Walt Disney Biography - Frozen, Quotes & Pictures

Walt Disney was an American motion picture and television producer and showman best known as the inventor of Mickey Mouse and the amusement parks Disneyland and Disney World.

Walt Disney: Who Was He?

Walter Elias “Walt” Disney co-founded Walt Disney Productions with his brother Roy, which grew into one of the world’s most well-known motion-picture production firms. Disney was a pioneering animator who popularised the cartoon character Mickey Mouse. During his lifetime, he received 22 Academy Awards and founded the theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Parents and siblings of Walt Disney

Elias Disney, an Irish-Canadian, was Disney’s father. Flora Call Disney, his mother, was German-American. Disney was one of five children, four of whom were boys and one of which was a female.


Walt Disney’s Youth

Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in the Chicago neighborhood of Hermosa, Illinois. He spent most of his boyhood in Marceline, Missouri, where he began drawing, painting, and selling his work to neighbors and family members.

In 1911, his family relocated to Kansas City, where he acquired an interest in railroads. Mike Martin, his uncle, was a railway engineer who operated the route between Fort Madison, Iowa, and Marceline, Iowa. Later, Disney would work for the railway as a summer employee, selling refreshments and newspapers to passengers.

Disney attended McKinley High School in Chicago, where he studied painting and photography and contributed cartoons to the school newspaper. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago at night.

Disney walked out of school at the age of 16 to join the Army but was turned down because he was underage. Instead, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to drive an ambulance in France for a year. In 1919, he returned to the United States.

The Early Cartoons of Walt Disney

Disney relocated to Kansas City in 1919 to seek a career as a newspaper illustrator. His brother Roy arranged for him to work at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he met cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwwerks, also known as Ub Iwerks. Disney went on to work at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he created ads using cutout animation.

Disney began experimenting with a camera during this period, creating hand-drawn cel animation. He made the decision to start his own animation company. He hired Fred Harman from the advertising firm as his first employee.

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Disney and Harman struck an agreement with a small Kansas City theatre to broadcast their Laugh-O-Grams cartoons. The cartoons were enormously popular, and Disney was able to establish his own studio, which he named after himself.

Iwerks and Harman’s brother Hugh were among those employed by Laugh-O-Gram. They created Alice in Cartoonland, a series of seven-minute fairy tales that mixed live-action and animation.

However, by 1923, the studio had grown insolvent, and Disney was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Disney’s Animation Studios

In 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy relocated to Hollywood with cartoonist Ub Iwerks to establish the Disney Brothers’ Cartoon Studio. At Roy’s suggestion, the firm immediately changed its name to Walt Disney Studios.

The Walt Disney Studios’ first distribution agreement was with New York distributor Margaret Winkler for their Alice cartoons. They also created a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and paid $1,500 for each short. In the late 1920s, the studios broke away from their distributors and began producing cartoons starring Mickey Mouse and his pals.

Walt Disney Animation Studios built a new facility in Burbank in December 1939. When Disney animators went on strike in 1941, the firm suffered a setback. Many of them left. It would take years for the firm to fully recover.

Flowers and Trees (1932), one of the Disney Studio’s most successful cartoons, was the first to be made in color and to win an Oscar. The Three Little Pigs and its title tune “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” became a motif for the country during the Great Depression in 1933.

Mickey Mouse and Other Walt Disney Characters

Steamboat Willie, a sound-and-music-equipped animated short, was Disney’s first popular feature featuring Mickey Mouse. It premiered on November 18, 1928, at the Colony Theatre in New York. The sound had only recently entered film, and Disney was the voice of Mickey, a figure he created and had drawn by his top animator, Ub Iwerks. The cartoon became an instant hit.

