Walt Disney

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Cartoons; Producers, directors and media figures

Walt Disney
Walt Disney
Born December 5, 1901
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died December 15, 1966
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Film producer, Co-founder of The Walt Disney Company
Spouse Lillian Disney

Walter Elias Disney ( December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966), was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, visionary, and philanthropist. He was the son of Flora and Elias Disney, and had three brothers and one sister. As the co-founder (with his brother Roy O. Disney) of Walt Disney Productions, Walt became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation he co-founded, now known as The Walt Disney Company, today has annual revenues of approximately U.S. $30 billion.

Walt Disney is particularly noted for being a film producer, and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design. He was nominated for 48 Academy awards and 7 Emmys, holding the record for most Oscar nominations. He also had two daughters, Diane and Sharon; Sharon was adopted. He and his staff created a number of the world's most famous productions, including the one many consider Disney's alter ego, Mickey Mouse. He is also well-known as the namesake of the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in the United States.

Walt Disney died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, a few years prior to the opening of his Walt Disney World dream project in Orlando, Florida.

1901-1937: The beginnings


Disney as an ambulance driver during the war.
Disney as an ambulance driver during the war.

Walt Disney's ancestors had emigrated from Gowran, County Kilkenny in Ireland. His father Elias Disney had moved to the United States after his parents failed at farming in Canada. As a child Elias moved with his family all around the United States, as his father chased various business ventures. He also worked as a mailman in Kissimmee (Orlando), Florida, future home of Walt Disney World. Elias moved to Chicago in the late 1800s soon after his marriage to Flora Call. Walt was born in Chicago.

In April, 1906 Elias grew disenchanted with the violence in Chicago and moved his family to Marceline, Missouri where his brother owned property. There he bought a house and 45 acres of farmland. While in Marceline, Disney developed his love for drawing. One of their neighbors, a retired doctor named "Doc" Sherwood, paid him to draw pictures of Sherwood's horse, Rupert. He also developed his love for trains in Marceline, which owed its existence to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway which ran through town. Walt would put his ear to the tracks in anticipation of the coming train. Then he would look for his uncle, engineer Michael Martin, running the train.

The Disneys remained in Marceline for four years, moving to Kansas City in 1910. There Walt and his sister Ruth attended the Benton Grammar School where he met Walter Pfeiffer. The Pfeiffers were theatre aficionados and introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. Soon Walt was spending more time at the Pfeiffers than at home.


In 1917, Elias purchased an interest in the O-Zell jelly factory in Chicago and moved his family back there. In the fall, Disney began his freshman year at McKinley High School there and began taking night courses at the Chicago Art Institute. Disney was the cartoonist for the school newspaper. His cartoons were very patriotic, focusing on World War I. Disney dropped out of high school at 16 so he could join the Army, but the army didn't take him because he was too young.

Instead, Walt and one of his friends decided to join the Red Cross. They were supposed to be 17 years old to join but, against his father's will, his mother forged Walt's birth certificate saying he was born in 1900 instead of 1901. The Red Cross sent him to France for a year. During that year, he drove an ambulance covered from top to bottom with his imaginative Disney characters.

He moved to Kansas City to begin his artistic career. His brother Roy worked at a bank in the area and got a job for him through a friend at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio. At Pesmen-Rubin, Disney made ads for newspapers, magazines, and movie theaters. It was also there that he met a shy cartoonist named Ubbe Iwwerks. The two respected each other's work so much, they became fast friends and decided to start their own art business.

Disney and Iwerks (who now shortened his name to Ub Iwerks) formed a company called "Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists" in January 1920 (it was originally called Disney-Iwerks, but the two thought they would be confused with a shop that made eyeglasses). Unfortunately, few clients were willing to hire the inexperienced duo. Iwerks left temporarily to earn money at Kansas City Film Ad Company. Disney followed suit after the business venture was taken over by his New York financial backers Winkler and Mintz.


When Disney arrived in Los Angeles, he had $40 in his pocket and an unfinished cartoon in his suitcase. Interestingly, he first wanted to break away from animation, thinking he could not compete with the studios in New York City. Disney said that his first ambition was to be a film director. He went to every studio in town looking for directing work; they all promptly turned him down.

Because of the lack of success in live-action film, Disney turned back to animation. His first Hollywood cartoon studio was a garage in his uncle Robert's house. Disney sent an unfinished print to New York distributor Margaret Winkler, who promptly wrote back to him. She wanted a distribution deal with Disney for more live-action/animated shorts based upon Alice's Wonderland.

Disney looked up his brother Roy, who was recovering from tuberculosis in a Los Angeles veteran's hospital. Disney pleaded with his brother to help him with his fledgling studio, saying that he could not keep his finances straight without him. Roy agreed and left the hospital with his brother. He never went back and never had a recurrence of tuberculosis. Virginia Davis (the live-action star of Alice’s Wonderland) and her family were relocated at Disney's request from Kansas City to Hollywood, as were Iwerks and his family. This was the beginning of the Disney Brothers' Studio. It was located on Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake district, where the studio would remain until 1939.

In 1925, Disney hired a young woman named Lillian Bounds to ink and paint celluloid. He was immediately taken with her. She began to pull double duty as secretary a few months later. Disney then began to take her out on dates, their first being the Broadway show, No, No, Nanette. He would also take her out on drives in the hills of Los Angeles. On one drive, he asked her if he should buy a new car or a ring for her finger. They were married on July 15, 1925. She later jokingly commented that he was disappointed that she did not tell him to buy the car. They honeymooned at Mount Rainier.

Alice Comedies

The new series, " Alice Comedies," was reasonably successful, and featured both Dawn O'Day and Margie Gay as Alice after Virginia Davis’ parents pulled her out of the series because of a pay cut. Lois Hardwick also briefly assumed the role. By the time the series ended in 1927, the focus was more on the animated characters, in particular a cat named Julius who recalled Felix the Cat, rather than the live-action Alice.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

By 1927, Charles B. Mintz had married Margaret Winkler and assumed control of her business, and ordered a new all-animated series to be put into production for distribution through Universal Pictures. The new series, " Oswald the Lucky Rabbit", was an almost instant success, and the Oswald character, first drawn and created by Iwerks, became a popular property. The Disney studio expanded, and Walt hired back Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng from Kansas City.

In February of 1928, Disney went to New York to negotiate a higher fee per short from Mintz. Disney was shocked when Mintz announced that not only did he want to reduce the fee he paid Disney per short, but that he had most of his main animators, including Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng (notably excepting Iwerks) under contract and would start his own studio if Disney did not accept the reduced production budgets. Universal, not Disney, owned the Oswald trademark, and could make the films without Disney.

Disney declined Mintz's offer and lost most of his animation staff. The defectors became the nucleus of the Winkler Studio, run by Mintz and his brother-in-law George Winkler. When that studio went under after Universal assigned production of the Oswald shorts to an in-house division run by Walter Lantz, Mintz focused his attentions on the studio making the "Krazy Kat" shorts, which later became Screen Gems, and Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng marketed an Oswald-like character named Bosko to Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros., and began work on the first entries in the Looney Tunes series.

It took Disney's company 78 years to get back the rights to the Oswald character. In a move that sent sports broadcaster Al Michaels to NBC Sports for their Sunday night NFL coverage, the Walt Disney Company reacquired the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from NBC Universal in 2006.

Mickey Mouse

After having lost the rights to Oswald, Disney had to develop a new "star". Most Disney biographies state that Disney came up with a mouse character on his trip back from New York. It is debated whether it was he, or Iwerks who actually designed the mouse (which basically looked like Oswald, but with round instead of long ears). The first films were animated by Iwerks, his name was prominently featured on the title cards. The mouse was originally named "Mortimer", but later christened " Mickey Mouse" by Lillian Disney.

Mickey's first animated short produced was Plane Crazy, which was, like all of Disney's previous works, a silent film. After failing to find distributor interest in Plane Crazy or its follow-up, The Gallopin' Gaucho, Disney created a Mickey cartoon with sound called Steamboat Willie. A businessman named Pat Powers provided Disney with both distribution and Cinephone, a sound- synchronization process. Steamboat Willie became a success, and Plane Crazy, The Galloping Gaucho, and all future Mickey cartoons were released with soundtracks. Disney himself provided the vocal effects for the earliest cartoons and performed as the voice of Mickey Mouse until 1946. Disney believed Mickey would make it far into television.

Silly Symphonies

Joining the Mickey Mouse series in 1929 were a series of musical shorts called Silly Symphonies. The first of these was entitled The Skeleton Dance and was entirely drawn and animated by Iwerks, who was also responsible for drawing the majority of cartoons released by Disney in 1928 and 1929. Although both series were successful, the Disney studio was not seeing its rightful share of profits from Pat Powers, and in 1930 Disney signed a new distribution deal with Columbia Pictures.

Iwerks was growing tired of the temperamental Disney, especially as he was doing the majority of the work, and so was lured by Powers into opening his own studio with an exclusive contract. Disney desperately searched for someone who could replace Iwerks, as he was not able to draw as well or as quickly; Iwerks was reported to have drawn up to 700 drawings a day for the first Mickey shorts.

Meanwhile, Iwerks launched his successful Flip the Frog series with the first sound cartoon in colour, "Fiddlesticks," filmed in two-strip Technicolor. Iwerks also created two other series of cartoons, the Willie Whopper and the Comicolor cartoon series. Iwerks closed his studio in 1936 to work on various projects dealing with animation technology. Iwerks would return to Disney in 1940 and, in the studio's research and development department, would go on to pioneer a number of film processes and specialized animation technologies.

Eventually, Disney was able to find a number of people to replace Iwerks. By 1932, Mickey Mouse had become quite a popular cartoon character. The Van Beuren cartoon studio attempted to cash in on this success by creating a specific process, making these the first commercial films presented in this new process. The first colour Symphony was Flowers and Trees, which won the first Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons in 1932.

Mickey Mouse also known as Steamboat Willie was stolen from Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill.

First Academy Award

In 1932, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse, whose series was moved into colour in 1935 and soon launched spinoff series for supporting characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.

The family grows

As Mickey's co-creator and producer, Disney was almost as famous as his mouse cartoon character, but remained a largely private individual. His greatest hope was to be a father to many children. However, the Disneys' first attempts at pregnancy ended in miscarriage. This, coupled with pressures at the studio, led to Disney having "a hell of a breakdown", as he called it. His doctors said that he had to get away for a while, so he and his wife went on a Caribbean cruise and then traveled to Washington, D.C.

When Lilly Disney became pregnant again, Disney told his sister in a letter that he did not care what gender the child was, just as long as they were not disappointed again. Lilly finally gave birth to a daughter, Diane Marie Disney, on December 18, 1933. Disney was excited to finally have a child. A few years later the Disneys adopted a second daughter, Sharon Mae Disney, born on December 21, 1934.

1937-1941: The Golden Age of Animation

"Disney's Folly": Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Disney introduces his popular creations: Mickey, Minnie Mouse and Pluto to Hansel and Gretel (Dorothy Rodin and Virginia Murray).
Disney introduces his popular creations: Mickey, Minnie Mouse and Pluto to Hansel and Gretel ( Dorothy Rodin and Virginia Murray).

Although his studio produced the two most successful cartoon series in the industry, the returns were still dissatisfying to Disney, and he began plans for a full-length feature in 1934. When the rest of the film industry learned of Disney's plans to produce an animated feature-length version of Snow White, they dubbed the project "Disney's Folly" and were certain that the project would destroy the Disney studio. Both Lillian and Roy tried to talk Disney out of the project, but he continued plans for the feature. He employed Chouinard Art Institute professor Don Graham to start a training operation for the studio staff, and used the Silly Symphonies as a platform for experiments in realistic human animation, distinctive character animation, special effects, and the use of specialized processes and apparatus such as the multiplane camera.

All of this development and training was used to elevate the quality of the studio so that it would be able to give the feature the quality Disney desired. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as the feature was named, was in full production from 1935 until mid-1937, when the studio ran out of money. To acquire the funding to complete Snow White, Disney had to show a rough cut of the motion picture to loan officers at the Bank of America, who gave the studio the money to finish the picture. The finished film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937; at the conclusion of the film the audience gave Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a standing ovation. Snow White, the first animated feature in English and Technicolor, was released in February 1938 under a new distribution deal with RKO Radio Pictures. The film became the most successful motion picture of 1938 and earned over $8 million (today $98 million) in its original theatrical release, all the more amazing because children were only charged a dime to see it. The success of Snow White (for which Disney received one full-size, and seven miniature Oscar statuettes) allowed Disney to build a new campus for the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, which opened for business on December 24, 1939. The feature animation staff, having just completed Pinocchio, continued work on Fantasia and Bambi, while the shorts staff continued work on the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto cartoon series, ending the Silly Symphonies at this time.

