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Walt Disney

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Also Known As: Walter Elias Disney Died: December 15, 1966
Born: December 5, 1901 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: executive, producer, animation director, animator, commercial artist, mail delivery boy, newspaper delivery boy, factory worker

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

country. The following year, he changed the show¿s title to "Walt Disney Presents" and served as host until his death in 1966, while the series lasted until 1983. Meanwhile, he made further ventures into live action with "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954) and the incredibly poignant "Old Yeller" (1957). With the success of another popular television series, "The Mickey Mouse Club" (ABC, 1955-59), which featured the plucky Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, Disney took a huge step in cementing his empire by building the Disneyland theme park, a dream he forged in the late-1940s. Staged in nearby Anaheim and opened in 1955, the so-called Happiest Place on Earth featured only 20 attractions, but drew large crowds that included many notable celebrities.Despite the numerous excursions into other areas, Disney stayed with its bread-and butter and continued making animated feature like "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (1961) and "The Sword and the Stone" (1964). He also trudged ahead with popular and often iconic live-action movies, such as "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), "The Parent Trap" (1961) and "Mary Poppins" (1964), a state-of-the-art blending of live-action and animation in which Julie Andrews became...

country. The following year, he changed the show¿s title to "Walt Disney Presents" and served as host until his death in 1966, while the series lasted until 1983. Meanwhile, he made further ventures into live action with "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954) and the incredibly poignant "Old Yeller" (1957). With the success of another popular television series, "The Mickey Mouse Club" (ABC, 1955-59), which featured the plucky Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, Disney took a huge step in cementing his empire by building the Disneyland theme park, a dream he forged in the late-1940s. Staged in nearby Anaheim and opened in 1955, the so-called Happiest Place on Earth featured only 20 attractions, but drew large crowds that included many notable celebrities.

Despite the numerous excursions into other areas, Disney stayed with its bread-and butter and continued making animated feature like "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (1961) and "The Sword and the Stone" (1964). He also trudged ahead with popular and often iconic live-action movies, such as "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), "The Parent Trap" (1961) and "Mary Poppins" (1964), a state-of-the-art blending of live-action and animation in which Julie Andrews became the first player in a Disney film to win an Academy Award and became one of Disney¿s greatest successes. By this time, the Disney empire had reached new heights and became the standard bearer of family-themed entertainment. Meanwhile, the man himself concentrated on expanding Disneyland and began designing the even grander Walt Disney World in Florida in 1964, with grounds that were 180 times greater than his California theme park, making it the largest private construction project undertaken to that time. He also had visions of what he called the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, neither of which he was able to see through to completion. In 1966, Disney underwent surgery for an old neck injury that led to the discovery of a malignant tumor in his lung. After his lung was removed, Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966 from acute circulatory collapse brought about by lung cancer. He was 65. Urban legend told that the last thing he wrote shortly before he died was the name Kurt Russell, a child actor who at the time had just been signed by the studio. Much later, Russell confirmed the rumors while on a late night talk show.

Disney studios soon released the last films their patriarch had an active role in: the animated features "The Jungle Book" (1967) and "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" (1967), as well as the live action musical "The Happiest Millionaire" (1967). Meanwhile, Disney¿s look-a-like brother, Roy, stepped out of retirement to head the family empire and personally oversaw the construction of Walt Disney World in 1971. Over the ensuing years, Disney enterprise greatly expanded into a multi-billion dollar corporate conglomerate that seemed to permeate every facet of American culture while being ever-present throughout one¿s childhood. Of course, the animated films continued to roll off the animation assembly line to varying degrees of success. After flagging in the 1970s and 1980s with "Robin Hood" (1973), "The Fox and the Hound" (1981) and "The Black Cauldron" (1985), Disney-style animation saw a huge resurgence with blockbuster hits like "The Little Mermaid" (1989), "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "Aladdin" (1992) and "The Lion King" (1995). In the age of computer animation, Disney stubbornly held fast to hand-drawn characters until finally giving into digital technology with their last traditional animated feature, "Home on the Range" (2004). The practice did make a comeback, however, with the critical and financial hit "The Princess and the Frog" (2009). For all that he represented, both good and ill, there was no doubt that Disney had a profound impact on both culture and American enterprise, setting precedents in numerous areas. Through it all, Disney tried to retain perspective by routinely saying, "I hope we never lose sight of one thing¿it all began with a mouse." loses brought on by "Fantasia," which suffered internationally with the onset of World War II, Disney made his shortest animated feature, "Dumbo" (1941), which clocked in at a lean 64 minutes and told the tale of a big-eared elephant with the special gift of flight. Shortly after its release, the United States entered the war and subsequently contracted the studio to make training films for the military while sending Disney and several animators to South America by the U.S. State Department. In return, the federal government guaranteed loans to finance "Saludos Amigos" (1942).

In the meantime, Disney released what was later dubbed the crowning achievement of his studio, "Bambi" (1942), which suffered at the box office during its initial release because of the war and criticism from hunters that they were portrayed as being evil. But subsequent re-releases years later and distribution into other mediums more than made up for the financial loss, as the film went on to become an all-time Disney classic. Meanwhile, the self-made Disney felt the personal glow of success and naïvely thought his coworkers and employees would share the feeling. There was a bonus payment plan for what Disney deemed top-quality animation, but his exacting standards were too high for many to bear. Many people worked nights and weekends to meet tight deadlines, while grumbling that there was no overtime to compensate their bank accounts. Also, Disney¿s stubborn anti-union attitude and firing of union activists only exacerbated the growing animosity until some 500 picketers lined up outside the studio on May 28, 1941 and went on strike for five weeks. As a result, Disney lost some of his best talent and the atmosphere of the studio forever changed, affecting the work produced for years to come.

Both during and after the war, Disney released a number of so-called package films that mixed live-action and animation, including "The Three Caballeros" (1945), "Song of the South" (1946), featuring the latest technological developments of Ub Iwerks, and "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" (1949), all of which set the standard for the genre that lasted nearly 20 years. It would not be until the next decade before he produced a new classic animated feature, "Cinderella" (1950), which was still part of Disney¿s Golden Age, but presaged the less acclaimed films that were to come. Still, he had one of his biggest hits since "Snow White," which gave his studio a much-needed cash stream. He personally oversaw his next film, "Alice in Wonderland" (1951), a later classic that was nonetheless severely criticized by fans of Lew Carroll¿s literary creation. He took a critical drubbing with his next films, despite their later becoming classics in their own right. "Peter Pan" (1953), "Lady and the Tramp" (1955) and "Sleeping Beauty" (1956) were all praised for their visual innovations ¿ by this point Disney¿s animators were making it look easy ¿ but derided for their lack of story and character development. The first two were hits with audiences and made considerable sums at the box office, but "Sleeping Beauty," the most expensive Disney film made up to that point, failed to boost the studio¿s flagging profits that year, leading to a reported loss and layoffs in the animation department.

Though he did not venture into live-action feature-length movies until "Treasure Island" (1950), Disney had begun producing the "True Life Adventure" series in 1945, which earned five consecutive Academy Awards (1950-55) in the Best Short Subjects category. Seeing the potential in television before any of the other studios, he initially ventured into the new medium with specials to promote his upcoming features before taking the plunge in 1954 as host of the "Disneyland" (ABC) series, where its popular "Davy Crockett" episodes exhibited the medium¿s ability to influence the market, as coonskin cap mania swept the

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Skeleton Dance, The (1929) Director
3.
  Cat's Away, The (1929) Director
4.
  Jazz Fool, The (1929) Director
5.
  Jungle Rhythm (1929) Director
6.
  Barnyard Battle, The (1929) Director
7.
  Karnival Kid, The (1929) Director
8.
  Mickey's Choo-Choo (1929) Director
9.
  Barn Dance, The (1929) Director
10.
  Plow Boy, The (1929) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Hollywood On Trial (1976) Himself
3.
 Fun and Fancy Free (1947) Voice of Mickey Mouse
4.
 The Reluctant Dragon (1941) Himself
5.
 One Hour in Wonderland (1950) Host
6.
 Tugboat Mickey (1940)
7.
 The Whalers (1938)
8.
 Clock Cleaners (1937) Mickey Mouse
9.
 Lonesome Ghosts (1937)
10.
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Milestones close milestones

