Amazing Walt Disney Facts You Never Knew
Walt Disney is the man behind the magic that we all know and love. Even though it all started with a mouse, Walt Disney was able to expand upon his Disney empire with countless movies, attractions and beloved characters that have become an integral part of our lives. He is an enormous part of our culture and responsible for an infinite amount of smiles every day. Here are some amazing Walt Disney facts you probably never knew!
The Early Years
Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Illinois. When he was just four, his family moved to a farm in Missouri. It was here where he developed an interest in drawing and cartoons. When he was ten, his family moved to Kansas City. There, Walt met a boy in school named Walter Pfeiffer who introduced him to motion pictures. Walt spent a lot of time at Pfeiffer’s house due to his newfound fascination. To make money for the family, Disney and his brother Roy would wake up at the crack of dawn every morning in order to run a paper route. Due to the exhausting schedule, he performed poorly in school. At just 16-years-old, Walt illegally enlisted in the army. When he returned in 1919, he befriended artist Ub Iwerks, who he started his career in art and animation with.
Beginning His Career
After both being fired in 1920, Disney and Iwerks created their own company: Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. The business failed miserably, and both men joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company. After failing to get his boss to listen to his ideas, Walt and Fred Harman created a new company where they produced Laugh-O-Grams, which were short animated cartoons. As the old saying goes, history repeats itself; this company failed and filed for bankruptcy in 1923.
After moving to Los Angeles, where his brother Roy lived, Walt co-founded Disney Brothers Studios to produce films of Alice’s Wonderland, which were being made for New York film distributor Margaret J. Winkler. When Winkler’s husband, Charles Mintz, asked for new material, Disney and Iwerks had a groundbreaking creation. They produced Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who, in Disney’s words, would be “peppy, alert, saucy and venturesome, keeping him also neat and trim”. After losing the rights to Oswald, Disney and Iwerks created a new character: a mouse. While Disney suggested he be named Mortimer, his wife, Lillian, chimed in with Mickey. And thus, an empire was born.
Golden Age of Animation
Although the golden age of animation in the United States began in 1928, it was after 1934 that Disney began creating his best works. In 1934, he started the creation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film was very successful, winning Disney plenty of awards. After this, Disney started productions on Pinocchio and Fantasia, both of which underperformed at the box office due to the beginning of World War II. Beginning in the 1950’s, he began producing full versions of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. At around this same time, Disney began considering the idea of building a theme park, a place where both children and parents alike could have fun.
Disneyland and Walt Disney World
In 1954, Disney and his Imagineers began construction on Disneyland which opened the next year in Anaheim, CA. The park was instantly a success, amassing over 20,000 visitors a day and 3.6 million by the end of its first year. Despite this success, Disney continued to work on film and animation projects.
During his lifetime, Disney developed the ideas for Carousel of Progress, EPCOT, It’s a Small World, and many other aspects of the parks in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World that we still treasure to this day. Unfortunately, Walt did not live to see the opening of Walt Disney World, as he died five years before due to lung cancer. However, the new theme park exceeded everyone’s expectations in becoming “The Most Magical Place On Earth.”
After His Death
After Walt’s death, his brother Roy declined retirement to take over the Disney companies. Roy was responsible for transforming Walt’s vision of EPCOT as a futuristic city into more of a theme park, the one we know and love today. Since then, both Hollywood Studios (previously MGM Studios) and Animal Kingdom, as well as the water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, have been created. Walt Disney World is the most visited theme park in the world, with over 52 million annual visitors. Walt definitely had a very troubling life, but his imagination allowed him to make his dreams a reality, and his legacy will forever be cemented by his work in both animation and his theme parks.
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Special thanks to summer intern, Tyler Antonelle, for writing this article. Tyler is a high school senior from New Jersey. He loves everything about Disney, and has been to Walt Disney World 2-3 times a year since he was born. His passion for Disney is huge and he believes there is no better way to express that passion than to write about The Most Magical Place on Earth!