Wartime Woes

Pinocchio and Fantasia followed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into movie theatres in 1940, but both were financial disappointments. The inexpensive Dumbo was planned as an income generator, but during production of the new film, most of the animation staff went on strike, permanently straining the relationship between Disney and his artists.

Shortly after Dumbo was released in October 1941 and became a successful moneymaker, the United States entered World War II. The U.S. Army contracted for most of the Disney studio's facilities and had the staff create training and instructional films for the military, as well as home-front morale-boosting shorts such as Der Fuehrer's Face and the feature film Victory Through Air Power in 1943. The military films did not generate income, however, and the feature film Bambi underperformed when it was released in April 1942. Disney successfully re-issued Snow White in 1944, establishing a 7-year re-release tradition for Disney features. (The pattern was not always strictly followed - Disney's version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was first re-released in 1963, nine years after its first run in movie theatres, and Disney's financially disappointing and critically drubbed version of Babes in Toyland, went straight to television after its theatrical run, and never re-appeared in movie theatres.)

The Disney studios also created inexpensive package films, containing collections of cartoon shorts, and issued them to theaters during this period. The most notable and successful of these were Saludos Amigos (1942), its sequel The Three Caballeros (1945), Song of the South (the first Disney film to feature dramatic actors) (1946), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). The latter had only two sections: the first based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, and the second based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

By the late 1940s, the studio had recovered enough to continue production on the full-length features Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, which had been shelved during the war years, and began work on Cinderella. The studio also began a series of live-action nature films, entitled True-Life Adventures, in 1948 with On Seal Island.

Testimony before Congress

After the 1941 strike of Disney Studio employees, Walt Disney deeply distrusted organized labor. In 1947, during the early years of the Cold War, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he branded Herbert Sorrell, David Hilberman and William Pomerance, former animators and labor union organizers, as Communist agitators. (All three men denied the allegations.) Disney implicated the Screen Actors Guild as a Communist front, and charged that the 1941 strike was part of an organized Communist effort to gain influence in Hollywood.

1955-1966: Theme Parks and beyond

Carolwood Pacific Railroad

The Lilly Belle on display at Disneyland Main Station in 1993. The caboose's woodwork was done entirely by Walt himself.
The Lilly Belle on display at Disneyland Main Station in 1993. The caboose's woodwork was done entirely by Walt himself.

During 1949, Disney and his family moved to a new home on a large piece of property in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles, California. With the help of his friends Ward and Betty Kimball, owners of their own backyard railroad, Disney developed the blueprints and immediately set to work creating a miniature live steam railroad for his backyard. The name of the railroad, Carolwood Pacific Railroad, originated from the address of his home that was located on Carolwood Drive. The railroad's half-mile long layout included a 46-foot-long trestle, loops, overpasses, gradients, an elevated dirt berm, and a 90-foot tunnel underneath Mrs. Disney's flowerbed. He named the miniature working steam locomotive built by Roger E. Broggie of the Disney Studios Lilly Belle in his wife's honour. He had his attorney draw up right-of-way papers giving the railroad a permanent, legal easement through the garden areas, which his wife dutifully signed; however, there is no evidence the documents were ever recorded as a restriction on the property's title.

Planning Disneyland

The "Partners" statue at Disneyland in Anaheim, featuring Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.
The "Partners" statue at Disneyland in Anaheim, featuring Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

On a business trip to Chicago in the late-1940s, Disney drew sketches of his ideas for an amusement park where he envisioned his employees spending time with their children. He got his idea for a children's theme park after visiting Children's Fairyland in Oakland, California. This plan was originally for a lot south of the Studio, just across the street. However, the city of Burbank declined building permission. The original ideas developed into a concept for a larger enterprise that was to become Disneyland. Disney spent five years of his life developing Disneyland and created a new subsidiary of his company, called WED Enterprises, to carry out the planning and production of the park. A small group of Disney studio employees joined the Disneyland development project as engineers and planners, and were dubbed Imagineers.

When describing one of his earliest plans to Herb Ryman (who created the first aerial drawing of Disneyland to present to the Bank of America for funds), Disney said, "Herbie, I just want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train." Entertaining his daughters and their friends in his backyard and taking them for rides on his Carolwood Pacific Railroad had inspired Disney to include a railroad in the plans for Disneyland.

Among his closest friends in his last decade of life were Bob Hannah; the trainmaster; and Lorne Cline; lead brakeman; who later regaled park guests with stories about Walt into the late 1970s &mdash Walt did not ever want to lose control of the railroad to the financial backers of Disneyland and so placed the steam train and monorail attractions into a free-standing company called "RETLAW" (which is "Walter" spelled backwards) of which he and his wife were sole owners. Prior to its dissolution into the Disney Corp in the 1980s, he (and heirs) would receive $0.60 for each person through the turnstile at the train stations and supervisors could be seen currying favour with the owner by spinning the turnstiles to increase the count (and revenues) before park opening and after closing.

Expanding into new areas

As Walt Disney Productions began work on Disneyland, it also began expanding its other entertainment operations. Treasure Island (1950) became the studio's first all-live-action feature, and was soon followed by such successes as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (in CinemaScope, 1954), The Shaggy Dog (1959), and The Parent Trap (1961). The Walt Disney Studio was one of the first to take full advantage of the then-new medium of television, producing its first TV special, One Hour in Wonderland, in 1950. Disney began hosting a weekly anthology series on ABC named Disneyland after the park, where he showed clips of past Disney productions, gave tours of his studio, and familiarized the public with Disneyland as it was being constructed in Anaheim, California. In 1955, he debuted the studio's first daily television show, the popular Mickey Mouse Club, which would continue in many various incarnations into the 1990s.

Walt Disney meets with Wernher von Braun.
Walt Disney meets with Wernher von Braun.

As the studio expanded and diversified into other media, Disney devoted less of his attention to the animation department, entrusting most of its operations to his key animators, whom he dubbed the Nine Old Men. During Disney's lifetime, the animation department created the successful Lady and the Tramp (in CinemaScope, 1955), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), the financially disappointing Sleeping Beauty (in Super Technirama 70mm, 1959) and The Sword in the Stone (1963).

Production on the short cartoons had kept pace until 1956, when Disney shut down the shorts division. Special shorts projects would continue to be made for the rest of the studio's duration on an irregular basis. Disney's mind was set toward expansion, and he wanted to make longer films.

These productions were all distributed by Disney's new subsidiary, Buena Vista Distribution, which had assumed all distribution duties for Disney films from RKO by 1955. Disneyland, one of the world's first theme parks, finally opened on July 17, 1955, and was immediately successful. Visitors from around the world came to visit Disneyland, which contained attractions based upon a number of successful Disney properties and films. After 1955, the Disneyland TV show became known as Walt Disney Presents. The show went from black-and-white to colour in 1961 — changing its name to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour — and eventually evolved into what is today known as The Wonderful World of Disney, which continued to air on ABC until 2005, when it ceased as a regular series, due in part to premium pay-cable rights currently held by the Starz! movie network. Since 2005, Disney features have been split between ABC, the Hallmark Channel, and Cartoon Network via separate broadcast rights deals. It currently airs periodically, with features such as the December 2005 revival of Once Upon a Mattress.

During the mid-1950s, Disney produced a number of educational films on the space program in collaboration with NASA rocket designer Wernher von Braun: Man in Space and Man and the Moon in 1955, and Mars and Beyond in 1957. The films attracted the attention of not only the general public, but also the Soviet space program.

The TV series and book Our Friend the Atom (1956, together with Heinz Haber) were produced as part of an effort by the Eisenhower administration to enhance the image of nuclear energy.

Early 1960s successes

By the early 1960s, the Disney empire was a major success, and Walt Disney Productions had established itself as the world's leading producer of family entertainment. Walt Disney was the Head of Pageantry for the 1960 Winter Olympics. After decades of trying, Disney finally procured the rights to P.L. Travers' books about a magical nanny. Mary Poppins, released in 1964, was the most successful Disney film of the 1960s and featured a memorable song score written by Disney favorites, the Sherman Brothers. Many hailed the live-action/animation combination feature as Disney's greatest achievement. The same year, Disney debuted a number of exhibits at the 1964 New York World's Fair, including Audio- Animatronic figures, all of which were later integrated into attractions at Disneyland and a new theme park project to be established on the East Coast, which Disney had been planning ever since Disneyland opened.