1918:
With Red Cross Ambulance Corps in France just after Armistice
1919:
Hired as commercial artist in Kansas; met Ub Iwerks
1920:
Joined Kansas City Film Ad Company, making cartoon commericals for local businesses
1922:
Incorporated first studio, Laugh-O-Gram Films; subsequently went bankrupt
1923:
Moved to Hollywood; the Disney Brothers Studio founded when Walt contracted with M J Winkler to deliver a series of six shorts titled "The Alice Comedies", combining live-action with animation; had made first "Alice" short while still in Kansas City; creditors allowed him to keep one copy of the film to use as a sample when he moved to California; three-and-a-half years later at series end, the once wanna-be filmmaker had his own studio and staff
1924:
Invited Ub Iwerks to join him in California
1927:
Introduced a new series, "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit"; distributor Charles Mintz assume control of the character
1928:
Introduced animated mouse in short "Plane Crazy"
1928:
Made first synchronized sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie"; introduced Minnie and Mickey Mouse; provided the voice for Mickey until his death
1929:
The Disney Brothers partnership replaced by four companies: Walt Disney Prods. Ltd.; Walt Disney Enterprises; Liled Realty and Investment Company; and the Disney Film Recording Company
1930:
Ub Iwerks suddenly departed the company
1930:
Brother Roy signed first contract for licensing, granting the George Borgfeldt Company of New York the right to manufacture and sell "figures and toys of various materials, embodying design of comic mice known as Mickey and Minnie Mouse . . .; Disney received 2.5 percent royalty on items selling for 50 cents or less, 5 percent for more expensive products
1930:
Pluto made his cartoon debut in "The Chain Gang"
1932:
Received honorary Oscar for the creation of Mickey Mouse
1932:
Goofy introduced in the cartoon short "Mickey's Revue"
1932:
Made first full-Technicolor film, "Flowers and Trees", from the "Silly Symphony" series; first cartoon to win an Oscar
1932:
Hired Don Graham from Los Angeles' Chouinard Art School to conduct night classes for his animators; eventually hired him full-time
1933:
First Mickey Mouse watch sold by Ingersoll
1933:
First globally successful story, "The Three Little Pigs" (from "Silly Symphony" series)
1934:
Donald Duck made initial appearance in "The Wise Little Hen" (from "Silly Symphony" series)
1934:
Production begun on first full-length animated feature, "Snow White"
1937:
"The Old Mill" short introduced the use of Disney's $70,000 multiplane camera, facilitating panning shots, creating greater depth of image and enabling more elaborate effects to be incorporated
1937:
Release of first US full-length animated film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"; production costs exceeded $1.5 million
1938:
Walt Disney Prods. absorbed the three other Disney corporations created in 1929
1938:
Purchased 51 acres of land for what eventually became Buena Vista Studios
1940:
Iwerks returns to work for Disney
1940:
An outgrowth of the "Silly Symphony" series. the feature-length "Fantasia" combined classical melodies with top-of-the-line animation and received a special certificate at the 1941 Academy Awards for its revolutionary Fantasound (early stereo)
1940:
Ub Iwerks returned to Disney
1940:
"Pinocchio" won two Oscars, one for score and one for song ("When You Wish Upon a Star")
1941:
On May 28, 1941, approximately 500 employees picketed the studio; the Disney strike seriously changed the atmosphere of the studio and affected the work produced there in years to come
1941:
Special treat of "Dumbo", the "Pink Elephants on Parade" surrealistic sequence, depicting Dumbo's psychedelic visions after swallowing a basinful of champagne
1942:
Released "Bambi", pushing the envelope (for him) by killing off Bambi's mother; five years in development, it was last feature to emerge unscathed by the problems of the strike or the war
1942:
Made films for US Armed Forces
1945:
"The Three Cabelleros", for the first time since the "Alice" series, extensively combined live-action and animation
1945:
Produced "True Life Adventure" series, Disney's first live-action films
1946:
Iwerks' further developments in the marriage of live-action and animation for "Song of the South" would not be topped for nearly 20 years
1950:
First new feature cartoon in the "classic" tradition, "Cinderella"
1950:
First live-action feature, "Treasure Island"
1950:
Ventured into TV with Christmas night variety special, "One Hour in Wonderland" (NBC), promoting Disney's animated feature "Alice in Wonderland"
1951:
Established Disneyland, Inc., a company with the mandate to create a theme park in Southern California
1952:
Founded Walter Elias Disney (WED) Enterprises
1953:
Roy O Disney formed Buena Vista Distribution Company
:
Hosted the various incarnations of the TV series "Walt Disney" (e.g., "Disneyland", "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color"), appearing first on ABC and moving to NBC in 1961; the (to date) longest-running primetime series would ultimately air under six different titles and have a run on CBS as well after Disney's death; first major Hollywood studio to create TV programming
1955:
Phased out his short-subjects unit, laying off some employees and reassigning others to work on the "Disneyland" TV series; continued to produce extra-length shorts on an unpredictable schedule through the early 1960s
1955:
"The Mickey Mouse Club" debuted on TV
1955:
Disneyland Amusement Park opened in Anaheim, California
1955:
First animated feature filmed in Cinemascope, "Lady and the Tramp"
1959:
Most lavish and expensive ($6 million) animated feature to that date, "Sleeping Beauty"; second and last feature in wide-screen format
1961:
First feature to solely use Xerox processs for transferring animator's drawings to cels, "One Hundred and One Dalmatians"
1961:
Formed California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) through merger of Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Chouinard Art Institute
1963:
Released animation epic, "The Sword and the Stone", based on T. H. White's version of the Arthurian legend
1964:
Robert Stevenson's "Mary Poppins" offered a then state-of-the-art blending of live-action and animation on its way to 13 Academy Award nominations; film won five statues, including Best Actress for Julie Andrews, the first Disney player to win an Oscar
1967:
"The Jungle Book", the last animated feature supervised by Disney, released
1968:
Last credit as producer, "Blackbeard's Ghost", directed by Stevenson
1970:
First feature-length animated film completed without Walt Disney, "The Aristocats"
1971:
Walt Disney World (Orlando. Florida) opened in October; it was the largest private building project in the world up to that time; Disney had initiated project, supervising every aspect in its development prior to his death; brother Roy took over, dedicating it in his brother's name two months before his death in December
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Education

