At a time in American history when jobs were scarce and money was hard to come by, one mouse and his group of animated friends, with their comical antics brought smiles to the faces of children and adults alike. The mouse's name was Mickey, and with his creation came the birth of a multibillion dollar corporate empire, all because of one man's dream.
Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1901, and was brought up on a small farm in a town called Marceline, Missouri, but later moved to Kansas City. It was in Kansas City that Walt first began experimenting with his artistic capabilities on Saturday mornings when he would go to a local museum and take drawing classes. The instruction was not exactly great, but it was a beginning. At the age of seventeen, Disney dropped out of school to become an ambulance driver overseas in W.W.I, but returned to America in 1919, when he applied his desire for art to a lucrative career. He became an apprentice as a commercial illustrator, creating advertising cartoons. By 1922, Walt had joined forces with Ub Iwirks, and they began their own commercial advertising firm. It didn't last long however, by 1923, Disney backed out of the business. Although the venture was a failure, Iwirk's talent was one of the main reasons for Disney's later success. (Gale Group)
Walt, now living in Hollywood, began production immediately on his first animation, Steamboat Willy, which featured a cheeky little mouse named, "Mortimer," voiced by Walt. The mouse however was later renamed by Disney's wife, Lillian, to, "Mickey." The production was the first ever to synchronize audio and visual effects. Walt looked at animation as a new way of telling stories through a medium that had no boundaries. This initial success led Walt to invest his own profits into newer and better productions featuring Mickey's new gang of wacky characters; Goofy, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Minnie. The productions were an overnight worldwide success, which led Disney and his, at the time, small team to go even further, expanding their studios and payroll, and releasing the first-ever full-length fully-animated feature presentation in 1937 entitled, Snow White. With the country still trying to recover from the economic disasters of the Great Depression, the production of Snow White was completely astonishing, and the fact that it was successful was even more astonishing, to many of Walt's colleagues, including one animator named Bill Peet, a longtime animator and production assistant of Walt's. Peet described Walt as a man of many faces. He could be on the highest of spirits one day and in the lowest of spirits the very next, and you never could tell just which Walt you might run into on any given day. (Peet, Bill)
The success of Snow White, in combination with Walt receiving an honorary academy award in 1939, led to the production of other full-length movies such as, Pinnochio, Fantasia, and the classic tale of Bambi. Disney's studios also took in earnings from smaller, less-notable wildlife films in the late 30's and early 40's. In 1950 however Disney's studios began experimenting with a new medium: live-action video, which they used to produce the movie, Treasure Island, in 1950, the success of which led to the even more successful, and possibly the most beloved live-action Disney film of all time, Mary Poppins (Gale Group).
In creating Mary Poppins, Disney's studios used state of the art special effects technology, including bluescreen, still a popular method of adjusting and changing backgrounds today. The film was for the most part a musical, and heavily sentimental, which is probably why it was as successful as it was. Disney was a master at plucking the heartstrings of his audience, young and old. (Hahn, Don)
In 1954 Disney received four Academy awards, and in that same year his empire continued to grow with the addition of television show production to the list of media the company...