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Biography

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Overview (5)

Date of Birth 5 December 1901Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 15 December 1966Los Angeles, California, USA  (cardiac arrest following lung cancer surgery)
Birth NameWalter Elias Disney
Nickname Uncle Walt
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He moved with his parents to Kansas City at age 7 where he spent the majority of his childhood. At age 16, during World War I, he lied about his age to join the American Red Cross. He soon returned home, where he won a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute. There, he met a fellow animator, Ub Iwerks. The two soon set up their own company. In the early 1920s, they made a series of animated shorts for the Newman theater chain, entitled "Newman's Laugh-O-Grams". Their company soon went bankrupt, however.

The two then went to Hollywood in 1923. They started work on a new series, about a live-action little girl who journeys to a world of animated characters. Entitled the "Alice Comedies", they were distributed by M.J. Winkler (Margaret). Walt was backed up financially only by Winkler and his older brother Roy O. Disney, who remained his business partner for the rest of his life. Hundreds of "Alice Comedies" were produced between 1923 and 1927, before they lost popularity.

Walt then started work on a series around a new animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This series was successful, but in 1928, Walt discovered that M.J. Winkler and her husband, Charles Mintz, had stolen the rights to the character away from him. They had also stolen all his animators, except for Ub Iwerks. While taking the train home, Walt started doodling on a piece of paper. The result of these doodles was a mouse named Mickey. With only Walt and Ub to animate, and Walt's wife Lillian Disney (Lilly) and Roy's wife Edna Disney to ink in the animation cells, three Mickey Mouse cartoons were quickly produced. The first two didn't sell, so Walt added synchronized sound to the last one, Steamboat Willie (1928), and it was immediately picked up. It became the first animated cartoon to use synchronized sound. With Walt as the voice of Mickey, it premiered to great success. Many more cartoons followed. Walt was now in the big time, but he didn't stop creating new ideas.

In 1929, he created the 'Silly Symphonies', a cartoon series that didn't have a continuous character. They were another success. One of them, Flowers and Trees (1932), was the first cartoon to be produced in color and the first cartoon to win an Oscar; another, Three Little Pigs (1933), was so popular it was often billed above the feature films it accompanied. The Silly Symphonies stopped coming out in 1939, but Mickey and friends, (including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and plenty more), were still going strong and still very popular.

In 1934, Walt started work on another new idea: a cartoon that ran the length of a feature film. Everyone in Hollywood was calling it "Disney's Folly", but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was anything but, winning critical raves, the adoration of the public, and one big and seven little special Oscars for Walt. Now Walt listed animated features among his ever-growing list of accomplishments. While continuing to produce cartoon shorts, he also started producing more of the animated features. Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942) were all successes; not even a flop like Fantasia (1940) and a studio animators' strike in 1941 could stop Disney now.

In the mid 1940s, he began producing "packaged features", essentially a group of shorts put together to run feature length, but by 1950 he was back with animated features that stuck to one story, with Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Peter Pan (1953). In 1950, he also started producing live-action films, with Treasure Island (1950). These began taking on greater importance throughout the 50s and 60s, but Walt continued to produce animated features, including Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and 101 Dalmatians (1961).

In 1955, he even opened a theme park in southern California: Disneyland. It was a place where children and their parents could take rides, just explore, and meet the familiar animated characters, all in a clean, safe environment. It was another great success. Walt also became one of the first producers of films to venture into television, with his series Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1954) which he began in 1954 to promote his theme park. He also produced The Mickey Mouse Club (1955) and Zorro (1957). To top it all off, Walt came out with the lavish musical fantasy Mary Poppins (1964), which mixed live-action with animation. It is considered by many to be his magnum opus. Even after that, Walt continued to forge onward, with plans to build a new theme park and an experimental prototype city in Florida.

