Walt Disney or Walter Elias Disney was an American animator who revolutionized the field of animation into what it is today and is the founder of one of the most beloved film studios in the last and current century and also created the most iconic cartoon characters to grace the scene. He was born on December 5, 1901, in Chicago to Elias Disney, a farmer and businessman and Flora Disney. His father was a Canadian-Irish and mother was an American of German and English descent.
He was the fourth child born to the couple; he had three elder brothers Herbert, Raymond, Roy and had a younger sister named Ruth. In 1905, the Disney family moved to Marceline, Missouri which his uncle had purchased some land. It was in Marceline that Walter developed an interest in drawing and painting and made pictures which he sold to neighbors and friends. In 1911, the family shifted to Kansas City, Missouri. He served as a newspaper delivery boy for the kansas City, along with his brother, Roy and performed the job for six years.
He also attended Saturday courses at Kansas City Art School & took up a correspondence course in cartoons. In 1917, the family moved back to Chicago where Walter enrolled at McKinley High School and became a cartoonist for the school newspaper. During the First World War, Walter tried to join the army to fight against the Germans but got rejected as he was only 16 at the time and presented a forged birth certificate. He later joined the Red Cross and shipped to France where he drove an ambulance, on which he drew cartoons and also published his works in the Army newspaper, ‘Stars and Stripes.’ He returned to Kansas City in 1919 and started working as an apprentice artist at a company where he met future collaborator, the artist Ub Iwerks.
In 1920, Disney and Iwerks were laid off. Together, they begin their own business but failed after which Disney started working for Kansas City Film Ad. Here, he became interested in animation and began experimenting with cameras and animation. Later, he quit and opened a new business. They made a deal with a local theater to screen their cartoons, which were called Laugh-O-Grams, which became successful. Disney and company started Laugh-O-Grams studios, due to their success with the Laugh-O-Grams series of animated short. However,they were not enough to bring income needed to keep the company from closing. So Disney started production of Alice’s Wonderland, which combined live-action with animation. However, the company went bankrupt in 1923.
In 1923, Disney moved to Hollywood along with his brother Roy and his friendUb Iwerks. They sold their Alice cartoons to Margaret Winkler, a New York-based film distributor. Walter and his brother Roy started a new studio by the name of Disney Brothers Studio. This studio is now known as The Walt Disney Company. They continued production of Alice comedies, which ran from 1924 to 1927. During this time, Walt hired Lillian Bounds, an ink artist and after sharing a brief courtship, they got married in 1925. The couple hadtwo daughters.
Their first daughter Diane was born in 1933 and in 1936 they adopt Sharon as their second daughter. By 1926, Winkler handed over distribution duties to her husband, Charles Mintz, with whom Disney had a strained relationship. Charles Mintz wanted new material to distribute through Universal Studios, which led to Disney and Iwerks making Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The character became successful, and 26 more characters were developed.
However, Mintz started reducing payments to Disney Studios, stole the rights to Oswald and persuaded many of Disney’s animators to work for him, except for Ub Iwerks, who remained loyal to Disney. Thus, Disney lost his creation and his animators to Mintz. To replace Oswald, Disney and Iwerks started working on a new character, which was inspired by a pet mouse Disney owned. With Ub Iwerks drawing the basis of the character, Disney named the newly created character Mortimer Mouse. However, his wife asked for a cuter name and Mickey Mouse arrived. Mickey first debuted in the 1928 short film, ‘Plane Crazy’ and later in the 1929 short film, ‘The Galloping' Gaucho’. Both failed to find a movie distributor.
After the rise of sound films, Disney produced the third short film with Mickey Mouse called ‘Steamboat Willie’ with sound whichgot released in 1928 and Walt Disney voiced Mickey in it. It became popular and became a sensation throughout America. Due to the success of Steamboat Willie, Disney went on to produce a series of shorts called Silly Symphonies and continued producing more Mickey Mouse cartoons. Both Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies became hugely popular.
In 1932, Disney filmed Flowers and Trees, a cartoon short which used Technicolor and was the first cartoon with colour. It became a successful and Disney won an Academy Award for it in the 1932 Academy Awards. After that, all subsequent Silly Symphonies and Mickey Mouse cartoons were made in colour. Disney produced The Three Little Pigs in 1933, which also became popular and won him another Academy Award. By 1934, Disney got dissatisfied with the same formula of cartoon shorts, and he started a four-year long production on an animated full-length motion picture based on the fairy tale,’ Snow White.’ When news about this broke out, many thought that this would lead the studio to bankruptcy and called the entire project, “Disney’s folly” and indeed it was as it was going to be made in full color and sound and went over budget, three times.
During this time, he released a new Silly Symphony short called Old Mill in 1937, which used a technique called multiplane camera. It won Disney another Academy Award in 1937. Snow White released in December 1937, to critical and commercial success. The movie became the most successful movie of 1938 and became the highest grossing sound film by 1939. It also won Disney an honorary Academy Award. The success of Snow White ushered a year, which many believe as the “Golden Age of Animation.” He later produced Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi (1942).
However, there were setbacks due to loss of the European market due to the Second World War, leading to financial crisis and a strike in which many animators left the studio. During World War II, Disney made animated shorts featuring Donald Duck to sell war bond. The shorts became a success. They are now seen as classics and the best-animated shorts of Donald Duck. In 1950, he released Cinderella, an animated film and this saw the studio’s return to animated motion pictures. Later projects by Disney were live-action films like Treasure Island, 20000 Leagues under the Sea and animated films like Alice in Wonderland in 1951, Peter Pan in 1953, Lady and the Tramp in 1955, Sleeping Beauty in 1959 and 101 Dalmatians in 1961.
In total, Disney produced over 100 features. Disney also started focusing on using television as another form of entertainment and made Zorro, the
Davy Crockett series, and The Mickey Mouse Club House, which were very popular among children. Disney began television production and presented full-color programming with, Disney’s
Wonderful World of Color in 1961. Disney later produced a live-action movie called Mary Poppins in 1964, which was his last production, which was also a huge success.
During this time, Walt Disney handed over studio duties to his animation staff. He began plans to establish a theme park, where children and their parents can have fun.He acquired land in Anaheim, California and opened his theme park, Disneyland, which cost 17 million dollars to make. In 1966, Disney died on December 15, 1966, at the age of 65 from lung cancer. He was cremated in California. He won 26 Academy Awards and 1 Emmy Award and 3 Golden Globe Awards nominations. To this day, we remember Disney as the person who revolutionized a new form of entertainment. His cartoons are loved by many and are afantastical part of our childhood.