walt was four, when they moved to a patch of farmland outside Marceline, Missouri. Walter’s interest in drawing was piqued by a neighbor who paid the young lad to draw pictures of his prized horse Walter. In 1911 the Disney family moved to Kansas City, where Walt was introduced to motion pictures by a fellow classmate. His artistic talents continued to grow, and his first pictures were published when he took a job as the cartoon editor for his school newspaper. Walt served a stint in the Red Cross after dropping out of high school at the age of sixteen, but came back to Kansas City after less than a year of service.

Animated Beginnings

Walt had trouble securing a job after his return from France, and eventually took a part-time position at the Pesman-Rubin Art Studio. He also took a position at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, in which he discovered his true passion as an animator. Walt branched out and started his own small animation company, producing “Newman Laugh-O-Grams,” a hit in the Kansas City area. The costs associated with the studio eventually became too high, and after the company went bankrupt, Walt decided it was time to move his operations to Hollywood. Walt’s personal life blossomed after the move, when he met and later married Lillian Bounds, and the pair eventually welcomed two daughters. His professional career also skyrocketed in Hollywood, thanks in no small part to his early characters, including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the undeniably iconic Mickey Mouse. 

Cartoons and More

Mickey Mouse, the brainchild of Walt and his brother Roy, came to life in 1928. He and his pals Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck starred in a number of short animated films over the next 5 years, when “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” put Walt Disney on the map as the world’s premier animation genius. The movie garnered worldwide acclaim, and gave the brothers enough money to build their state of the art animation studio in Burbank, California. Walt continued his animated film successes with such iconic films as Peter Pan and Fantasia, and later produced live-action hits including Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The popularity of the Disney Company couldn’t be contained to the screen and Disneyland was opened in 1955. Inspired by his father’s memories of the World’s Columbian Exposition and his daughters’ love of Griffith Park, Walt incorporated ideas from his most magical movie creations to build the massive amusement park. The Disneyland empire gave birth to the even larger Walt Disney World Resort in 1971, and similar parks in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris.

Not Quite The End

Walt was a prominent figure in every aspect of the Disney empire until his death. In November of 1966, a malignant lung tumor was discovered during a set of pre-operative x-rays. Doctors removed the left lung and discharged Walt with a life expectancy of six to 24 months. Walt fell ill at the end of November and passed away on December 15, 1966, a mere 10 days after he turned 65. His brother Roy resumed full control of the company until he passed away in 1971, shortly after dedicating Walt Disney World Resort in memory of his beloved brother. The Disney company legacy continues today, more than 40 years after the death of these remarkable siblings. The Walt Disney Company is still a leader in animation and live-action films, studying current industry trends and branching out into new technologies such as digital media and animation. Walt Disney’s dreams grew from a small animation studio into a global entertainment phenomenon, leaving an undeniable impression on the world.