The Story Behind Walt Disney

Walt Disney was one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century. He was a visionary leader who embraced innovation and an artist who created lovable characters that have become part of the planet's collective consciousness. However, looking at his story from the beginning it was not always indicative of the kind of success that ended up with a vast entertainment empire. One that, to this day, continues to delight people and children from all over the world and makes billions of dollars annually.

Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5th, 1901 and was the fourth of five children. His family had very little money, which is why they moved from Chicago to a Missouri farm to Kansas City in search of a living. Two of his older brothers ran away when he was just 4, because of the constant work and deprivations. The family eventually moved back to Chicago and Walt got to attend McKinley High School where he created cartoons for the school newspaper. He grew up with a passion for art and spent most of his free time drawing and studying cartooning. He would often sell his art to neighbors to make extra money to help out his family.

In 1917, when Walt was sixteen, his life suddenly changed as America entered the Great War. A patriotic young man, he tried to enroll in the army but was rejected because he was too young. He managed to forge his date-of-birth, however, in his application to join the Red Cross unit and after being accepted spent the war in France driving ambulances. Whereas all the other ambulances were covered from stem to stern with stock camouflage, Disney’s ambulance was covered with cartoons. After returning from the war, he worked for a newspaper; but the editor felt he did not have the creativity or imagination required for the job, and fired him. He didn’t give up, and started several businesses – all of which failed and resulted in him filing bankruptcy. In fact, with his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921.He made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. He was forced to dissolve his company so the deal never paid off, and at one point he could not even pay his rent and survived by eating dog food.

That did not stop him, though, as it seems he wanted success as much as he wanted to breathe. He learned from each setback, and continued to take even bigger risks, and with the wisdom gained from the hard lessons of failure, it eventually led to his vision coming true, fabulous financial rewards, huge fame and success. Eventually Walt opened a small studio in Hollywood with his brother where he was in constant demand to create innovative cartoons. It is important to note that when Walt tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse he was told that the idea would never work—and that a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women. And yet, Mickey Mouse, who turns 90 this year, is Disney’s global ambassador, the most famous Disney character and the telltale mouse ears are still worn by kids visiting Disney theme parks today.

They went on to create more and more successes; and Disney would not rest until he created his dream: a feature-length animated film. In 1937, his dream came to reality. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released and was admired by critics and viewers everywhere. From here on out, the Walt Disney Company began shifting their focus to feature-length films, rather than animated short ones. Over the next decade, Disney released more and more box office successes including “Pinocchio”, “Dumbo”, “Bambi”, “Alice in Wonderland”, and many more.

The Walt Disney Company couldn’t seem to get any bigger, until the 17 July, 1955 when Walt’s dream of an amusement park for all adults and children alike opened.He presented his newly built theme park to millions of viewers in a live TV show. In the dedication speech, he included that he opened the park “...with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to the world”. Today, the entertainment parks that opened as a result of Walt Disney’s vision and imagination are the most popular parks to ever open to the public and one of the most famous attractions in the world, with approximately 52 million visitors every year. Disneyland is arguably one of Walt’s most monumental lifetime achievements.

As well as being an animator, artist, entrepreneur, and producer, he was a showman in the truest sense of the word. A pioneering force in the world of animation who completely transformed the entertainment industry with his innovative ideas and creative visions. In his over four-decade long career, he was responsible for ushering the golden age of animation and he changed forever the way the world looked at cartoons.

Even four decades after his death, Walt Disney is still able to inspire millions of people around the world with his work. Sadly, he was not able to live to see the day when many of his plans were put into action but he has been able to prove in more ways than one that even the most unrealistic dreams can still come true.Walt Disney is famous because of the historical leaps and bounds he made for the entertainment industry with both his animated shorts and his feature-length films. He was imaginative, perseverant, and humorous; and he placed all of the traits of his personality into his cartoons and animation. He followed his dreams, whether it was creating the first synchronized sound animation, the first feature-length film done entirely with animation, or the fulfillment of creating his own theme park. But most importantly, he never gave up.

Walt Disney was also a genius in marketing and an excellent businessman. His achievement as a creator of entertainment for an almost unlimited public, and as a highly ingenious merchandiser of his wares, can rightly be compared to the most successful industrialists in history. There was no one quite like Walt Disney and we owe a lot to this cultural icon, who gave his name to the most famous brand of family entertainment in the world and brought joy, happiness and a universal means of communication to the people of every nation.

His incredible legacies will definitely live on for all time and continue to delight and inspire all generations. The magic and imagination that he put into his work is simply astounding, and has been transferred into the minds of children everywhere.


Can you imagine a childhood without a Walt Disney movie, toy, or theme song? Let’s take a look at just a few of the many different accomplishments, achievements and prestigious awards that Walt Disney was able to acquire throughout his career as well as after his death:

  • The highest number of Oscar Awards in the history of the industry. He was nominated 64 different times and won a record-setting 32.

  • The very first color cartoon (Flowers & Trees) to win an Academy Award in 1932. Plus an additional 48 Academy Awards for other contributions.

  • Seven different Emmy Awards.

  • The Legion of Honor from France and the Presidential Freedom Medal.

  • Two stars under his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for his work in television and the other for his work on the big screen.

  • And last, but certainly not least, a special award from the League of Nations for creating Mickey Mouse.

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