When Walt was four years old, the family moved from Chicago to Marceline in Missouri. The Disneys remained in Marceline for four years, before moving to Kansas City in 1911. There, Walt and his younger sister Ruth attended the Benton Grammar School where he met Walter Pfeiffer. The Pfeiffers were theatre aficionados, and introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. Soon, Walt was spending more time at the Pfeiffers' than at home. During this time he attended Saturday courses as a child at the Kansas City Art Institute. While they were living in Kansas City, Walt and Ruth Disney were also regular visitors of Electric Park, 15 blocks from their home (Disney would later acknowledge the amusement park as a major influence of his design of Disneyland).
In 1917 Elias Disney moved his family back to Chicago, because he had gotten a part of a factory.
Under World War I Walt Disney drove ambulance in France for the Red Cross.
In January 1920, Disney and Iwerks formed a short-lived company called, "Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists". However, following a rough start, Disney left temporarily to earn money at Kansas City Film Ad Company, and was soon joined by Iwerks who was not able to run the business alone.While working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animation, Disney took up an interest in the field of animation, and decided to become an animator. He was allowed by the owner of the Ad Company, A.V. Cauger, to borrow a camera from work, which he could use to experiment with at home. After reading a book by Edwin G. Lutz, called Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origin and Development, he found cel animation to be much more promising than the cutout animation he was doing for Cauger. Walt eventually decided to open his own animation business, and recruited a fellow co-worker at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, Fred Harman, as his first employee. Walt and Harman then secured a deal with local theater owner Frank L. Newman — arguably the most popular "showman" in the Kansas City area at the time — to screen their cartoons — which they titled "Laugh-O-Grams" — at his local theater.
Unfortunately, with all his high employee salaries unable to make up for studio profits, Walt was unable to successfully manage money. As a result, the studio became loaded with debt and wound up bankrupt. Disney then set his sights on establishing a studio in the movie industry's capital city, Hollywood, California.
Disney and his brother pooled together their money and bought a studio in Hollywood for their new Alice-comedies. Their studio remained there until 1939. In 1925, Disney hired a young woman named Lillian Bounds to ink and paint celluloid. After a brief period of dating her, the two got married the same year.
After losing the rights on Oswald the lucky rabbit to Oswald, Disney felt the need to develop a new character to replace him. He based the character on a mouse he had adopted as a pet while working in his Laugh-O-Gram studio in Kansas City. However, Mickey's voice and personality was provided by Disney until 1947.
After the release of Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney would continue to successfully use sound in all of his future cartoons, and Cinephone became the new distributor for Disney's early sound cartoons as well. Mickey soon eclipsed Felix the Cat as the world's most popular cartoon character. By 1930, Felix, now in sound, had faded from the screen, as his sound cartoons failed to gain attention. Mickey's popularity would now skyrocket in the early 1930s.
By 1932, Mickey Mouse had become quite a popular cinema character, but Silly Symphonies was not as successful. The same year also saw competition increase as Max Fleischer's flapper cartoon character, Betty Boop, would gain more popularity among theater audiences. Fleischer was considered to be Disney's main rival in the 1930s, and was also the father of Richard Fleischer, whom Disney would later hire to direct his 1954 film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Meanwhile, Columbia Pictures dropped the distribution of Disney cartoons and was replaced by United Artists. In late 1932, Herbert Kalmus, who had just completed work on the first three-strip technicolor camera, approached Walt and convinced him to redo Flowers and Trees, which was originally done in black and white, with three-strip Technicolor. Flowers and Trees would go on to be a phenomenal success and would also win the first Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons for 1932. After Flowers and Trees was released, all future Silly Symphony cartoons were done in color as well. Disney was also able to negotiate a two-year deal with Technicolor, giving him the sole right to use three-strip Technicolor, which would also eventually be extended to five years as well. Through Silly Symphonies, Disney would also create his most successful cartoon short of all time, The Three Little Pigs, in 1933.The cartoon ran in theaters for many months, and also featured the hit song that became the anthem of the Great Depression, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf".
In 1932, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of "Mickey Mouse", whose series was made into color in 1935 and soon launched spin-off series for supporting characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto; Pluto and Donald would immediately get their individual cartoons in 1937,and Goofy would get solo cartoons in 1939 as well.Of all of Mickey's partners, Donald Duck—who first teamed with Mickey in the 1934 cartoon, Orphan's Benefit—was arguably the most popular, and went on to become Disney's second most successful cartoon character of all time.
The Disneys' first attempt at pregnancy ended up in Lillian having a miscarriage. When Lillian Disney became pregnant again, she gave birth to a daughter, Diane Marie Disney, on December 18, 1933. The Disneys adopted Sharon Mae Disney (December 31, 1936 – February 16, 1993).