McKinely High School: Chicago , Illinois -
Kansas City Art Institute: Kansas City , Missouri - 1918

Notes

Disney was nominated for over 60 Academy Awards and picked up 23 statues. In 1953 alone, he swept the categories of Best Documentary (Short), Best Documentary (Feature), Best Short Subjects (Two-reel) and Best Short Subjects (Cartoons), to date, the only person to receive four statues in a single evening.

Received the French Legion of Honor in 1936

His honorary degrees included an MS from USC in 1938, an MA from Yale in 1938 and an MS from Harvard in 1939.

Inducted into the Televsion Academy Hall of Fame posthumously in 1986

"The span of twelve years between 'Steamboat Willie', the first Mickey with sound, and 'Fantasia' is the bridge between primitive and modern animated pictures. No genius built this bridge. It was built by hard work and enthusiasm, integrity of purpose, a devotion to our medium, confidence in its future, and, above all, by steady day-by-day growth in which we all simply studied our trade." --Walt Disney, quoted in "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons" by Leonard Maltin (Plume: 1987; revised edition)

When asked what he considered his most important accomplishment, Disney replied: "The whole damn thing. The fact that I was able to build an organization, and point it at certain goals and hold it together." --From June 26, 1998 Variety commemorating Disney's 75th anniversary

"Every practising professional working in animation is deeply in the debt of the Disney Studio whether he knows it or not, or will admit it or not. Even those who rebel against the Disney style and content and approach owe Disney an enormous amount. While Walt Disney did not invent the medium he may as well have because from 1925 to 1940 his studio turned a crude bunch of squiggles without sound, of short length, into a highly sophisticated, illustrative, beautifully timed and developed, feature-length, highly successful and unique medium. This fifteen year period in which Disney added colour and sound, developed the feeling of weight and injected real personality into a flurry of drawings, was for all of us what is now known as 'The Golden Age of Animation'." --Richard Williams, quoted in Film Dope, Number 12

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lillian Bounds. Assistant animator, actor. Married from July 13, 1925 until Disney's death; married to John Truyens in 1969 until his death in 1981; died at age 98 on December 16, 1997; wisely suggested Walt change the name of his grinning rodent from Mortimer to Mickey.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Elias Disney. Farmer, carpenter. Reportedly was an itinerant ne'er-do-well.
mother:
Flora Disney. Schoolteacher.
brother:
Roy O Disney. Businessman. Born on June 24, 1893; Walt Disney's long-standing business associate; dedicated Walt Disney World in October 1971 and died two months later (December 20) at age 78; his son, Roy E Disney, as vice-chairman and head of animation has headed the studio (along with chairman of the board Michael Eisner) since 1984.
sister:
Ruth Disney. Born in 1903.
daughter:
Diane Marie Disney Miller. Married to Ron Miller, former Disney chairman of the board.
daughter:
Sharon Mae Disney. Adopted; died of cancer in February 1993.
grandson:
Tim Disney. Executive producer.
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Bibliography close complete biography

"The Art of Walt Disney" Macmillan
"The Story of Walt Disney" Holt
"Walt Disney: Magician of the Movies"
"The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney" Simon & Schuster
"Walt Disney: The Master of Animation" SamHar Press
"Walt Disney: Master of Make Believe"
"The Disney Films" Crown
"The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom" Harry N. Abrams Inc.
"Walt Disney" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Walt: Backstage Adventures With Walt Disney"
"Walt Disney: A Biography"
"Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince: A Biography"
"The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life" Houghton Mifflin
"The Disney That Never Was: The Stories and Art From Five Decades of Unproduced Animation"
"The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Anmiated Characters"
"Walt Disney and Europe" John Libbey & Company
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