Musings of a Museum Fanatic: Disney History

5.14.2014

Disney History

I didn't want to spend the entire month just chatting about my favorite Disney things we obviously need go back and take a look at the man behind the magic right?! When I started researching and writing this topic I didn't realize just how much happened in his life and all he did. This one will definitely be a to be continued topic!!

Walter Elias Disney was born December 5, 1901 right here in Chicago. His home, 2156 N. Tripp Avenue, is located in the northwestern Hermosa neighborhood. Born to Irish-Canadian father, Elias Disney, and German and English mother, Flora (Call) Disney, they spent four years in the Chicago area before moving to a farm in Marceline, Missouri.

During this time Disney's love of drawing and trains developed thanks to neighbor Doc Sherwood and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway trains running through the town. Spending just another four years in this location the Disneys soon packed up and moved to Kansas City. One of his favorite things to do in Kansas City was to take his little sister Ruth to Electric Park, in his later years he acknowledged the role it had in his design of Disneyland.


After his father acquired shares in the Chicago O-Zell jelly factory the family moved back to Chicago in 1917. While he was attending high school Disney started night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, working on his cartoons, but he soon dropped out of school at 16 an attempted to enlist. Rejected for being too young, he did end up driving an ambulance in France after the 1918 Armistice was signed. Right away in 1919 Disney decided he would head back to Kansas City and decided to keep pursuing a career in drawing. With the help of his brother, Roy, Disney landed a job at Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio where he met his short lived business partner Ubbe Iwerks. They formed the Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists company but since both actually had to make a living to survive they started working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company.

It was here where Disney got his first taste of animation through making commercials based on cutout animations. After learning more about the different types of animation at the time Disney came to the conclusion that cel type animation was going places where as the cutout animation was not! He then decided to start his own company and took coworker, Fred Harman, with him. Together they started to produce their cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams. Unfortunately being so debt ridden and unable to pay his employees salaries Disney ended up bankrupt.

Only down for a little bit Disney decided to take his dreams out west to Hollywood and started Disney Brothers Studios with Roy. In 1925, Disney hired a young woman named Lillian Bounds to ink and paint celluloid. After a quick courtship, they married that same year, on July 25, 1925. After some success with their live action and animation series, Alice Comedies, Disney a bit of a bump in the road with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. While it was a success when Disney attempted to get increased pay, Universal Pictures said no way and let him know that they owned the rights. Again loosing all his staff because of the refusal Disney found himself starting again.


Right away Disney hopped right back on the horse and worked on developing a new character, a mouse based on a former pet. Originally the mouse was supposed to be named Mortimer but some nudging by wife Lillian to come up with a more approachable name, Mickey was born. Drawn by Iwerk and voiced by Walt, Mickey came alive first in Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho, both of which were silent films. It wasn't until Steamboat Willie, came out with sound that people finally started to enjoy and love Mickey. 

As the 1930's progressed Mickey's popularity only grew. Silly Symphonies was a huge hit and gave the world many of Disney's more popular early shorts, including the most successful Disney short of all time The Three Little Pigs.
  


Soon after Disney started on what would be his first full length animated film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Despite being dubbed Disney's folly after it's release in 1937 it was a smash success! Disney won an Oscar and was able to expand his Burbank studios. Soon after beloved classics like Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and Fantasia were in the works. During World War II Disney was asked to send animators to South America and develop Saludos Amigos as part of the government's Good Neighbor policy. After a couple of war films that didn't perform well and Bambi under performing at the box office, Disney released another Good Neighbor film in 1945, The Three Caballeros


To be continued ... 

2 comments

  1. Heck I'd be ok with Daily Disney posts. From all my blogger folks that I follow. Like seriously.

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  2. This is such a great overview! Being in Kansas City, I've read about Disney living here before but didn't know that Electric Park was a huge inspiration for him. I first heard about Electric Park a few years ago. I still have visions of going down to where it used to be and finding some cool relic from that time period. Maybe someday:)

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