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Essay/Term paper: Walt disney

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Biography

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Disney Productions is one of the leading entertainment

businesses, bringing tremendous profits not to mention the

joy it brings many people. It has not always been this easy

for Disney however. It took the mind of one man to bring it

to what it is today, and that"s mans name is Walt Disney.

Walt Disney"s life was devoted to the arts and

entertainment almost from birth. However, Walt"s fortunes

and fame didn"t take form until his creation of Mickey


Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901 and was the

fourth child of Elias and Flora Disney. He was an extremely

talented child, exhibiting tremendous creativity at such a

young age. Walt began drawing pictures in the 1st grade

and continued until the day he died. Another of his

exceptional talents was acting. Walt relished each

opportunity to perform on stage or in class. While in

elementary school "on Lincoln"s Birthday every year until

he graduated, Walt was hauled from class to class by the

principal to give the Gettysburg Address." (Fisher, 18)

Walt got bored with school however and dropped out at

the age of 16. He immediately got a job as a waiter on a

train line and kept this job until the U.S. entered the war.

Walt had a great desire to join the army, but was rejected

because he was to young. Since he still desired to have

some role in the war he became a volunteer with the Red

Cross. Within a week he was sent to the front and didn"t

return for one to two years. When Walt returned from he

war he told his father that he wanted to become an

animator, but his father did not approve. Walt ignored his

father"s advice and enrolled in art school.

Walt attended art school for several months in both

Missouri and Kansas City and then later found a job at an

advertising firm in Kansas. There he met a talented artist

named Ubbe Iwerks. Ubbe was a great animator and he

and Walt became good friends. Walt and Ubbe worked all

day for the advertising company, but at night they studied

the art of animation and experimented with ways to make

animation smoother by using light and a camera. Walt soon

quit his job at the advertising firm because he was not

satisfied with the work he was doing. He found a job in

Kansas City at a Film Ad Company. Walt was quickly

fired from this job and having nowhere else to go, he

returned home.

Walt and his brother Roy decided to form their own

business available jobs didn"t allow them the creative

freedom they deserved. They found a little place to set up

their own studio on Hyperion Ave. in Hollywood. If their

business were successful, it would be the first studio in the

city strictly for producing animation. Walt and Roy got their

studio up and moving within a few weeks and hired several

animators. They first produced a mini-series called Alice

that played in the previews of movie theatres, but they

knew it wouldn"t compare to Felix the Cat. Walt felt

something was missing at their studio and realized a need

for a master animator. Walt quickly called upon his old

friend, Ubbe Iwerks. Ubbe was convinced and headed

straight to Hollywood. With Walt creating stories, Ubbe

producing spectacular animation and Roy taking care of

finances they had a perfect formula.

Walt often worked late at night. "Mice gathered in my

wastebasket when I worked late at night. I lifted them out

and kept them in little cages on my desk. One of them was

my particular friend." (Disney qtd. in Fanning, 53) Walt first

drew the mouse up late at night and named it "Mortimer,"

but Roy was not fond of this name. However Walt was too

stubborn to change it. Roy talked to Walt"s wife, Lillian,

and she eventually got him to change it after days of

pleading. In fact, it was Lillian who ultimately named the

mouse "Mickey."

They first put Mickey in the short animation called, Plane

Crazy, named after Lindbergh"s flight across the world.

Immediately after that short feature Walt got the idea to

combine sound with the animation. This was extremely

difficult to do and it took Walt several attempts to find the

perfect composer. Since they were extremely low on

money Roy told Walt to forget sound for awhile and try

later, but Walt sound now. Steamboat Willie was their first

success and with sound on its side the film attracted many

audiences and Disney Productions had caught its first


In 1932 Walt thought the addition of sound was great, but

with color it would be even better. Walt called Technicolor

and asked to acquire the exclusive rights to put the

Technicolor process into all of his films. Surprisingly

Technicolor accepted, but wanted a large fee for exclusive

rights. Walt explained the opportunity to Roy in the

following way. "Why should we let a few dollars jeopardize

our chances? I think this is Old Man Opportunity wrapping

at our door. Let"s don"t let the jingle of a few pennies

drown out his knock." (Disney qtd. in Fanning, 57)

Walt and Roy decided to pay the fee then began producing

Mickey Mouse films in color. Disney Productions was the

only animation business to produce color films for two

years and during that time earned huge profits. From the

profits of the new colorful Mickey Mouse, