Walt Disney was an American animator, director, and creator of many movies including favorites and classics such as Cinderella, Dumbo, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He had humble beginnings and even volunteered in the Red Cross in France for a year. Even in Walt’s darkest financial times, he persisted, allowing him to create many animations, and movies, that so many Americans love today.
Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901, as Walter Elias Disney to Flora and Elias Disney. Walt lived on a farm in Marceline, Missouri where he enjoyed drawing art and pictures. After a short while on the farm, his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Walt ran a newspaper route for the Kansas City Times. His family moved once again to Chicago, Illinois where he attended McKinley High School. Walt had a hard time concentrating and paying attention in school but was still interested in art. (Stewart, Whitney, and Nancy Harrison Say in Who was Walt Disney pg. 11)
Author Bob Thomas says in The Walt Disney Documentary that “Walt was thoroughly decided that he wanted to do something with his art.” After dropping out of high school, Walt signed up for the military, but he was unable to join the military because he was too young. Instead, at the age of 16, Walt began working with the Red Cross where he drove an ambulance in France.
After his job at the Red Cross, Walt returned to Kansas City, where he worked as a commercial artist for a newspaper called the Kansas City Star. Walt usually got only one column in the newspaper. This is considered the humble beginning of Walt’s art career. Walt then got a job at an art studio. While at the studio, he met a man named Ub Iwerks. Ub was very talented and helped him with his artwork. Walt eventually began his own animation studio, Laugh O Gram studio. While working at the studio, Walt also met his soon-to-be wife, Lillian Disney.
“Walt and Lillian would soon welcome their first child: Diane.”(Goldberg, Aaron “The Disney Story” pg.8) Then Walt’s studio went bankrupt, forcing him to move to California with some of his family members. His brother, Roy, helped him start an animation studio which was called Disney Brothers’ Studio. Soon thereafter, Walt began experimenting with animated movies. His first movie was an animation/live-action hybrid was called Alice’s Wonderland. “It starred a four-year-old charmer who was already a model” – Virginia Davis. (Greene, Kathleen, Richard, Inside the Dream. Pg 24).
Walt’s first cartoon was made for the distributor Universal. It was called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Shortly after the release of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, Universal decided that they were not interested in Walt’s works.
Walt’s first cartoon that was not distributed by Universal was a sound cartoon (which was very impressive at that time) called Steamboat Willie. Steamboat Willie starred a friendly little mouse called Mortimer Mouse. Lilian, his wife, did not like the name Mortimer and she wanted him to change it to Mickey Mouse.
Because Alice’s Wonderland did not sell as expected, Walt moved on to full-length animated movies. Walt’s first full length animated movie was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White sold outstandingly well in theaters. Even though Walt experienced great success with Snow White, he kept creating other projects such as the experimental Fantasia. On the Houston Symphony website, the author says: “In the classical tradition, a fantasia is a free-form piece of music That resembles improvisation.” Fantasia was expensive to show due to it being presented in Fantasound which required theaters to be specially equipped. As of now, Fantasia was successful bringing in 76.4 Million USD.
After many successful movies, Walt wanted to build a theme park near Los Angeles. He settled on an area just south of Los Angeles called Anaheim, California. This is what we know today as Disneyland. Disneyland was as the Disney Company implies..”Disneyland Park is a beloved Southern California destination where generations of families have made their Disney dreams come true.” Walt had input in many attractions that are still there today such as Autopia, Peter Pan’s Flight and Mad Tea Party among many others.
After a few years of DIsneyland success, Walt wanted a new theme park. This land was to be called “The Florida Project”. Walt envisioned that along with a new theme park, there would be a living, thriving city called “The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” or EPCOT. This town would revolve around a Community Center which would contain a shopping mall, business center, and hotel. Surrounding the Community Center would be apartments and housing. To get around EPCOT people would use the Wedway People Movers and High-Speed Monorails. These would run on a continuous circuit through town. This means that the Monorails and Movers would never stop moving. The Wedway People mover were a tiny box like cars to move around the EPCOT center, while the Monorail would travel from the center to the housing units and back. Although Walt’s original vision of EPCOT did not occur, the People Movers and Monorails can still be found today at the Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort.
Sadly, Walt died at the age of 65, a few years before Walt Disney World opened. But many of Walt’s ideas still survive today, such as his belief that everything in the Disney parks should revolve around movies. Another idea still in existence is that the main employees and the park managers that create the content at the Disney parks should be called Imagineers.
Today, Disney is so much more. The Walt Disney Company builds parks around the world. It also purchased many popular movie franchises such as Star Wars, as well as Marvel. Walt Disney Animation Studios went on to make many other movies including favorites such as Cinderella, Lady, and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Currently, there is a pending deal which could result in a merger between Disney and 21st Century Fox Company. The 21st Century Fox company is a multimedia company that owns the 20th Century Fox movie company, National Geographic, and FOX.
Walt Disney has influenced our lives in more ways than one could imagine. Like the magic that comes from going to a Disney-Influenced place. So the next time you go to a Disney park or watch a Disney movie, be sure to think about the man behind the magic, Walt Disney.
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