Out of necessity, the Disney brothers, their wives, and Ub Iwerks created two previous silent animated cartoons starring Mickey Mouse, Plane Crazy, and The Gallopin’ Gaucho. The crew determined that Disney’s New York distributor, Margaret Winkler, and her husband, Charles Mintz, had stolen the rights to all of Disney’s animators save Ub Iwerks. The two first Mickey Mouse films were never released because the sound was already revolutionizing the cinema business.

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In 1929, Disney released Silly Symphonies, which included Mickey’s freshly formed pals Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.

Walt Disney Films

Disney created almost 100 feature films. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his first full-length animated feature, debuted in Los Angeles on December 21, 1937. Despite the Great Depression, it grossed an unfathomable $1.499 million and won eight Academy Awards. This prompted Walt Disney Studios to produce a new batch of full-length animated features over the next five years.

During the mid-1940s, Disney developed “packaged features,” which were collections of short films linked together to run at feature length. By 1950, he was back to concentrating on animated films.

Disney’s final significant success that he created personally was the 1964 film Mary Poppins, which combined live-action and animation.

Among Disney’s other most well-known films are:

  • Pinocchio was released in 1940.
  • Fantasia (1940) is a Disney film.
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • Cinderella (film)
  • Treasure Island (film, 1950)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1951)
  • Peter Pan (film, 1953)
  • Lady and the Tramp is a 1955 film.
  • Sleeping Beauty (film, 1959)
  • 101 Dalmatians (film, 1961)

Disney Television Shows

Disney was also one of the first people to embrace television as a kind of entertainment. The Zorro and Davy Crockett programs, as well as The Mickey Mouse Club, a variety show featuring a cast of teens known as the Mouseketeers, were highly popular with youngsters. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colour was a famous Sunday night show that Disney used to launch its new theme park promotion.

Walt Disney World

On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney’s $17 million Disneyland theme park debuted in Anaheim, California, on what was originally an orange grove. The events were presided over by actor (and future US President) Ronald Reagan. Following a stormy opening day that included multiple mistakes (including the delivery of thousands of fraudulent invites), the site became recognized as a destination for children and their families to explore, enjoy rides, and meet Disney characters.

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In a relatively short period of time, the park had tenfold expanded its investment and was entertaining guests from all over the world.

Over the years, attendance at the original venue fluctuated. Disneyland’s rides have grown over time, and the company has expanded overseas, including Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, and parks in Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. California Adventure, a sister attraction, debuted in Los Angeles in 2001.

The Walt Disney World Resort

Within a few years following the 1955 inauguration of Disneyland, Disney began planning for a new theme park and the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) in Florida. When Walt Disney died in 1966, it was still under development. After Walt Disney died, his brother Roy proceeded with the plans to complete the Florida theme park, which opened in 1971 as Walt Disney World.

Wife, Children, and Grandchildren of Walt Disney

Lillian Bounds, an ink-and-paint artist, was employed by Disney in 1925. The pair married after a brief relationship.

Lillian Bounds and Walt Disney had two children. Diane Disney Miller, the couple’s sole biological daughter, was born in 1933. Sharon Disney Lund was adopted immediately after her birth in 1936.

Ronald Miller, Diane’s spouse, has seven children: Christopher, Joanna, Tamara, Walter, Jennifer, Patrick, and Ronald Miller Jr.

Victoria Disney was adopted by Sharon and her first husband, Robert Brown. Bill Lund, Sharon’s second husband, was a real estate entrepreneur who explored the 27,000 acres that became Disney World in Orlando. Brad and Michelle, their twins, were born in 1970.

Sharon’s family was mired in a feud following her death in 1993 when her trust was made available to her three children. The trust had a provision that permitted Sharon’s ex-husband Bill Lund and sister Diane to withdraw cash if they could demonstrate that Sharon’s children couldn’t handle the money correctly. This resulted in claims of conspiracy and mental incapacity, as well as allegations of incest, and an unpleasant two-week trial in December 2013.

When and How Walt Disney Passed Away

Disney died on December 15, 1966, at the age of 65, after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1966. Disney’s ashes were buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.