On December 5, 1901, the co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, Walter Elias Disney, known as Walt Disney, was born. Born in Chicago, in the United States, he became famous for his pioneering spirit in the field of animation with Disney, having produced the famous animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), and for his characters cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. He is also the creator of theme parks based in the United States (Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort). Throughout his life he was a symbol of the animation industry and an icon of popular culture.
Walt Disney is the person who has won the most Oscars in history, with 22 Academy Awards and 59 nominations. He has also won seven Emmy Awards.
After spending most of his childhood on a farm in Marceline, Missouri, at age 16, he began studying art, in addition to participating in the Demolay Order. As he had not reached the age of majority, he was refused permission when he sought to enlist in the Army during World War I. Together with a friend, he then decided to join the Red Cross. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to France, where he spent a year driving Red Cross ambulances.
Back in the United States, he enrolled at the Kansas City Arts School. Then he worked in some advertising agencies. Next, he joined a film company, where he helped make movie posters.
With his brother Roy and friend Ub Iwerks, he created the small production company Laugh-O-Gram, which animated fairy tales. These cartoons were shown at the local movie theater before the movies. In 1923, they moved to Hollywood, Los Angeles. In Hollywood, Disney hired film distributor MJ Wrinkler, saying his animation studio had several films to sell. Wrinklers not only accepted the offer, but also agreed to pay $1,500 for each film.
After raising money, acquiring material, hiring staff, Walt starts to make plans: Alice, a series in which a girl lives with characters from an animated setting. It was during this time of immense work that Walt met his future wife, Lillian Bounds Disney. After Alice, came Oswald, the lucky rabbit, also known in Portuguese as Coelho Osvaldo, it was a great success that led to the reassessment of contract values in relation to film prices.
Later, after having losses involving his work, to overcome the difficult phase and get around the situation, Iwerks created Mickey Mouse for Walt Disney in 1928. The mouse, drawn from a series of circles, proved to be ideal for the cartoon and would become Disney Studios’ most successful character. At that time, the production company became better organized: Roy took care of the financial part, Walt produced and directed, and Iwerks designed.
The first cartoon was Plane Crazy, from 1928, in which the character played opposite his girlfriend Minnie Mouse. The first cartoon with sound was Steamboat Willie, also from 1928. The mouse’s first words were Hot dogs, hot dogs, in a song from the episode The Karnival Kid, from 1929. Then, more characters appeared to play opposite Mickey: Donald Duck , Goofy and Pluto. The villain João Bafo de Onça, who had appeared in Alice’s shorts, became Mickey’s main enemy.
From 1929 to 1939, Disney produced a series of cartoons called “Silly Symphonies”, the first in color. Mickey starred in these films alongside the new characters. The cartoon “Flowers and Trees”, from that series, received the Oscar for best animated short film in 1932.
Walt Disney intended to make a feature film of the classic Snow White story. There were protests from the crew, but the film was made. After three years of production, design and music, the film opened. With the entry of the United States into the war, Disney was invited by the Armed Forces to produce training cartoons for soldiers. Then he started making military propaganda films, in which he mainly used his best-known characters.
After the war, Walt Disney had his company ruined. Walt had two options: either make a movie or sell the company. He thus decided to make the film Cinderella. The film was a success and generated wealth for the company to continue.
But Walt Disney didn’t just work with cartoons. His first feature film with actors was Treasure Island (1950). The first about nature was The Drama of the Desert (1953). In 1954, he made 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, based on the work of French writer Jules Verne.
Ten years later, he produced Mary Poppins, a mixture of cartoons and human characters. The film competed for Oscars in 14 categories, winning five awards, including best actress for Julie Andrews and best song for Chim Chim Cher-ee. Disney also produced several films for television, being himself the presenter of his program.
Disney achieved one of its greatest successes in 1955 when it opened Disneyland, a super amusement park located in Anaheim, California. The park was built thanks to a partnership with the ABC television network.
There is yet another similar park, called Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida, which opened in 1971, after Disney’s death. Almost all of the rides, parades and shows at these two parks are based on characters from Disney movies.
Due to his death, the producer did not live to see Disneyworld attractions, such as Epcot, Magic Kingdom, MGM studios (currently “Hollywood Studios”) and Disney Animal Kingdom, in addition to water parks.
Disney died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, in Burbank, California. He left behind a vast legacy: A university (California Institute of the Arts – CalArts), numerous shorts, documentaries and films produced during his lifetime; and the Walt Disney Company is now one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world.
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