Ski resorts

Walt Disney first showed interest in ski resorts with his investment in Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in the 1930s. However, his interest was brought to a new level in the 1960s when he commissioned plans for Disney's Mineral King Ski Resort. Official plans for the resort were announced just months before his death. The project was eventually canceled due to heavy protest from many environmental organizations, most notably the Sierra Club. The 1970s saw yet another set of Disney plans for a ski resort, in Independence Lake near San Francisco. Like the Mineral King plans, the Independence Lake project was scrapped for many of the same reasons. There are plans for two more new ski resorts to open in 2008.

"Florida Project"

In 1964, Walt Disney Productions began quietly purchasing land in central Florida southwest of Orlando in a largely rural area of marginal orange groves for Disney's "Florida Project." Disney did so under the mask of many fake companies, in order to keep the price of land as low as he could. As soon as the word got out that Disney was purchasing the land, however, the prices immediately rose. The company acquired over 27,000 acres (109 km²) of land, and arranged favorable state legislation which would provide unprecedented quasi-governmental control over the area to be developed in 1966, founding the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney and his brother Roy then announced plans for what they called " Disney World."

Plans for Disney World and EPCOT

Disney World was to include a larger, more elaborate version of Disneyland to be called the Magic Kingdom, and would also feature a number of golf courses and resort hotels. The heart of Disney World, however, was to be the Experimental Prototype City (or Community) of Tomorrow, or EPCOT for short. EPCOT was designed to be an operational city where residents would live, work, and interact using advanced and experimental technology, while scientists would develop and test new technologies to improve human life and health.

Death of Walt Disney

Walt Disney's grave site.
Walt Disney's grave site.

Songwriter Robert B. Sherman said about the last time he saw Walt Disney:

Walt Disney
He was up in the third floor of the animation building after a run-through of The Happiest Millionaire. He usually held court in the hallway afterward for the people involved with the picture. And he started talking to them, telling them what he liked and what they should change, and then, when they were through, he turned to us and with a big smile, he said, 'Keep up the good work, boys.' And he walked to his office. It was the last we ever saw of him.
Walt Disney

Disney's involvement in Disney World ended in late 1966; after many years of chain-smoking cigarettes, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was checked into the St. Joseph's Hospital across the street from the Disney Studio lot and his health began to deteriorate, causing him to suffer cardiac arrest.

He died on December 15, 1966 at 9:30am, ten days after his 65th birthday. He was cremated on December 17, 1966 at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Roy Disney continued to carry out the Florida project, insisting that the name be changed to Walt Disney World in honour of his brother. Roy O. Disney died just three months after the Magic Kingdom opened for business in 1971.

There has been a long-standing rumor that after his death, Disney was cryopreserved so he may be revived at a later date. However, this has been refuted on numerous occasions. In fact, Disney was cremated, and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

A similar rumor has sprung up that shortly after his death, top Disney executives were shown a film that Disney made shortly before his death, that basically outlines the company's strategies for the next five (or ten) years. To bolster the story, pictures (or perhaps a short clip) of Walt planning EPCOT is shown. This is also false. The footage is from a pitch film Walt made to promote the building of EPCOT. According to www.snopes.com, Disney really didn't like talking about death, and wouldn't even go to funerals of close friends and aunts.

1967-present: Legacy

Continuing the vision

Roy O. Disney returned from retirement to take full control of Walt Disney Productions and WED Enterprises. He still refused to talk about his brother, and his grief, though rarely shown to other people, lasted until his death in 1971. In October of that year, their families met in front of Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom to officially open the Walt Disney World Resort. After an orchestra made up of over 66 countries performed a medley of Disney music, Roy stepped up to the podium.

After giving his dedication for Walt Disney World, he then asked Lillian Disney to join him. As the orchestra played " When You Wish Upon a Star", she stepped up to the podium accompanied by Mickey Mouse. He then said, "Lilly, you knew all of Walt's ideas and hopes as well as anybody; what would Walt think of it [Walt Disney World]?". "I think Walt would have approved," she replied. Roy died from a cerebral hemorrhage in December, the day he was due to open the Disneyland Christmas parade.

When the second phase of the Walt Disney World theme park was built, EPCOT was translated by Walt Disney's successors into EPCOT Centre, which opened in 1982. As it currently exists, EPCOT is essentially a living world's fair, a far cry from the actual functional city that Disney had envisioned. In 1992 Walt Disney Imagineering took the step closer to Walt's vision and dedicated Celebration, Florida, a town built by the Walt Disney Company adjacent to Walt Disney World, that harkens back to the spirit of EPCOT. EPCOT was also originally intended to be devoid of Disney characters which initially limited the appeal of the park to young children. The company later changed this policy. The sale of alcoholic beverages is also permitted at EPCOT, something never allowed in the Magic Kingdom.

