Top 10 Facts About Walt Disney
The name Walt Disney is synonymous with the sprawling billion-dollar business that supplies entertainment to dedicated fans, but who really was Walt Disney? Movies such as Saving Mr. Banks and Walt Before Mickey have given people a look into the life of the famous founder but it is still easy for the modern Disney fan to forget about the man behind the name since he himself is no longer in the spotlight. Although the Disney business has become something beyond what Walt Disney had originally planned, his creativity and whimsical imagination pervade everything that bares the famous logo. Whether people realize it or not, Walt Disney made everything from Snow White to Frozen possible and that deserves some serious recognition. In honor of the creator of Mickey, here are some interesting facts about Walt Disney:
1. The famous cartoonist learned how to draw by copying newspaper cartoons
Walt Disney’s father, Elias Disney, was an avid reader of an American Midwest newspaper called Appeal to Reason. As a child, Walt had little interest in the political editorials but he enjoyed looking at the front page cartoons. In a world without animated films or comic books, these cartoons were the only things similar to what Walt truly found interesting. The style demonstrated in the cartoons would reappear later on in Disney’s own cartoons.
2. Walt Disney’s animation studio was first called “Disney Brothers Studio”
Walt certainly wasn’t alone in his quest for animation success. His brother Roy was the business-minded half of their partnership, whereas Walt was the creative one. Roy’s public presence in the company was miniscule in comparison to Walt’s, since Roy’s responsibilities were mostly of a financial nature and therefore weren’t seen by the public. Still, Roy’s work with the company was just as important and helped skyrocket the Disney brothers to media success.
3. The famous Mickey Mouse design was co-created by Walt Disney and his friend Ub Iwerks
Not many people are familiar with Ub Iwerks, even though Iwerks helped create one of the most iconic characters in history. The two developed the Mickey Mouse character in 1928 but because of creative differences, the two parted ways only a few years later. Fortunately, the two mended their relationship and Iwerks came back to Disney Studios in 1940 where he worked on various films and helped develop plans for Disneyland.
4. Mickey Mouse was originally voiced by Walt Disney
The famous high-pitched squeaky tone of the iconic character was first done by none other than Disney himself. After 1947, Mickey’s voice actor would periodically change but Disney decided the original “blueprint” for Mickey’s voice. For the first appearance of Mickey Mouse, and the first credited mention of Walt Disney as a voice actor, check out the short film Steamboat Willie.
5. Disney’s wife, Lillian Bounds, gave her husband’s famous mouse a name
Originally, Disney had planned for his mouse cartoon character to be named Mortimer Mouse but his wife deemed the name too depressing for children. Instead, she offered the name “Mickey” which both she and Disney found to be more whimsical and fitting.
6. During World War II, Disney used his company to create instruction films for the military
Although the Disney Company was not in the best financial situation at the beginning World War II, Walt decided it was important that he and his company assist in the war effort. He created the Walt Disney Training Films Unit, which solely worked on instruction films for the military and propaganda films for the American public. He even won an Academy Award in 1943 for his short propaganda film, Der Fuehrer’s Face.
7. Disney helped plan the 1960 Winter Olympics and the 1964 New York World’s Fair
For years, Walt Disney was solely interested in animation and movie making. Since childhood, he loved drawing and making art, so the evolution to animation made perfect sense. But, after numerous movie successes (including Snow White in 1937 and Cinderella in 1950) Disney decided he wanted to try working in the amusement park industry. The Olympics and the World’s Fair were the perfect ways to become more familiar with the physical nature of live entertainment. Disney designed the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1960 Winter Olympics in California, which helped him a few years later when he began planning his second theme park: Walt Disney World.
8. After moving to a suburban neighborhood, Disney created a functioning railroad in his backyard
Never the man to cease creating, Disney immediately began plans to build a miniature, but rideable, steam railroad in the backyard of his newly-purchased Holmby Hills house in Los Angeles in 1949. He named it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, after the road the home was located on and he named the miniature steam locomotive Lilly Belle after his wife. Walt Disney’s lifelong fascination with trains encouraged him to spend months and months meticulously building the cars required for the realistic railroad. Although the CPRR has long since been placed in a museum, the designers at Disneyland have made sure to include elements of Walt Disney’s beloved railroad in many of the park’s attractions.
9. Disney’s original plans for EPCOT were very different than what was eventually made
Before his death in 1966, Walt Disney had begun working on plans for his second amusement park: Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, Disney was unable to fully flesh out his ideas and most of them were left half finished. One of the most thought out ideas was of the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” or EPCOT. Disney wanted the center of Disney World to function as a constantly evolving glimpse into the future. EPCOT was supposed to encourage American industry to strive towards better urban living – something that Disney found particularly interesting. The Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World bares the same name as Disney’s original plan but it differs conceptually. However, early Disney designers did manage to squeeze in some of Walt Disney’s final plans by adding the Tommorrowland themed section to Magic Kingdom. The futuristic land parallels what Disney wanted to accomplish with EPCOT perfectly.
10. Disney had to fail many, many times before he finally made it
When looking at all of the success surrounding the Disney name, it’s easy to forget all of the work it took to make something as amazing and fantastical as the Walt Disney Company. Many of Walt Disney’s original ventures were complete failures but none of those failures caused his dream to falter. Instead, he became even more determined to do well in the cut throat world of animation. If he had given up at the beginning, after being laid off one of his first jobs, none of the movies and magic loved by so many people today would exist.
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Special thanks to Peyton Hinkle for writing this article! My name is Peyton Hinckle and I am Junior at UNC-Chapel Hill where I am currently studying English and Studio Art. I’ve been an avid Disney fan since I was little, with a special appreciation for everything creative, colorful, and geeky. Some of my favorite Disney characters include Princess Aurora, Moana, and Marvel’s Avengers.