Walt Disney: Facts, Stories, And Trivia About The King Of Cartoons

By | December 2, 2021

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Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue inside of the Magic Kingdom theme park (Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Walter Elias Disney, better known as Walt Disney, was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois to Elias Disney, an Irish-Canadian laborer, and Flora Call Disney, a German-American teacher. He was the fourth out of their five children, four boys and a lone girl. The family moved to Marceline, Missouri just after Walt was born, and he spent most of his childhood there, where he developed an interest in drawing, painting, and most importantly, selling his creations to anyone who would buy them.

Young Disney

When Disney was 10 years old, his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where his dad started a newspaper route and Disney learned the discipline that would aid him so greatly in life assisting with it. He also developed a great appreciation of trains; his uncle, who was an engineer, even got him a summer job at the railroad, selling snacks and newspapers. In 1917, the Disneys moved back to Chicago, where Walt attended McKinley High School, taking drawing and photography classes and making cartoons for the school newspaper, as well as night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago.

When Disney was 16, he dropped out of school to join the army, but after he was rejected for being too young, he drove an ambulance in France and Germany for the Red Cross for a year. After he returned, his brother, Roy, got him a job at Pesmin-Rubin Art Studio, where he met Ub Iwerks. In 1922, Disney and Iwerks opened their own animation studio, where they made commercials, animated sketches called "laugh-o-grams," and a series of shorts fairy tale films called Alice In Cartoonland. Within a year, however, a bad deal with a New York distributor sunk the studio into bankruptcy, so at just 21 years old, Disney dragged his partner and his brother to Hollywood to open the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, soon renamed Walt Disney Studios, where he started developing cartoons featuring a certain spirited mouse.

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Walt Disney introduces each of the Seven Dwarfs in a scene from the original 1937 Snow White theatrical trailer. (Walt Disney Productions/Wikimedia Commons)

On Top Of The (Disney) World

Two years after founding his studio, Disney hired an ink and paint artist named Lillian Bonds, and she must have been impressive because he married her later that year. The couple had two children: Diane Disney, born in 1933, and Sharon Disney, adopted in 1936. Having gotten his family in order, Disney premiered his first full-length film, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, in Los Angeles on December 21, 1937. The film was a pricey gamble during the Great Depression, costing almost $1.5 million to make, but it earned nearly four times as much at the box office and won eight Oscars.

In 1954, Disney turned to television. His Sunday night program, Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color, was an instant hit. It was also a prime opportunity to advertise his new theme park, Disneyland, which opened on July 17, 1955 in Anaheim, California. Disney World was still under construction in 1966, when Disney died of lung cancer at 65 years old, but Roy Disney completed his plans to finish the park, which opened in 1971.