The Disney entertainment empire

Today, Walt Disney's animation/motion picture studios and theme parks have developed into a multi-billion dollar television, motion picture, vacation destination and media corporation that carries his name. The Walt Disney Company today owns, among other assets, five vacation resorts, eleven theme parks, two water parks, thirty-nine hotels, eight motion picture studios, six record labels, eleven cable television networks, and one terrestrial television network.

Disney Animation today

Traditional hand-drawn animation, with which Walt Disney built the success of his company, no longer continues at the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio. After a stream of financially unsuccessful traditionally-animated features in the late-1990s and early 2000s, the two satellite studios in Paris and Orlando were closed, and the main studio in Burbank was converted to a computer animation production facility. In 2004, Disney released their final traditionally animated feature film, Home on the Range. The DisneyToons studio in Australia, which produced lower-budget traditionally animated films, at first appeared to survive the purge, but its closing was announced in July 2005.

Only recently with Roy E. Disney's return and Bob Iger now the CEO and with the Disney purchase of Pixar Animation Studios, reviving the traditional style of animation for which Disney has been famous for is again a reality. New creative head of Disney animation, John Lasseter, commissioned veteran Disney animator James Baxter to produce an animated test sequence for Disney CEO Robert Iger in February of 2006. If approved, the film based on this test sequence, called the Frog Princess, will be released in 2007.


Disney devoted substantial time in his later years funding The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which was formed in 1961 through a merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute, which had helped in the training of the animation staff during the 1930s. When he died, one fourth of his estate went towards CalArts, which greatly helped the building of its campus. He also donated 38 acres (154,000 m²) of the Golden Oaks ranch in Valencia for the school to be built on. CalArts moved onto the Valencia campus in 1971.

Lillian Disney devoted much of her time after her husband died to pursuing CalArts and organized hundreds of fund raising events for the university in her late husband's honour (as well as funding the Walt Disney Symphony Hall). After Lillian's passing, the legacy continued with daughter Diane and husband Ron continuing the tradition. CalArts is one of the largest independent universities in California today, mostly because of the contributions of the Disneys.

Academy Awards

Among many awards, Walt Disney holds the record for having the most Academy Awards. 22 won, and 4 honorary.

  • 1969 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
  • 1959 Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects for: Grand Canyon
  • 1956 Best Documentary, Short Subjects for: Men Against the Arctic
  • 1955 Best Documentary, Features for: The Vanishing Prairie (1954)
  • 1954 Best Documentary, Features for: The Living Desert (1953)
  • Best Documentary, Short Subjects for: The Alaskan Eskimo (1953)
  • Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom (1953)
  • Best Short Subject, Two-reel for: Bear Country (1953)
  • 1953 Best Short Subject, Two-reel for: Water Birds (1952)
  • 1952 Best Short Subject, Two-reel for: Nature's Half Acre (1951)
  • 1951 Best Short Subject, Two-reel for: Beaver Valley (1950)
  • 1949 Best Short Subject, Two-reel for: Seal Island (1948)
  • 1943 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Der Fuehrer's Face (1942)
  • 1942 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Lend a Paw (1941)
  • Honorary Award for: Fantasia (1940)

Shared with: William E. Garity J.N.A. Hawkins For their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia (certificate).

  • Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
  • 1940 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Ugly Duckling(1939)
  • 1939 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Ferdinand the Bull (1938)
  • Honorary Award for: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

For Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field (one statuette - seven miniature statuettes).

  • 1938 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: The Old Mill (1937)
  • 1937 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: The Country Cousin (1936)
  • 1936 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Three Orphan Kittens (1935)
  • 1935 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: The Tortoise and the Hare (1934)
  • 1934 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Three Little Pigs (1933)
  • 1932 Best Short Subject, Cartoons for: Flowers and Trees (1932)
  • Honorary Award For the creation of Mickey Mouse.

Other Honours

Walt Disney was the inaugural recipient of a star on the Anaheim walk of stars. The star is in honour of Walt's significant contributions to the city of Anaheim, California, specifically, Disneyland, now the Disneyland Resort. It is located at the pedestrian entrance to the Disneyland Resort on Harbour Boulevard.

Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney"