Walt Disney, Creator of Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney, Creator of Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney was born in 1901 in Chicago to Elias Charles Disney, and Flora Call Disney. His father was Irish-Canadian and his mother was of German and English descent. Walt’s father had moved from Ontario, Canada to the United States. His father wanted to get into the business of gold in California before settling in Kansas with his father. After marrying Flora in 1888, the family moved to Chicago in 1890 where Elias’ brother Robert lived. Robert helped Walt financially in his early years.

Walt_Disney_1946When Walt was four years old, Elias decided to move to Missouri where his brother Roy had purchased a farm. There, Walt developed his love for drawing with one of his neighbors who used to pay Walt to draw pictures of his horse. He also used to copy the front page Cartoons from  newspapers. 

Walt and his younger sister Ruth started school together in 1909. Before that, he had no formal schooling. They lived in Missouri for four years until having to sell their farm. The family moved to Kansas City in 1911, where Walt went to the Benton Grammar School. At school, he met Walter Pfeiffer, who came from a family of theatre aficionados. Walter introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. 

In 1911, Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route because of which Walt had to work as a newspaper delivery boy. As a delivery boy, he worked in two shifts delivering morning and evening newspapers. It was a challenging period for him. He used to get up at 4.30 AM and worked until the school bell rang. After the school,it was all the same. He used to deliver newspapers till supper. His pre and post school engagement affected his studies which ultimately resulted in him getting poor grades. This continued for a period of six years.

In 1917, Walt started taking night courses at Chicago Academy of Fine Arts while he began his freshman year. He became a cartoonist for the school newspaper. Soon after, he dropped out of the school in the hope of joining the army but was rejected because he was under age. So he decided to join Red Cross and was finally sent to France as an ambulance driver.

In 1919 he moved back to Kansas city to kick start his artistic career but was unable to find a job. His brother Roy helped him in getting a temporary job where he created advertisements for newspapers, magazines, and movie theaters.  He met Ubbe Iwerks there and once their contract ended with the employer, they decided to start their own commercial company-Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. But following a rough start he joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company. There he became interested in animation. The company owner was very supportive and allowed Disney to experiment with one of his cameras. After a brief period he opened his own animation business and started creating cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams.

His cartoons soon became very popular and the success propelled him to acquire his own studio. But the studio soon became bankrupt, mainly because of unsound management of finances. He didn’t quit and finally decided to open a studio in Hollywood, California along with his brother Roy. There Walt created animated shorts based upon Alice’s Wonderland. Walt’s primary task was animation and direction whereas his brother did the work of cameraman. Their series Alice’s Comedies proved to be successful. In 1928 Walt went to New York to negotiate a higher fee for a new series. On the contrary, the producer told him his decision of reducing the compensation and threatened him of loosing the contract. Walt declined the proposal and lost most of his staff and earnings

Walt_Disney_PreAfter declining the proposal, he thought of creating a new character and finally settled on a mouse- Mickey Mouse.The first animated short to feature Mickey was Plane Crazy. Walt’s artistic touch helped in growing Mickey’s popularity rapidly. By 1932, Mickey Mouse had become a relatively popular cinema character and Walt received academy award for the creation of Mickey Mouse in the same year.  Walt later created the  first animated feature in America made in Technicolor,Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film became the most successful motion picture of 1938 and earned $8M. In today’s worth, it is $134M. Following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt built a new campus for the Walt Disney studios in Burbank.

During World War 2, Walt took up the work of making Insignia for the soldiers. They were used to bring humor to soldiers and boost their morale. In the later years, Disney made several full-length dramatic films and educational films in collaboration with NASA.

By early 1960’s Walt Disney‘s empire became a major success and was a major source of family entertainment all over the world.  Throughout his life as an animator, he created famous fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. Walt Disney himself was the original voice for Mickey till 1947.  During his lifetime, he won seven Emmy awards, 22 Academy Awards and received four honorary Academy Awards from a total of 59 nominations. He has won more Oscar awards and nominations than any other individual in history.

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