Walt Disney is a name that is synonymous with magic, creativity, and innovation. Born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois, Disney was the fourth son of Elias and Flora Disney. From a young age, he had a passion for art and drawing, and this passion would eventually lead him to become one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the life and career of Walt Disney, and how he used his vision and determination to create some of the most beloved characters and stories in history.
Disney’s Early Life and Career
Disney had a difficult childhood, growing up in the harsh conditions of Kansas City. His father was an abusive alcoholic, and his mother was a strict disciplinarian. In 1906, the Disney family moved to Marceline, Missouri, where Walt experienced a peaceful childhood on a farm and fostered his passion for drawing. However, in 1910, due to his father’s poor health, they had to sell the farm. In 1911, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and Walt would wake up at 3:30 a.m. daily to deliver newspapers on his father’s paper route. At the age of 16, Walt Disney left high school to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps during World War I, but due to being underage, he altered his birth certificate to meet the minimum age requirement of 17. Walt Disney was sent to France in 1918, shortly after the armistice that ended World War I was signed.
While serving in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps, Walt Disney utilized his spare time to draw. He created sketches for the canteen menu, designs on the canvas ambulance flaps, and caricatures for his friends to send to their loved ones. He later remembered that, “I found out that the inside and outside of an ambulance is as good a place to draw as any.” He also sent illustrations and drawings along with humorous and heartfelt letters to his high school newspaper, The McKinley Voice. Additionally, Walt and another driver started a small side business, where they sold souvenirs to soldiers returning home. They collected German helmets and using his artistic skills, Walt converted them into authentic-looking battle-worn sniper helmets by adding bullet holes, scratches and even hair and dried blood to them, and they made a good amount of money from this venture.
Walt Disney spent around a year in France while serving with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps. He believed that his experiences during that time helped shape him into a better person, and gave him a deeper appreciation for the men and women in the armed forces. As a result, when World War II began, he dedicated all of his studio’s resources to support the war effort. He felt that his time in France had played a significant role in making him the successful person he was, and that motivated him to contribute to the war effort.
While there, he drove Red Cross officials and completed other tasks before being discharged in 1919. At the time, the Ambulance Corps had completed its work, and he returned home. It is worth noting that an urban legend that emerged after his death was that he was dishonorably discharged, but it’s not true as he was never in the military and therefore couldn’t be discharged in any way.
Walt Disney applied as a cartoonist for the Kansas City Star, but was turned down. His brother Roy suggested that he try the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art Studio and Walt got an interview there. Though he did not have a portfolio with him, Lou and Bill liked Walt’s character. At their request, Walt returned later with some samples of cartoons he’d done in France, but because he did not yet have the experience needed for the job, he was brought in on a one-week trial basis. After the trial period was up, Pesmen and Rubin agreed that Walt produced good work and he was hired as an art apprentice, with a wage of $50 a month. Walt drew commercial advertising illustrations, mainly for farm equipment, letterhead and images for catalogs, as well as designed stencils for airbrush work. He was also assigned to work on the Newman Theatre account, designing covers for their weekly magazine. However, the opportunity with Pesmen-Rubin was not long lasting, as Walt was laid off in early December due to a decline in work after the completion of holiday catalogs and the loss of a large tractor account. He met Ubbe Iwwerks, who he maintained a lifelong friendship and working relationship with, and when Ubbe was also laid off in January 1920, Walt approached him to start their own business, they decided that together they possessed enough skill and learned some “tricks of the trade” from Pesmen-Rubin, and they started Iwwerks-Disney Studio that same month. However, without an office or steady income, they quickly sought out positions at Kansas City Slide Company through a classified ad in the Kansas City Star. 1
It was in Hollywood that Disney’s career really took off. In 1928, he and his team created the iconic character of Mickey Mouse, which quickly became a worldwide celebrity. Disney also created the Silly Symphonies series of cartoons, featuring an array of colorful characters and storylines. And in 1937, he released the first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which set a new standard for animated films.
Disney’s Legacy and Impact
Disney’s impact on the entertainment industry cannot be overstated. He was a visionary and a pioneer in the field of animation, and his work continues to inspire filmmakers and animators today. He was also a master at marketing, using innovative techniques to promote his films. And he was a savvy businessman, using his profits to invest in new projects and expand his business.
One of the most famous quotes attributed to Disney is, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” This quote perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Disney’s work – he had the vision and determination to pursue his dreams, and he inspired others to do the same.
Another famous quote by Disney is, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” This quote speaks to Disney’s belief that there is always room for growth and innovation, and that the magic of Disneyland will never truly be finished.
In conclusion, Walt Disney was a creative genius and a pioneer in the field of animation. He changed the face of entertainment, and his impact can still be felt today. His legacy lives on through the beloved characters and stories that he created, and his philosophy of dreaming big and never giving up continues to inspire people all over the world.
Fun facts about Walt
- Walt Disney’s first animation studio was called Laugh-O-Gram Studios. Where he worked.
- He was the voice of Mickey Mouse for the first few years of the character’s existence.
- It is not known how many books Walt Disney read during his lifetime. However, he was an avid reader and was always learning new things. He was known to be very curious and was always looking for ways to improve himself and his business. He was also an advocate for learning through experience and was always open to trying new things.
- He was a big fan of trains and owned a mini-steam locomotive in his backyard.
- He was a baseball fan and was a major league pitcher for the Kansas City Blues from 1920 to 1924.
- He was a strong believer in the importance of family, both for his own and for the characters he created.
- He was a firm believer in education and the power of knowledge. He was known to say, “If you can dream it, you can do it”.
- He was one of the first major filmmakers to use the multi-plane camera to create the illusion of depth and movement in animation.
- He was an early adopter of Technicolor and was one of the first filmmakers to use it in live-action films.
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Edited on 14th January 2022 (added more information about his early days)