Walt Disney was one of the famous motion-picture producers in history.
He first became known in the 1920’s and 1930’s for creating such cartoon film
characters as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. He later produced feature length
cartoon films, movies about wild animals in their natural surroundings, and
films starring human actors. Disney won 32 Academy Awards for his movies and
for scientific and technical contributions to filmmaking. He also gained fame
for his development of theme parks.
Walter Elias Disney was born on Dec. 5, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois. His
family moved to Missouri, and he spent much of his boyhood on a farm near
Marceline. At the age of 16, Disney studied art in Chicago. In 1920, he joined
the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he helped make cartoon advertisements to
be shown in movie theaters.
In 1923, Disney moved to Los Angeles to become a film producer or
director. When he failed to find a job, he returned to producing cartoons.
He set up his first studio in the back half of a real estate office. For
several years, Disney stuggled to pay his expenses. He gained success in 1928,
when he released the first short cartoons that featured Mickey Mouse. Earlier
filmmakers had found that animals were easier to animate than people. Mickey
Mouse, drawn with a series of circles, proved ideal for animation.
In 1927, sound that had been added to motion pictures, and a process for
making movies in color was developed a few years later. Disney and his staff
made imaginative use of sound and color. Disney himself provided Mickey Mouse’s
voice for Steamboat Willie (1928), the first cartoon to use synchronized sound.
His cartoon Flowers and Trees (1932) was the first cartoon in full Technicolor.
From 1929 to 1939, Disney produced a cartoon series called Silly
Symphonies, which played in theaters along with other animated films featuring
Mickey Mouse and other characters, like Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. After
1924, Disney actually did more of the drawing necessary for his animated films.
His genius lay in creating, organizing, and directing the films.
In 1937, Disney issued the first full-length animated feature film to be
produced by a studio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It became one of the
most popular movies in history. Disney’s later full-length animated films
included Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942),
Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the
Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), 101 Dalmations (1961), and the Jungle Book
(released in 1967, after his death). In 1950, Disney released Treasure Island,
his first full-length movie to use only human actors. Mary Poppins (1964),
which combines human actors with animation, is the most successful of Disney’s
During World War II (1939 to 1945), Disney’s studio made educational
films for the U.S. government as well as cartoon comedies. After the war,
Disney created fewer animated movies. He concentrated on making films that
starred real animals or human actors. In 1948, Disney released Seal Island.
This short movie was the first in a series of ”True-Life Adventures” that
showed how animals lived in nature. In 1953, Disney released his first full-
length nature film, The Living Desert. All of his nature movies included scenes
of animal life rarely seen by human beings.
After television became popular about 1950, many filmmakers either
ignored T.V. or fought it as a threat to the movie industry. But Disney
adjusted easily to the new form of entertaiment. He hosted a weekly show that
presented Disney films made especially for television, featuring such characters
as Davy Crockett, and Ludwing Von Drake.
Disney achieved one of his greatest successes in 1955, when he opened
Disneyland, a spectacular theme park in Ahaheim, California. Many of the
attractions at the park are based on the Disney films.
During his last years, Disney developed plans for building a huge
entertainment and educational complex in Florida. This project, known as Walt
Disney World, was completed after Disney’s death. Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966,
in Los Angeles. The Walt Disney Company carried on Disney’s work after his
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