Alice’s Wonderland was produced for four years. Throughout production, Walt pushed the visual bound along with the company’s finances. In 1927, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was born. There were twenty-six Oswald cartoons produced. Winkler signed all of Disney’s animators and he owned Oswald, so Walt was unable to work a second season with Oswald. From this point on, Walt made sure of it that he owned all that he made.
Walt was then faced with creating another character. He created a mouse that he called Mortimer. This name didn’t fit, so his wife Lilly chose Mickey and a star was born. Two Mickey cartoons were created, but the first synchronized sound film was produced, so Walt created a new Mickey cartoon with sound, Steamboat Willie. It opened in New York on November 18, 1928. The mouse was an immediate success around the world.
Not wanting to rely on one success, Walt produced the Silly Symphonies. Each of the films had a different cast so the animators could experiment with moods and musical themes. This series turned into a training ground for Disney artists. In 1932 Flowers and Trees, which was a Silly Symphony and the first full color cartoon, was the first cartoon to receive an Academy Award for best cartoon A Disney cartoon won this award every year for the rest of that decade. The most sensational came a year later, 1933, The Three Little Pigs. It was something of an anthem during the Great Depression and had breakthrough character animation.
With the growing popularity of the cartoons, interest grew in related merchandise. A man kept following Disney offering $300.00 to put Mickey on notebooks for school children. The brothers needed the money, so they took the offer. This began the consumer good branch of the company. Soon there was everything imaginable with Mickey’s face on it. The first Mickey book and comic book were produced in 1930.
In 1934 Walt gathered his animators to tell them they would be producing an animated feature film. Many people believed that there was no way that a cartoon could hold someone’s attention for longer than the usual eight-minute running time. It took three years and much of the company’s resources, but at Christmas 1937, Snow White was released and was a hit. It was the highest grossing film of all time until Gone With the Wind passed it. The studio started work immediately on another feature project and moved its headquarters to Burbank, Ca. With WWII going on much of the foreign market was lost, so the next two features, Pinocchio and Fantasia, actually lost money. Dumbo came in 1941 and was produced with a limited budget and made money. After the US entered the war, Bambi was released in 1942. After that, Walt had to keep his animator’s ambitions in check....