Walt Disney: Legendary American Entrepreneur and Animated Film Maker

Updated on October 29, 2019
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney

Walt Disney is a legend in the American animation industry. He developed many historic techniques used in the creation of animation. Disney was awarded the most Academy Awards of any individual. He received 59 nominations and won 22 Oscars. Among his many honors are an Emmy Award and two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards. Walt Disney was also a film producer and voice actor. He is also the creator of the world-famous Walt Disney amusement park.

Young Walt Disney
Young Walt Disney

Early Life

Walt Disney was born on Tripp Avenue in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago on December 5, 1901. In 1906, the family moved to Marceline, Missouri. They stayed on a farm with an uncle who has bought land. This is when Disney first got paid for one of his drawings. A retired neighborhood doctor paid him to draw a horse. As he was growing up, Disney would work at developing his drawing skills by copying the front-page cartoons of a newspaper. He also discovered he enjoyed working with crayons and watercolors. The family lived near the Santa Fe Railway line. Many believe this was the reason young Walt Disney was enamored with trains. In 1911, the Disney family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. While at school, Disney made friends with a young man whose family was involved in the theater. This family helped Walt Disney experience motion pictures as well as vaudeville.


Walt Disney and his brother Roy would start delivering copies of the Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times at 4:30 each morning. They would also deliver newspapers in the evening. It left them exhausted. Walt Disney would often fall asleep in class and received poor grades. During this time, he took courses on Saturday at the Kansas City Art Institute. He also took correspondence courses in cartooning. In 1917, Disney attended McKinley High School. He was a cartoonist for the school's newspaper and was taking night courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

Walt Disney as Ambulance Driver
Walt Disney as Ambulance Driver

Ambulance Driver

Disney tried to Join the United States Army in 1918. He was too young and was rejected. Disney then forged the date on his birth certificate He was then able to join the Red Cross and was given the job of an ambulance driver. Disney went to France to perform his Ambulance driving duties, but the armistice has been signed. During this time, he had some of his work published in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. He was also permitted to draw cartoons on the side of his ambulance. After this was over, he went back to Kansas City and got employment as an apprentice artist with a commercial art studio. His job was to draw commercial illustrations for catalogs, advertising as well as theater programs and more.


Walt Disney began to develop a fascination with animation. He enjoyed drawing cartoons, but he could see the potential of animation. Disney borrowed some books on animation as well as a camera. He then went to his home and began experimenting. Disney determined that cel animation had far more potential than using the common cutout method. Disney opened a new business with a partner. Their biggest client they had been the local Newman Theater. Disney and his partner produced cartoon shorts. They were sold to the theater who played them as Newman's Laugh-O-Grams.

Laugh O Gram Studio
Laugh O Gram Studio

Laugh-O-Gram Studio

The Laugh-O-Grams was a huge success. This was the basis of the Laugh-O-Gram studio Disney started in May 1921. They were able to sell the Laugh-O-Gram cartoons, but this didn't produce enough income. Disney produced an Alice in Wonderland short film. This was based on the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It combined animation with live action. It was not finished in time. In 1923, the Laugh-O-Gram Studio went into bankruptcy.

Walt Disney Company

In July 1923, Walt Disney moved to Hollywood. His goal was to become a live-action film director. This is when Disney heard from a New York film distributor. They were losing the rights to their current cartoon series and wanted Walt Disney and his brother Roy to produce six Alice comedies for two different series. Each series would have six episodes. Disney joined with his brother Roy to form Disney Brothers Studio. It later became known as The Walt Disney Company.

Walt Disney with Family
Walt Disney with Family


Walt Disney hired an ink artist named Lillian Bounds in 1925. They married that year. The couple had two daughters. Diane was born in December 1933. They also adopted a daughter in 1936 named Sharon. The couple worked hard to keep their children out of the public eye. Disney did everything possible to make certain his daughters weren't photographed by the press.

Walt Disney reviewing sketches of Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney reviewing sketches of Mickey Mouse

Creation Of Mickey Mouse

When Disney developed Mickey Mouse, it is believed he may have been inspired by a pet mouse. During his time having the Laugh-O-Gram studios, Disney adopted a pet mouse. He wanted to name his animated creation Mortimer Mouse. His wife believed it sounded too pompous. She suggested he call it Mickey Mouse instead, and Walt Disney agreed. Disney would regularly revise sketches of the mouse character he intended to animate. Disney was the first person to create post-produced sound cartoons. His first success was a 1928 short featuring Mickey Mouse, it was called Steamboat Willie. He also provided the voice of Mickey until 1947.

World War II

In 1941, Disney Studios released Dumbo. Shortly after that, the United States entered World War II. Disney created the Walt Disney Training Film Unit. It produced instructional films for the military. Disney met with the Secretary of the Treasury and agreed to produce short cartoons featuring Donald Duck. They were designed to promote the purchases of war bonds. Disney also produced a short called Der Fuehrer's Face. It won an Academy Award. His company also produced the film Victory in 1943.

Opening Day of Disneyland
Opening Day of Disneyland


In 1952, Walt Disney formed WED Enterprises. He used his own money to form a group of animators and designers to work on plans for an amusement theme park. They were referred to as Imagineers. In 1954, the Imagineers were sent to every amusement park in the United States to identify the positives and negatives of each park. Their research was used in the design of Disneyland. The construction of Disneyland began in 1954. It opened a year later and the ceremony was broadcast by ABC. It was watched by over 70 million viewers. The park was designed to feature different themed lands. They were all linked by central Main Street U.S.A. It was inspired by the main street in Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri. The park had the Disneyland Railroad, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and more. In its first year of operation, Disneyland had over 3.5 million visitors.

Newspaper announcing death of Walt Disney
Newspaper announcing death of Walt Disney


Walt Disney started smoking during World War I and became a heavy smoker. His cigarette of choice did not have filters. He also smoked a pipe when he was a young man. Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer in November 1966. He was immediately treated with cobalt therapy. Disney did not feel well and was taken to St. Joseph Hospital on November 30. On December 15, 1966, Walt Disney passed away. It was ten days after his 65th birthday. The cause of death was listed as circulatory collapse brought on by lung cancer. Disney was cremated two days after his death. His ashes are interred in Glendale, California at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Walt Disney star on Hollywood walk of fame
Walt Disney star on Hollywood walk of fame
Walt Disney with all his awards
Walt Disney with all his awards


Disney was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960. He was given two stars. One was for his work in television and the other was for his work in motion pictures. In 1986, Disney was inducted into the Television Hall of fame. In December 2006, Disney was also inducted the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, Disney received a star on the Anaheim walk of stars. He was an inaugural recipient.

© 2019 Readmikenow


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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      7 months ago

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt, thanks for reading the article. He was a man with a vision who refused to give up on it.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      7 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Great story. Encouraging. Thanks for posting.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      8 months ago

      A B, Thanks. I agree, Walt Disney left such a positive legacy in this world for many future generations.

    • abwilliams profile image

      A B Williams 

      8 months ago from Central Florida

      Great job on this Mike. The world is a better place because Walt Disney was born.

      "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening doors and doing new things, because we are curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      8 months ago

      Pamela, thanks. I agree, he had to fight through a lot of failure to get his success. I would call Walt Disney a creative genius.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This is so interesting. I didn't know much about Disney's life. He was wonderfully creative and the results were fantastic.


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