Walt Disney was an American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of cartoons.
Let’s find out more interesting facts about him!
1. Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was born December 5, 1901 in Chicago, USA.
2. He was the fourth son of Elias Disney and Flora Call, an American of German and English descent.
3. Disney developed an early interest in drawing.
4. Stuck on a farm in Missouri, he didn’t have many subjects, but delighted in drawing cartoon pictures of his neighbor’s horses.
5. Disney’s French family name was originally D’Isigny before being Anglicized toDisney.
6. Disney dropped out of high school at age 16 in hopes of joining the Army. He was rejected for being underage, but was able to get a job as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in France.
7. He took art classes as a boy and got a job as a commercial illustrator at the age of 18.
8. He moved to Hollywood in the early 1920s and set up the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy.
9. With Ub Iwerks, Walt developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928, his first highly popular success.
10. He also provided the voice for his creation in the early years.
11. As the studio grew, Disney became more adventurous, introducing synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, feature-length cartoons and technical developments in cameras.
12. The results, seen in features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Fantasia, Pinocchio (both 1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942), furthered the development of animated film.
13. New animated and live-action films followed after World War II, including the critically successful Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards.
14. In the 1950s, Disney expanded into the amusement park industry, and in 1955 he opened Disneyland.
15. To fund the project he diversified into television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club.
16. He was involved in planning the 1959 Moscow Fair, the 1960 Winter Olympics, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, the heart of which was to be a new type of city, the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”.
17. Disney was a heavy smoker throughout his life, and died of lung cancer in December 1966 before the park or city was completed.
18. Disney was a shy, self-deprecating and insecure man in private but adopted a warm and outgoing public persona.
19. He had high standards and high expectations of those with whom he worked.
20. Although there have been accusations that he was racist or anti-Semitic, they have been contradicted by many who knew him.
21. His reputation changed in the years after his death, from a purveyor of homely patriotic values to a representative ofAmerican imperialism.
22. Nevertheless, Disney is considered an international cultural icon, particularly in the United States, where the company he co-founded exists today as one of the world’s largest and well-known entertainment companies.
23. As a film producer, Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual, having won twenty-two Oscars from 59 nominations.
24. He was presented with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award, among other honors. Several of his films are included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
25. Disney’s very first animation studio was Laugh-O-Gram, where he began telling modernized fairy tales based on Aesop’s Fables (a trend Disney continued) before the studio quickly went bankrupt.
26. Mickey Mouse wasn’t Disney’s first iconic character–Mickey’s predecessor, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was created while Disney was under contract with Universal Pictures. When he left, Oswald was barred from joining him, leading Disney to make a new companion–everyone’s favorite mouse.
27. Disney was hell-bent on creating a feature-length animated Snow White film, despite everyone else’s doubt. Some in Hollywood even referred to the project as “Disney’s folly.” They were the real fools though-Snow White earned more than $8 million during its original release, which would be equal to about $130 million today.
28. Disney was good pals with Uncle Sam, producing animated war propaganda films and training videos for the United States military.
29. He also created custom cartoon insignia for U.S. troops, which were used to boost morale.
30. He helped fan the flames of the 1940s Red Scare. He was a founder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of Americans Ideals, accusing workers on strike of communist plots, testifying against labor organizers, and icing out rumored communists of Hollywood.
31. Disney was a pioneer for children’s television entertainment, airing unique programming for kids such as Zorro, Davy Crockett, and The Mickey Mouse Club.
32. Mickey Mouse was named by Walt’s wife. Walt originally named the character Mortimer Mouse, but his wife Lily said that name was “pompous.” She suggested the cuter “Mickey.”
33. Walt kept an apartment on Disneyland’s Main Street. He would spend the night (and days, as he loved people watching) above the firehouse. The apartment still exists just as it was (save for some replaced furniture), complete with Walt’s papers as he left them on his desk.
34. He didn’t allow women to be animators. Not that this was an unusual practice in 1938, but as was stated in no uncertain terms to a woman applying for a spot in the animation training school “women do not do creative work.”
35. He measured distance in hotdogs. He was notorious for his attention to detail. Fact: Trash cans at Disney World were placed 25 steps away from hot dog stands, since that was how long it took him to eat a hot dog.
36. Hot dogs played other important roles in his life as well. Mickey’ Mouse’s first words were in The Karnival Kid in 1929. In fact, those were the first words ever to be spoken by an animated character. Those words? “Hot dog!”
37. Disneyland employees have only their first name listed on their name tags because Disney despised being called Mr. Disney.
38. Walt had a strict no facial hair policy. Employees couldn’t grow facial hair until 2012 (and even now it must kept shorter than 1/4 inch), but the policy used to extend even to guests. Until 1970, beards, mustaches, and long hair on men (and halter tops on women) would get them kicked out of the park.
39. In fact, Jim McGuinn, future founder of the band The Byrds was refused entry simply for having a Beatles-style mop top. What makes this especially odd is that Walt himself had a mustache from the age of 25 on.
40. He was the inspiration for Wall-E. Well, at least in name. The robot’s moniker in a reference to Walter Elias Disney.
41. He changed the lives of so many people. Though maybe none more than his own housekeeper. His live-in housekeeper, Thelma Howard, served his family for 30 years, and he would give her Disney shares as holiday bonuses. When she died in 1994, her estate was found to be worth more than $9 million. Half of that went to her son, and the rest, having herself grown up in extreme poverty, went to help homeless and disadvantaged children.
42. In 1938, Walt Disney hosted Nazi propagandist and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl at his studio and gave her a tour. Despite the hesitation of other studio executives, Walt Disney took her in and gave her a tour of Disney Studios. In exchange, she offered him a private showing of Olympia. Disney refused due to the fear that others would find out that he had hosted her. When Leni arrived back to Germany, she praised Disney to her government for giving her an audience.
43. Shortly before his death, Disney had plans to build a ski resort. The Walt Disney Company ended up deciding to move forward with Disney World instead.
44. Disney’s final words remain a bizarre mystery. On his deathbed, he wrote the name “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper. Even Kurt Russell himself is perplexed regarding the meaning. He was a child actor at the time of Disney’s death, having just recently signed on with Disney studios.
45. The last film Disney personally oversaw was The Jungle Book, before his death from lung cancer in 1966.
46. When Disney died, 25 percent of his estate went to CalArts, helping the private university build up its campus.
47. Disney is not cryogenically frozen, despite the persistent rumors. He was cremated, and his ashes were buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.