In 1934 and 1935 Disney and his studio began their first full length movie; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The success of Snow White, (for which Disney received one full-size, and seven miniature Oscar statuettes) allowed Disney to build a new campus for the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, which opened for business on December 24, 1939; Snow White was not only the peak of Disney's success, but it also ushered in a period that would later be known as the Golden Age of Animation for Disney. The feature animation staff, having just completed Pinocchio, continued work on Fantasia and Bambi and the early production stages of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Wind in the Willows while the shorts staff continued work on the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto cartoon series, ending the Silly Symphonies at this time. Animator Fred Moore had redesigned Mickey Mouse in the late 1930s, when Donald Duck began to gain more popularity among theater audiences than Mickey Mouse.
Pinocchio and Fantasia followed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into the movie theaters in 1940, but both were financial disappointments. The inexpensive Dumbo was planned as an income generator, but during production of the new film, most of the animation staff went on strike, permanently straining the relationship between Disney and his artists.
By the late 1940s, the studio had recovered enough to continue production on the full-length features Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, both of which had been shelved during the war years, and began work on Cinderella, which became Disney's most successful film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. On a business trip to Chicago in the late-1940s, Disney drew sketches of his ideas for an amusement park where he envisioned his employees spending time with their children. He got his idea for a children's theme park after visiting Children's Fairyland in Oakland, California. This plan was originally meant for a plot located south of the Studio, across the street. The original ideas developed into a concept for a larger enterprise that was to become Disneyland. Disney spent five years of his life planning Disneyland.
Disneyland officially opened on July 18, 1955. On Sunday, July 17, 1955, Disneyland hosted a live TV preview, among the thousands of people who came out for the preview were Ronald Reagan, Bob Cummings and Art Linkletter, who shared cohosting duties, as well as the mayor of Anaheim. Walt gave the following dedication day speech:
|“||To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past .... and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America ... with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.|
As the studio expanded and diversified into other media, Disney devoted less of his attention to the animation department, entrusting most of its operations to his key animators, whom he dubbed the Nine Old Men. During Disney's lifetime, the animation department created the successful Lady and the Tramp (in CinemaScope, 1955), Sleeping Beauty (in Super Technirama 70mm, 1959), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and The Sword in the Stone (1963).
After decades of pursuing, Disney finally procured the rights to P.L. Travers' books about a magical nanny. Mary Poppins, released in 1964, was the most successful Disney film of the 1960s and featured a memorable song score written by Disney favorites, the Sherman Brothers.
In early 1964, Disney announced plans to develop another theme park located a few miles west of Orlando, Florida which was to be called Disney World. Disney World was to include a larger, more elaborate version of Disneyland which was to be called the Magic Kingdom. It would also feature a number of golf courses and resort hotels. The heart of Disney World, however, was to be the Experimental Prototype City (or Community) of Tomorrow, or EPCOT for short.
In 1966, Disney was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair an old neck injury caused by many years of playing polo at the Riviera Club in Hollywood. On November 2, during pre-operative X-rays, doctors at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, across the street from the Disney Studio, discovered a tumor in his left lung. Five days later he underwent biopsy of the tumor, which proved to be malignant, and to have spread throughout the entire left lung. After removal of the lung, doctors informed Disney that his life expectancy was six months to two years. After several chemotherapy sessions, Disney and his wife spent a short amount of time in Palm Springs, California. On November 30, Disney collapsed in his home. He was revived by fire department personnel and rushed to St. Joseph's. On December 15, 1966, at 9:30 a.m., ten days after his 65th birthday, Disney died of acute circulatory collapse, caused by lung cancer.
Walt Disney was a pioneer in animation technology and story telling. After his death the animation department did not fully recover from his absence until the late 1980's and early 1990's in a period known as the "Disney Renaissance". The films made during this time included Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. In 1995 when Disney distributed Pixar's Toy Story, (the first feature length computer animated film) Roy E. Disney claimed that Walt would of loved it for it's story, characters and technological advancements.
In 2004, Disney released what was announced as their final "traditionally animated" feature film, Home on the Range. However, since the 2006 acquisition of Pixar, and the resulting rise of John Lasseter to Chief Creative Officer, that position has changed, and the largely successful 2009 film The Princess and the Frog has marked Disney's return to traditional hand-drawn animation (hiring back most of the fired staff). Today Disney uses both Tradditional and Computer animation and animation today (Including animated films from other studios) are strongly influenced by the animated films that Walt Disney produced.
To read more of Walt Elias Disney; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney