Today We Should Celebrate a Birthday
On this date, December 5th, in 1901 Walt Disney was born. Children all over the world would be affected by his birth, and still are to this very day.
Walter Elias Disney would go on to receive 7 Emmys and 22 Academy awards for producing and directing. He has more academy awards than any other individual in history.
Disney had studied cartoon drawing, and the new concept of “cel” animation promised a greater future for the art. He made a deal with the most successful ‘showman’ in Kansas City, Missouri, Frank L. Newman, to show cartoons in his theater. “Newman’s Laugh-O-Grams” became a major success.
In 1922, Disney formed his first company, also called “Laugh-O-Gram”. He hired the best cartoonists he could find and paid them well. Unfortunately, his payroll was higher than the company’s income, and in July 1923 he declared bankruptcy.
Deciding that Hollywood, California, was the place for his cartoons, Disney and his brother Roy pooled their money and opened a studio. He had begun making “Alice Comedies” in Kansas City. Disney sent an unfinished print to New York distributor Margaret Winkler. She wrote him back and told him she liked the idea of making action/animation shorts based on “Alice in Wonderland”. The series was mildly successful, and was produced by “the Disney Brothers Studios” until 1927.
The partnership with distributors of the Alice Comedies dissolved and in 1928, he created “Mickey Mouse”, which became the symbol and mascot for the Walt Disney Company. The voice of Mickey Mouse was done by Walt Disney himself until 1947. Mickey’s first movie, “Steamboat Willie” was one of the first ‘sound’ cartoons.
In 1938, Disney released his first feature length film. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was labeled “Disney’s folly”. His peers claimed it a cartoon that lengthy would surely fail. The film went on to be the most successful film of 1938, and earned over 8 million dollars during its initial release, the equivalent of over 132 million dollars today. He made several more feature length cartoons including “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan”, and “Cinderella”, all popular with children of all ages.
Several locations are given the credit for Walt Disney’s idea of a theme park parents and their children would both be able to enjoy. The concept of “Disneyland Park”, known commonly as “Disneyland” took five years of planning and construction began on July 16, 1954.
More than a month after my ninth birthday, my mother, brother and I went to Disneyland for the first time. Its grand opening was on July 17th, 1955. Until I moved away from Los Angeles in 1977, I never missed going to Disneyland at least once a year.
Beginning in 1950 with the debut of “Treasure Island”, Walt Disney Studios began to expand with live action films. In 1955, “The Mickey Mouse Club” debuted on national television. (I know most boys loved Annette, but my favorite was Doreen). What is now called “The Wonderful World of Disney” originated on Sunday nights as “The Disneyland TV Show”. If I had homework over the weekend, it was always done well before Sunday night. I never missed a show.
If you’re old enough to have owned a “coonskin cap”, and can still remember the words to the song “Davey Crockett”, you will reminisce over much of what I have just written. Walt Disney’s innovation and creativity will live on forever. Every child in every country of the world will be affected by his legacy. Today video games dominate many television screens, but for my generation and several that followed me, if a Disney movie, cartoon, or the Mickey Mouse Club was being broadcast, our television was on and turned to that channel.
The world lost Walt Disney on December 15th 1966. He died from lung cancer. Unfortunately, he was a chain smoker all of his life. Many times I’ve heard celebrities asked what they hoped would be their legacy. Mr. Disney’s memory will live on through all eternity. I don’t believe there is a person in the world that couldn’t recognize Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and many more. I will personally never forget the first time I saw “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle”.
We live in a tough world, and sometimes it’s tougher yet for children. Escaping into Walt Disney’s fantasy world was a wonderful thing for me and millions of other children. Happy birthday, and thank you Mr. Disney, the world is truly a better place for having had you in it.