He never did finish those plans, however; in 1966, he developed lung cancer brought on by his lifelong chain-smoking. He died in the hospital on December 15, 1966 at age 65. But not even his death, it seemed, could stop him. Roy carried on plans to build the Florida theme park, and it premiered in 1971 under the name Walt Disney World. What's more, his company continues to flourish, still producing animated and live-action films and overseeing the still- growing empire started by one man: Walt Disney, who will never be forgotten.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tommy Peter

Spouse (1)

Lillian Disney (13 July 1925 - 15 December 1966) (his death) (2 children)

Trade Mark (6)

Happy endings on all pictures produced by himself (also posthumous and actual works).
Main characters using big white gloves (Example: Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Peter Pete, Jiminy Cricket, etc.)
His moustache
Animated Films
Distinctive, deep voice
Films often begin with an opening storybook.

Trivia (89)

Wife Lillian Disney passed away. [December 1997]
Born at 12:30am-CST.
Death caused by circulatory failure due to complications from lung cancer.
Disney's death spawned two rumors that became urban legends. The first is that he had his body cryogenically frozen. The second held that he was buried somewhere on the grounds of Disneyland. Both rumors are completely untrue. Disney was cremated and his ashes interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Active anti-communist.
Father-in-law of Ron Miller (married to his daughter Diane Disney).
As a teenager, Walt Disney was a member of the Order of DeMolay, a youth organization affiliated with Free Masons.
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA. Facing the Freedom Mausoleum, to your left hand side are two small private gardens. His is the one farthest back. Plaque is on the wall behind the trees (to your left standing at the gate).
Holds the record of winning the most Academy Awards with 22 wins in competitive categories. Additionally, he won three honorary Oscars and an Irving Thalberg Memorial Award.
Identified as the founder of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in film clips shown in the queue area of Rocket Rods (formerly, the CircleVision 360 Theater) at Disneyland.
Became interested in personalizing animals' characters after carelessly killing a small owl as a young boy. He felt deeply remorseful and guilty and vowed never again to kill a living creature.
Father of Diane Disney (born December 18, 1933).
Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2000 for the multiplane camera.
Worked as a paperboy as a youth.
In the animated short Mickey's Rival (1936), a character named Mortimer Mouse was modeled after him.
Chose Anaheim, California for the location of Disneyland after demographics experts convinced him it would become a major population center within 10 years. They were right.
Reportedly, his famous trademark signature was designed for him by one of his animators.
Was a frequent target of satire by animator Jay Ward.
Reports surfaced that shortly after his death, Disney Company executive board members were shown a short film that Disney had made before his death, where he addressed the board members by name, telling each of them what was expected of them. The film ended with Disney saying, "I'll be seeing you."
Mickey Mouse's birthday is November 18, 1928, the date when Steamboat Willie (1928) was released.
Donald Duck's birthday is June 9, 1934, the date when The Wise Little Hen (1934) was released.
The name Donald Duck is frequently written in on voting ballots in Scandinavian countries as a protest vote.
Inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in 1993.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, an Army draft notice, addressed to Mr. Donald Duck, was delivered to the Disney studios.
Tribute in the Memory of Film section at the Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium.
The Disney family came from Kilkenny, Ireland. The D'Isney family settled in County Kilkenny to escape religious persecution and later traveled to America.
Daughter Sharon Disney was adopted.
Nephew of Robert Disney.
Brother of Herbert Disney, Raymond Disney, Roy O. Disney and Ruth Disney.
Was dyslexic.
After adapting Ludwig van Beethoven's 6th Symphony for the soundtrack of Fantasia (1940), he exclaimed, "Gee! This'll make Beethoven!".
Pictured on a 6¢ US commemorative postage stamp issued in his honor, 11 September 1968.
In 1981, Walt Disney Productions (now The Walt Disney Company) purchased the rights to the Disney name from Retlaw Enterprises, the Disney family's company. Retlaw is Walter spelled backwards.
His grandfather lived in Ontario, Canada. From there he moved to the United States.
Was a major contributor to the success of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, primarily via his creative use of audio-animatronics (lifelike, internally animated figures). Among other things, he designed the Carousel of Progress for the General Electric exhibit, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the State of Illinois exhibit, and, most enduringly, It's a Small World for Pepsi Cola. One of the most popular attractions at the Fair, featuring animated figures of children from all over the world, the latter has since successfully established itself as a perennial crowd-pleaser at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. All three exhibits were transformed into attractions at Disneyland. Only the Carousel of Progress is not still open. It was closed to be turned into America Sings in Tomorrowland.
It is Hollywood legend that, lying on his deathbed at St. Jospeh's Hospital in Burbank (across the street from the Disney Studios) his last words were about how shabby the studio's water tower looked. Visible from a nearby freeway, towering above the backlot, it is adorned with the image of his most beloved creation, Mickey Mouse. In adherance with what they believed were their founder's last wishes, studio executives have made sure the water tower was regularly repainted since he died in 1966.
