Walter Elias Disney, or Walt Disney as he would be known, was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1901 to Elias and Flora Disney. He was the fourth child born, with three older brothers and one younger sister. Walt started to develop a skill for drawing at the young age of four; a skill that would eventually grow into a corporate empire. When Walt was nine, his younger sister Ruth became sick and he took to entertaining her with his many drawings. Walt even made his first attempts at animation by making a flip-book of drawings that “seemed to move when the papers were flipped.” (Thomas 35) Walt was always stretching his imagination with his drawings. As he grew, he became captivated with magic and took much delight in playing magic tricks on his parents. In fourth grade his teacher told the class to draw the bowl of flowers she had on her desk. After strolling around the class, she stopped at Walt’s desk. “He had drawn human faces on the flowers with arms where the leaves were supposed to be. The teacher chastised him for not following the assignment.” (Thomas, 36) However, she didn’t stop Walt from dreaming and drawing how he viewed the world, a skill that would help him become a pioneer artist with hand drawn, full length films. However, before his films would be produced, Walt created shorts, such as the following; an Alice series, Oswald the lucky Rabbit, and Mickey Mouse and friends. At the age of twenty-two, “Walt’s head was full of ideas and plans. He was determined to get to the top in the land of Fantasy-Hollywood.” (Selden, 32) Walt’s brother Roy, still trying to keep an eye on his “kid” brother, stayed close by, not having any idea that he would one day be working very closely with him. In 1923, when Walt couldn’t find a directing job, he sent his first film, called “Alice in Cartoonland”, to an important cartoon distributor in New York to Margaret J Winkler. “We’ll call ourselves the Disney Brothers Studio.” (Selden, 34) Walt said to his brother after Miss Winkler wrote back saying she was interested in the Alice series. From that moment on, the Disney brothers would work together. After over four dozen Alice films, Miss Winker suggested a new series with a rabbit. Oswald, the lucky rabbit was then born. “Oswald the Rabbit became very popular all over the country.” (Selden 34) Things were going great until Miss Winkler’s partner, Charles Mintz, sprung Disney with an ultimatum, Mintz offered Walt less money for the Oswald cartoons and told Walt that if he didn’t agree to the offer he (Mintz) would take the character and company away from Walt. This is when Walt found out that Mintz had hired away his animators and Oswald was the legal property of Universal Pictures, not Walt Disney. When Walt walked away the Disney Brothers Studio closed. After that Walt vowed to never work for another person again. He and wife, Lilly, took the first train home, Walt claiming that he couldn’t lose any time coming up with new characters or acquiring a new staff since Mintz had taken his. “The story goes that Mickey Mouse, the worlds most famous cartoon character was born on that train ride back to Hollywood.” (Selden, 39)
Walt then created a new Disney Company called The Disney Studio and Walt found himself new animators. They created two other Mickey films before the success of the third Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie. However, Walt had a hard time finding anyone willing to show his Mickey films. He was in the middle of creating Steamboat Willie when in 1927, The Jazz Singer premiered, and Jolson was heard when he talked and sang. Sound film had been invented, and would change the movie industry. Walt wasn’t the first to put sound into an animated film, but he was the first to have synchronized sound within his films. “The first Mickey Mouse was made after hours in a garage.” (Gabler, 115) In 1928 Steamboat Willie premiered and was a hit; audiences loved the shorts with synchronized sound. In 1932, Walt was awarded...
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