was the founder of the Walt Disney Company
and creator of some of the world's most
loved cartoon characters. His
media empire grew from the success of
a small animated mouse called Mickey Mouse.
The Disney empire went on to include many
popular cartoon characters, feature films,
theme parks, Hollywood studios, television
networks, and numerous other media assets.
Walter Elias Disney was born on the 5th
of December, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois.
His father Elias Disney was of Irish/Canadian
descent and his mother Flora Call Disney
was of German/American descent. Walt Disney
had three brothers and one sister. The
Disney family were raised on a farm in
Missouri, USA where the young Walter developed
an interest in drawing and trains.
The Disney family moved back to Chicago
where Walt attended the McKinley High
School and took night classes at the Chicago
Art Institute. At sixteen years of age
Walt Disney dropped out of school to join
the army but was knocked back because
of his age. Instead, he joined the Red
Cross and was shipped to France for one
year, where he drove an ambulance.
When Walt Disney returned from France
he moved to Kansas City where his brother
Roy Disney was working at a bank. Walt
went to work at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio
where he created commercial works for
magazines, newspapers, and movie theaters.
Disney briefly started a company with
the cartoonist Ub Iwerks, called "Iwerks-Disney
Commercial Artists". The venture
did not take off and the pair were forced
to seek alternative paths to put food
on the table. Disney and Iwwerks would
later work together in creating some of
the earliest popular Disney cartoon characters,
including "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit"
and "Mickey Mouse".
After the failure of the Iwwerks-Disney
Commercial Artists venture, Walt moved
to Hollywood in Los Angeles. He went into
partnership with his brother Roy and started
what would eventually become the Walt
Disney Company. His friend and previous
business partner Ub Iwerks also came to
Los Angeles and played an important role
in the success of the company. It was
here that Walt also met the young Lillian
Bounds, who would later become his wife.
The first success the company had was
with the "Alice Comedies" series,
which featured animated animals with a
real life girl. "Oswald the Lucky
Rabbit" was their second big success.
The "Lucky Rabbit" brought success,
but it also created a lot of problems
in the company, which saw Disney lose
many of his animators and the rights to
the Oswald trademark which was owned by
Universal. ("Oswald the Lucky
Rabbit" did eventually return to
the Disney company more than seventy years
later when the Walt Disney Company bought
the rights from NBC Universal in 2006.)
It was a squeaky sounding mouse with big
ears that would go on to be Walt Disney's
biggest success. "Mickey Mouse"
was born on the 18th of November, 1928.
Mickey first appeared in a silent short
called "Plane Crazy", but it
would be the "Steamboat Willie"
cartoon with sound that made Mickey Mouse
famous. Even though Walt Disney gets much
of the credit and acknowledgment for creating
the famous mouse, it is believed that
his friend Ub Iwerks actually created
Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was the voice
of Mickey Mouse up until 1946.
Mickey Mouse would go on to become a symbol
for the Walt Disney Company. The little
mouse that started the company appeared
in many cartoons, full feature films,
comic strips, books, video games, toys,
and was made into every piece of merchandise
imaginable. Mickey Mouse became bigger
than just the Walt Disney Company, and
even came to symbolize the country of
America. The mouse went on to become a
Other popular cartoon characters that
the Walt Disney Company went on to create
include Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Butch
the Bulldog, Scrooge McDuck, Clarabelle
Cow, and many more. The company also animated
other characters like Bambi, Cinderella,
Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo,
Hercules, and more.
The Walt Disney company received many
Academy award nominations and was nominated
for seven Emmys while Walt was alive.
Disney's company had to overcome challenges
like the workers strike in 1940, but the
company mostly grew forward in leaps and
bounds. The company went public in 1957
and continues to be a listed company on
the New York Stock Exchange to this day.
Disney was working on plans for a theme
park when he died from lung cancer complications
in 1966. His brother Roy would follow
his plans through and the Walt Disney
World theme park was opened to the public
in 1971. The company continued to grow
after the death of Walt Disney and is
now one of the largest media and entertainment
conglomerates in the world.
Walt Disney and Lilly Disney had two children
together. They gave birth to Diane Marie
Disney in 1933 and later adopted their
other daughter, Sharon Mae Disney who
was born in 1934.
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