He was a chain smoker. He avoided smoking when he was in public view, especially where he might be seen by children. His smokers' cough often heralded his arrival in a particular wing of the studio, allowing off-task employees time to get on task.
In his autobiography, one-time Disney storyboard artist Bill Peet essentially described Walt Disney as a chain-smoking "work-a-holic" who was prone to strong mood swings.
He often called composer Richard M. Sherman into his office to play the piano for him. His favorite song was Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins (1964).
He got his idea and inspiration for Disneyland, when he visited the "Tivoli"-park in Denmark.
Was initiated into DeMolay at the Mother Chapter in Kansas City Missouri, in 1920.
Received the DeMolay Legion of Honor in 1931.
On November 13, 1986, he was a member of the first group to be inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame.
His father, Elias Disney, was a professional carpenter by trade who, among other things, worked on the construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the prototype for all World's Fairs to follow. When Walt and his brother Roy O. Disney were boys, their father would tell them of the many wonders of the Fair, such as the first ferris wheel, thus inspiring the dreams that would make them both successful as adults.
Was awarded an honorary Oscar "For the creation of Mickey Mouse" by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at the fifth Awards ceremony held on November 10, 1932, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. It was only the second honorary Oscar yet awarded by the Academy. The recipient of the first honorary Oscar, Charles Chaplin, was supposed to present the award to Disney, but he stayed home that night.
He also founded the motion picture distribution company Buena Vista Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of his empire. His empire now includes Hollywood Pictures Company and its specialty films unit; Caravan Pictures; Touchstone Pictures; Miramax Films Corporation and its specialty films unit, Dimension Films; American Broadcasting Company (ABC), ABC Family Channel, and ESPN.
According to former Disney animators, the whispered code that Walt Disney was nearby was "Man is in the forest," a sly reference to the film Bambi (1942).
Brother-in-law of Hazel Sewell.
Uncle of Marjorie Sewell.
Profiled in in J.A. Aberdeen's "Hollywood Renegades: The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers.".
Although he has been called politically conservative, actually voted mainly for Democrats until the 1940 presidential election. This was a main reason why he was asked by HUAC to testify, and was always particularly anti-communist, because his worst nightmare was being called one.
In 1964, Disney was one of several Americans chosen by President Lyndon Johnson to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. The award ceremony was held at the White House on 14 September 1964. The urban myth that Disney wore a "Vote for Goldwater" button during the ceremony to endorse Johnson's opponent in the upcoming election, Republican Barry Goldwater, is completely false and has been debunked many times.
He was one of the founding members of the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in February 1944, along with Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Sam Wood, Norman Taurog, Gary Cooper, Clarence Brown and Clark Gable.
Wanted to name Mickey Mouse "Mortimer Mouse" when he drew him. He showed the picture to his wife and his wife did not like the idea and told him to name him "Mickey Mouse". Some historians believe that Mickey's name was inspired from a toy mouse by Performo Toy Company named "Micky" (spelled without an "e"), which was extremely popular and had already been selling at the time when Disney was developing his Mickey Mouse.
Was first nominated for an Oscar (as producer) in 1932, the year he also got the honorary award for creating Mickey Mouse. From that year until 1965 (the year before his death), Disney received one or more Academy Award nominations every year except 1933 and 1941.
Supported Ronald Reagan's run for governor of California in 1966.
The last animated movie he ever put his personal touch on was The Jungle Book (1967).
Disney had been in bad health for a few months, before he finally entered St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California, on 2 November 1966, complaining of pain in his neck and back. An X-ray revealed a tumor on his left lung and surgery was advised. Disney, however, checked out to finish some studio business and re-entered the hospital on 6 November. Surgery was performed the next day and his left lung was found to be entirely cancerous and was removed.
He refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s, because Hitchcock had made "that disgusting movie Psycho (1960).".
Served in a Red Cross unit with Ray Kroc, future founder of the McDonald's fast food chain.
Disney is credited as Retlaw Yensid for Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966)'s original story. The pseudonym is Walter Disney reversed. The Disney family's company was named Retlaw Enterprises, Disney's first full name reversed.
Theme parks Disneyland and Disneyworld are respectively located in Orange County (Anaheim, California) and Orange County (Orlando, Florida).
Disney's record-breaking streaks of consecutive Oscar wins include: 1934-1940 (7) and 1951-1956 (6).
Has a record of 59 Oscar-nominations.
Walt's ancestors were named d'Isigny, and came from Isigny-sur-Mer in Normandy, France. In 1066, two soldiers, Hughes d'Isigny and his son Robert, fought with William the Conqueror during the conquest of England. After the conquest, Hughes d'Isigny and his son decided to stay in England. Their name was, over the generations, transformed into "Disney". In the XVII century, a branch of the Disney family emigrated to Ireland. In 1834, Arundel Elias Disney and his brother Robert emigrated from Kilkenny County, Ireland, to Northern America with their families. They left Liverpool and arrived to New York on October 3rd. Once in America, the two brothers parted. Robert established himself in a farm in the Midwest, whereas Arundel decided to reach Goderich Township, Ontario.
Good friend of Art Linkletter.
Became friends with Charles Chaplin during their respective days at United Arists in the 1930s; Disney credited Chaplin for helping him correctly pace his feature films.
Personally disliked Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953) because of the lack of "heart" and "warmth" in their main characters. Was very sad about the unfavorable reception of Fantasia (1940) as he was proud of the film. Ironically, the first re-issue of Fantasia (1940) after his death was the first time it turned a profit.
Among his favorite desserts were lemon meringue pie and chocolate ice cream soda.
Survived the 1918 flu.
Although he wore a mustache all his life, he forbade his employees to wear them, not wanting to compromise on the "clean-cut image" that the Disney company had.
Before his 35th birthday, his brother Roy encouraged employees to throw the boss a surprise party. Two of the animators thought it would be hilarious to make a short movie of Mickey and Minnie Mouse "consummating their relationship." When Disney saw the animation at the party, he feigned laughter and playfully asked who made the film. As soon as the two animators came forward, he fired them on the spot and left.
The day that he opened Disneyland in Anaheim, a plumber's strike broke out and water pressure was restricted to avoid plumbing problems. Disney had to choose between either water fountains or toilets, there wasn't enough water for both. He chose toilets, causing one reporter to half-jokingly quip, "Walt's trying to force us to buy Coca-Cola.".
Served as a "friendly witness" before the House Committee for Unamerican Activities (HUAC) in 1947.
Fourteen of the seventeen animated films produced during Disney's lifetime, were drawn from European legends and fables.
Very opposed to Hollywood's monopolistic film production market in the 1930s. He became one of the founding members of the Society for Independent Motion Picture Producers.
Built a life-size train set surrounding his house in Holmby Hills, CA.
His favorite films he produced were Bambi (1942) and Dumbo (1941). He also held Fantasia (1940) and Mary Poppins (1964) in very high regard.
Disney was long rumored to be anti-Semitic during his lifetime, and such rumors have persisted after his death. Disney's 2006 biographer Neal Gabler, the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concluded that available evidence does not support such accusations. "That's one of the questions everybody asks me," Gabler said in a CBS interview. "My answer to that is, not in the conventional sense that we think of someone as being an anti-Semite. But he got the reputation because, in the 1940s, he got himself allied with a group called the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which was an anti-Communist and anti-Semitic organization. And though Walt himself, in my estimation, was not anti-Semitic, nevertheless, he willingly allied himself with people who were anti-Semitic, and that reputation stuck. He was never really able to expunge it throughout his life." Disney ultimately distanced himself from the Motion Picture Alliance in the 1950s. The Walt Disney Family Museum acknowledges that Disney did have "difficult relationships" with some Jewish men, and that ethnic stereotypes common to films of the 1930s were included in some early cartoons, such as Three Little Pigs; but points out that he employed Jews throughout his career, and was named "Man Of The Year" in 1955 by the B'nai B'rith chapter in Beverly Hills.
Met Ray Kroc while both were training to drive ambulances for the Red Cross during World War I; the War ended before they could be sent overseas. Years later, Kroc, now CEO of McDonald's, approached Disney about opening a McDonald's at Disneyland, which Disney was in the process of building. But the deal fell through when Kroc refused Disney's demand to increase the price of McDonald's French fries from 10 to 15 cents.
Walt and Lillian had a son that died quite young, a victim of Polio.
Despite the fact that he hosted his television show for more than 12 years and was one of the most recognizable figures in the world, Disney appeared on-camera in only one of his films, "The Reluctant Dragon".
Died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center of circulatory collapse brought on by lung cancer. He was pronounced dead at 9:30 on the morning of December 15th, 1966, just ten days after his 65th birthday. Despite the urban legend that he was cryogenically frozen, Disney was in fact cremated on December 17th, 1966 and had his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
His favorite song was "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins (1964). When he was depressed Walt would call Richard M. Sherman to his office and have him play the song. According to Sherman, the song held special meaning for Disney; he considered it to be a perfect summation of the spirit of his company, and why he created Walt Disney Pictures in the first place.
Even though Walt himself never knew it, Merlin in The Sword in the Stone (1963) was modeled after him. Story writer Bill Peet saw them both as ill-tempered, mischievous, and completely brilliant.
Tom Hanks is a distant relative of Walt Disney. Hanks portrayed Walt Disney in the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks (2013).
Dropped out of high school to join the Army.

Personal Quotes (17)

I don't make pictures just to make money. I make money to make more pictures.
I'd rather entertain and hope that people learn, than teach and hope that people are entertained.
I'm not interested in pleasing the critics. I'll take my chances pleasing the audiences.
I hope we'll never lose sight of one thing--that it was all started by a mouse.
I happen to be an inquisitive guy and when I see things I don't like, I start thinking why do they have to be like this and how can I improve them.
It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
in the book "The Humour of Sex" by Robert Hale] I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known.
[on the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic youth organization] I feel a great sense of obligation and gratitude toward the Order of DeMolay for the important part it played in my life. Its precepts have been invaluable in making decisions, facing dilemmas and crises. DeMolay stands for all that is good for the family and for our country. I feel privileged to have enjoyed membership in DeMolay.
People like to think their world is somehow more grown up than Papa's was.
I sell corn, and I love corn.
You know, every once in a while I just fire everybody, then I hire them back in a couple of weeks. That way they don't get too complacent. It keeps them on their toes.
[to director Richard Fleischer, who made 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) for Disney, on how to be successful] Well, then, why don't you do as I do? Let somebody else do all the work and you take all the credit.
Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
The proper comedy for the screen is visual. Films try to get too many laughs out of the dialogue. We use pantomime not wisecracks. Portrayal of human sensations by inanimate objects such as steam shovels and rocking-chairs never fail to provoke laughter. Human distress exemplified by animals is sure-fire. A bird that jumps after swallowing a grasshopper is a natural. Surprise is always provocative.
Every time they make a pornographic film, I make money.
I think the picture would have done better with a different title. Girls and women went to it, but men tended to stay away because it sounded sweet and sticky. - On Pollyanna (1960)
As long as there is imagination left in the world, Disneyland will never be complete.

Salary (2)

Swiss Family Robinson (1960) $3,000 /week
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) $5,166 /week

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