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Happy Birthday Walt Disney!

Walt Disney.

When you think of The Walt Disney Company and all that it owns, one needs to remember that it all started with one man, Walt Disney, and today would have been his 121st birthday.

His Beginnings

On December 5, 1901, Walter Elias Disney, one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs and modern geniuses, was born in Chicago to Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney.

Walt was one of five children: four boys and a girl.

Walt and his sister Ruth on the porch of their Chicago birthplace

After a childhood in Missouri, the family moves to Chicago, where Walt draws pictures for the McKinley High School newspaper. He also attends evening classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts to hone his skills.

Walt attempted to enlist for military service in the fall of 1918, but was rejected because he was only 16 years of age. He instead joined the Red Cross and was sent overseas during World War I, where he spent a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red Cross officials.

Upon his return, he created Newman Laugh-O-Grams back in Kansas City, MO, which goes bankrupt in 1923.

Walt then moved to California later that year, and founded the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy O. Disney. The name was changed to the Walt Disney Studios in 1926.

He also met his wife, Lillian Bounds, during this time when she was hired as an inker. Did you know the red with white dots and green trim costumes cast members at Disney’s Hollywood Studios wear are actually modeled after Lillian’s favorite dress?

His Career

In 1927, he created a new character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but after a series of short films, had to abandon the character due to the trademark being owned by film distributor Charles Mintz.

But that led Walt to create the character of Mickey Mouse, who first appeared in 1928’s “Steamboat Willie,” an innovative cartoon that synchronizes sound and animation.

Walt was a pioneer in the field of animation, introducing synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, feature-length cartoons, and technical developments in cameras.

In fact, “Fantasia” was released with a new technology, called Fantasound in 1940, which precedes stereo and surround sound by 20 years.

In the 1950’s, he expanded into the amusement park industry, opening Disneyland in Anaheim on July 17, 1955, as well as creating television programs such as “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

In the 1960, Walt also served as Head of Pageantry of the Winter Olympics, and in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson presented Walt with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil honor.

During this time Walt designed four exhibits, including “it’s a small world” for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, and in 1965, found and bought land in Orlando that would become Walt Disney World.

Unfortunately Walt never got to see the theme park completed, as he died on December 15, 1966, but his drive, ambition, and creativity set in motion everything we have today that bears his name.

What Does Walt Mean to You?

Many of grew up with Disney, whether it was movies, TV, or theme parks, and some didn’t discover him until they were adults.

So today, in honor of Walt Disney’s birthday, I’d like you to tell me what first made you a Disney fan? Was it a movie or a TV show? A visit to one of the theme parks? Let me know in the comments.

Tokyo Disney Resort has already sent out early morning birthday wishes to Walt, as has Disneyland Paris:

3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Walt Disney!”

  1. The Mickey Mouse Club was my induction into the Wonderful World of Disney on a small black and white TV in the mid fifties. I’m 72 now and will always be a Disney Kid at heart. Davy Crockett, zorro, Spin & Marty, Flubber, Annette, Haley Mills,
    Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson. I could go on and on. Walt and Roy gave us Magic.
    I am so thankful for the joy they provided me and a World of kids. DW☘️

  2. Pingback: Disney Announces Restoration of Walt Disney’s Plane to Its 1960s Design | The Disney Blog

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