American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur and entertainer “Walt” Disney was born December 5th, 1901. In 1906, when Walt was four, Elias and his family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri, where his brother Roy had recently purchased farmland. In Marceline, Disney developed his love for drawing a family with a neighbor named “Doc” Sherwood, paying him to draw pictures of Sherwood’s horse, Rupert. The Disney family moved to Kansas City in 1911 where Walt and his younger sister Ruth attended the Benton Grammar School. At school he met Walter Pfeiffer who introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. Before long Walt was spending more time at the Pfeiffers’ than at home. Walt also attended Saturday courses at the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1917, The Disney family moved to Chicago. Walt went to McKinley High School and took night courses at the Chicago Art Institute. He became the cartoonist for the school newspaper, drawing patriotic topics and focusing on World War I. in 1919 Walt moved back to Kansas City to begin his artistic career. He decided on a career as a newspaper artist, drawing political caricatures or comic strips. Walt also worked briefly at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio where he met cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks and they decided to start their own company together called, “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists”. However Disney left temporarily to earn money at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, and was soon joined by Iwerks who was not able to run their business alone. While working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animations, Disney became interested in animation, and decided to become an animator.
After reading the Edwin G. Lutz book Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origin and Development, Disney considered cel animation instead of cutout animation & opened his own animation business, and recruited a fellow co-worker Fred Harman, as his first employee. Walt and Harman then secured a deal with local theater owner Frank L. Newman, to screen their cartoons at his local theater, which they titled Laugh-O-Grams, these soon became widely popular in the Kansas City area and through their success, he was able to acquire his own studio, also called Laugh-O-Gram. Disney and his brother Roy pooled their money and set up a cartoon studio in Hollywood. Disney sent an unfinished print of his Alice Comedies to a New York distributor, who was keen on a distribution deal for more live-action/animated shorts based upon Alice’s Wonderland. These, proved reasonably successful & By the time the series ended in 1927, its focus was more on the animated characters and in particular a cat named Julius who resembled Felix the Cat, rather than the live-action Alice. In 1927 Disney created a new animated series, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was an almost instant success, and the character, Oswald became a popular figure. Sadly Disney lost the rights to Oswald and After this he developed a new character to replace him, which was based on a mouse he had adopted as a pet while working in his Laugh-O-Gram studio in Kansas City. Ub Iwerks reworked the sketches made by Disney to make the character easier to animate although Mickey’s voice and personality were provided by Disney himself until 1947. In the words of one Disney employee, “Ub designed Mickey’s physical appearance, but Walt gave him his soul.” Besides Oswald and Mickey, a similar mouse-character is seen in the Alice Comedies, which featured “Ike the Mouse”. Moreover, the first Flip the Frog cartoon called Fiddlesticks showed a Mickey Mouse look-alike playing fiddle.
Originally named “Mortimer”, the mouse was later re-christened “Mickey”. Mortimer later became the name of Mickey’s rival for Minnie – taller than Mickey and speaking with a Brooklyn accent. The first animated short to feature Mickey, Plane Crazy was a silent film as was the follow-up, The Gallopin’ Gaucho. Disney then created a Mickey cartoon with sound called Steamboat Willie, which became an instant success. Plane Crazy, The Galloping Gaucho, and all future Mickey cartoons were released with soundtracks and Mickey’s popularity skyrocketed during the early 1930s. Following in the footsteps of Mickey Mouse series, a series of musical shorts titled, Silly Symphonies were released in 1929. The first, The Skeleton Dance was entirely drawn and animated by Iwerks. By 1932,the popularity of Silly Symphonies was decreasing. and Max Fleischer’s flapper cartoon character, Betty Boop, was also gaining popularity among theater audiences. The black and white cartoon Flowers and Trees was reshot in three-strip Technicolor, and went on to be a phenomenal success as well as winning the first Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons in 1932. Through Silly Symphonies, Disney also created his most successful cartoon short of all time, The Three Little Pigs, which ran in theaters for many months and featured the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”.
In 1932, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of “Mickey Mouse”, a series which switched to color in 1935 and soon launched spin-offs for supporting characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. Pluto and Donald became standalone cartoons in 1937, with Goofy following in 1939. Of all Mickey’s partners, Donald Duck, who first teamed up with Mickey in the 1934 cartoon, Orphan’s Benefit, was the most popular & became Disney’s second most successful cartoon character of all time. in 1934 Disney began planning a full-length animated feature-length version of Snow White, using the Silly Symphonies as a platform for experiments in realistic human animation, distinctive character animation, special effects, and the use of specialized processes and apparatus.Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs went into full production in 1934 & premiered on December 21, 1937 . At its conclusion Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs received a standing ovation & went on to become the most successful motion picture of 1938, Following the success of Snow White, Disney received one full-size, and seven miniature Oscar statuettes. The success of Snow White ushered in a period known as the Golden Age of Animation. Pinocchio Bambi and Fantasia followed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into the movie theaters in 1940 and Dumbo was released in 1941 followed by The Three Caballeros In 1945. Meanwhile the shorts staff carried on working on the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto cartoon series. Disney was also asked to make an educational film about the Amazon Basin, which resulted in the 1944 animated short, The Amazon Awakens. During this period, Disney also ventured into full-length dramatic films that mixed live action and animated scenes, including Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart. In the late 1940s, work began on Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and Peter Pan. In 1948 the studio also made a series of live-action nature films, titled True-Life Adventures.
On a business trip to Chicago in the late-1940s, Disney drew sketches of his ideas for an amusement park where he envisioned his employees spending time with their children. The idea for a children’s theme park came after a visit to Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, California. It also said that Disney may have been inspired to create Disneyland in the park Republic of the Children, Argentina. The theme park was originally intended to be built on a plot located across the street to the south of the studio. These original ideas developed into a concept for a larger enterprise that would become Disneyland, and On Sunday, July 17, 1955, Disneyland was officially opened to the public. As Walt Disney Productions began work on Disneyland, it also began expanding its other entertainment operations. In 1950, Treasure Island became the studio’s first all-live-action feature, soon followed by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Parent Trap. The studio also produced its first TV special, One Hour in Wonderland. During the 1960’s Disney made Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone. In early 1964, Disney announced plans to develop another theme park to be called Disney World a few miles southwest of Orlando, Florida. Disney World was to include “the Magic Kingdom”, a larger, more elaborate version of Disneyland. It would also feature a number of golf courses and resort hotels. The heart of Disney World, however, was to be the Experimental Prototype City (or Community) of Tomorrow, known as EPCOT for short.
Walt Disney was a chain smoker his entire adult life, during pre-operative X-rays, doctors discovered a tumor in his left lung. Five days later a biopsy showed the tumor to be malignant and to have spread throughout the entire left lung. After removal of the lung, doctors informed Disney that his life expectancy was six months to two years. After several chemotherapy sessions, Disney and his wife spent a short amount of time in Palm Springs, California. On November 30, Disney collapsed at his home and rushed to St. Joseph’s where on December 15, 1966, at 9:30 am, ten days after his 65th birthday, Disney died of acute circulatory collapse, caused by lung cancer in Burbank, California. The final productions in which Disney played an active role were the animated feature The Jungle Book and the animated short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, as well as the live-action musical feature The Happiest Millionaire, all released in 1967. During his lifetime he received four honorary Academy Awards and won 22 Academy Awards from a total of 59 nominations, including a record four in one year, giving him more awards and nominations than any other individual in history. Disney also won seven Emmy Awards. In 1967 construction began on Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. His brother Roy Disney inaugurated the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. and he also gave his name to the Disneyland in the U.S., as well as the international resorts Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.