Walter Elias Disney or Walt Disney, the man who brought Mickey Mouse into our lives was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois USA. He was the fourth child and the fourth son of Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney. He had three older brothers, Herbert, Raymond and Roy and a younger sister, Ruth. Of them Roy was the closest to Walt and later became his business partner.
Much of Walt’s childhood was spent on a farm in Marcelline, Missouri.
Here, Walt was lonely as his brothers were much older. So, he spent much time among the farm animals. Walt’s talent for drawing and painting was honed during his stay on the farm. His close observation of animals helped him to create animals with traits like people.
Walt was especially fond of pigs and there was one named Porker Walt was especially fond of. The foolish pig in Disney’s, Three Little Pigs was based on Porker.
Walt Disney had always been passionate about drawing and painting. And while on the farm in Marcelline Walt honed his art skills.
When he was around seven years of age, Walt got the opportunity to sell his work. A local Dr. who lived nearby asked Walt to paint his horse. From then on, Walt never looked back.
He practised drawing cartoons by drawing the front page cartoon of the newspaper his father subscribed to.
In 1911, the Disneys moved to Kansas City, Missouri where Walt attended the Benetton High School. Here, Walt made friends with Walter Pffeiffer. Walter Pffeiffer and his family were movie and theatre fans and they introduced them to Walt Disney who was instantly hooked on movies and theatre.
Walt Disney spent more time at the Pffeiffer home as his stern and strict father Elias Disney did not approve of theatre and movies.
Elias Disney believed that hard work was best for boys and made Walt and his brother Roy do morning and evening paper rounds. The boys had to get up at 4.30 a.m. to do the morning paper round before school and finished the evening round late after school. Walt was so exhausted that he often fell asleep in class and as a result his grades suffered.
Walt Disney continued his studies in art. He followed night classes at the Kansas City Art Institute and also took a correspondence course in cartooning.
In 1917, the Disney’s moved back to Chicago and Walter enrolled at the Mckinley High School where he became the cartoonist of the school’s newspaper and drew patriotic pictures about World War 1. He also followed lasses at night at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.
Shipped to France
In 1918, Walt Disney tried to join the United States Army to serve it in World War 1 but was rejected as he was under age. He later joined the Red Cross and was shipped to France but by then the Armistice had been signed. To while away his time Disney drew patriotic cartoons on his ambulance. Some of these were published in the US Army’s newspaper, the Stars and Stripes.
Disney returned to Chicago and started work at the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art Studio.
During this time he experimented with new animation techniques and became involved in a business venture with an ex colleague, Fred Harman. They produced some animated cartoons called Laugh o Grams.
Ultimately, Walt moved to Hollywood, California and joined his brother, Roy.
Together, they formed the Walt Disney Studio now known as the Walt Disney Company.
One of Disney’s early success was Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit but coming to a problem with the distributor it did not pan out well for Disney.
Mickey Mouse is born
One day, when business was at a low ebb Disney was just Doodling a mouse with large, round ears sprang from his mind onto the drawing pad. Walt Disney wanted to name his creation Mortimer but his wife suggested the name Mickey. So, Mickey Mouse was born and became an instant hit. Plane crazy was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon film. Soon, Mickey Mouse Clubs were springing up all over USA and Mickey Mouse was appearing on all kinds of merchandise.
Other popular Disney characters such as Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy followed.
While achieving success with his cartoons and movies Walt Disney moved into the theme park industry. In 1955, he opened Disneyland at Anaheim, California. He initiated another theme park project, Disney World but did not live to see it implemented. A heavy smoker, he died of lung cancer in December 1966.
Walt Disney was awarded many times during his lifetime and is perhaps the most awarded person in the movie industry.
He won 26 Competitive and honorary Academy Awards among many other awards. His hit movie Mary Poppins won five Oscars.
Among other lovable Disney characters are Bambi, Dumbo, Pluto, the Lady and the Tramp and Mary Poppins.
Later on the popular princess series and Frozen were added to the Disney repertoire.