By MARINE JABBOUR
Walt Disney was an American film and television producer and showman who is best known as the developer of Disneyland Park in California and a cartoon pioneer. Learn everything there is to know about the guy who built an empire in this essay…
Flash Back:Who was Walt Disney?
Walt Disney was born in the town of Hermosa, Illinois, on December 5, 1901. Walt Disney Productions, which he co-founded with his brother Roy, is today one of the most well-known film production firms in the world.
Disney was an inventive animator who invented the Mickey Mouse cartoon character. In his lifetime, he won 22 Oscars and founded Disneyland and Walt Disney World amusement parks.
Disney spent most of his boyhood in Marceline, Missouri, where he began drawing, painting, and selling images to his neighbors and relatives. His family relocated to Kansas City in 1911, where Disney developed an interest in railways.
Mike Martin, his uncle, was a railroad engineer who operated between Fort Madison, Iowa, and Marceline, Missouri. Later, throughout the summer, Disney worked for the railroad, selling snacks and newspapers to train passengers.
Disney attended Chicago’s McKinley High School, where he studied art and photography. He attended lessons at the Chicago Art Institute in the evenings. Disney walked out of school at 16 to join the military but was turned down due to his age.
Chicago’s McKinley High School
Instead, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to drive an ambulance in France for a year. In 1919, he returned to the United States.
Walt Disney’s early animated films
Disney relocated to Kansas City in 1919 to seek a job as a newspaper illustrator. He met cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwwerks, better known as Ub Iwerks, at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where his brother Roy obtained him a job.
Disney went on to work at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he created ads using cut-out cartoons. Disney chose to start their own animation studio during this period. He hired Fred Harman as his first employee from the advertising firm.
The agreement with a small Kansas City theater
Walt and Harman struck an agreement with a small Kansas City theater to screen their Laugh-O-Grams cartoons.
These were so popular that Disney was able to purchase its own studio, Laugh-O-Gram, and give it the same name. Hugh and Iwerks, Harman’s brother, were among the staff he hired.
They created the Alice Comedies, a series of seven-minute fairy tales that mixed live-action and animation. However, in 1923, the studio became insolvent due to debt, and Disney had to file for bankruptcy.
The Disney Brothers Studio and Roy Disney
Soon after, Disney and his brother Roy pooled their funds and relocated to Hollywood. Iwerks followed his brothers to California, where the Disney Brothers Studio was founded.
The Disney Brothers Studio
Mickey Mouse, created by Walt Disney
Disney realized Winkler and her husband, Charles Mintz, had stolen the rights to Oswald, as well as all of Disney’s animators, save Ub Iwerks, a few years later.
The Disney brothers, their wives, and Ub Iwerks made three cartoons starring a new character Walt had created named Mickey Mouse early on.
Plane Crazy and Mickey Gaucho, two silent films for which they failed to locate a cast, were the first animated shorts featuring Mickey.
When sound became available in cinema, Disney produced Steamboat Willie, a third short that used sound and music equipment. The animation created a stir when Walt was cast as Mickey’s voice.
Commercial success for Walt Disney films
The Silly Symphonies, which included Mickey’s new friends Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto, were first released in 1929.
“Trees and Flowers,” one of the most popular cartoons, was the first to be created in color and to win an Academy Award.
In the depths of the Great Depression, The Three Little Pigs and its title tune “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” became a national theme in 1933.
The earliest Disney feature films
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animated feature picture, debuted in Los Angeles on December 21, 1937. Despite the Depression, it grossed an incredible $1.499 million and received eight Academy Awards.
Walt Disney Studios produced another series of animated feature pictures during the next five years, including Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1942), Toy Story (1943), Bambi (1941), Dumbo (1940), and Dumbo (1942).
Walt Disney Studios constructed a new facility in Burbank in December 1939. However, the corporation suffered a setback in 1941 when Disney artists went on strike.
Many of them left, and the firm would take years to fully recover. He subsequently returned his concentration to animated feature films.
In 1950, Cinderella was released, followed by Treasure Island (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and 101 Dalmatians (1960). (1961). His studio has produced more than 100 feature films in total.
For further reading
- Walt Disney and us, Bertrand Mary, ed. CalmannLevy, 2004
- Walt Disney. The Biography, Neal Gabler, ed. Aurum, 2007 (The most complete biography to date, written by a Hollywood specialist)
- Walt Disney, American Experience, PBS, 2015 (A documentary of more than three hours on the creator of Mickey. Viewable on YouTube)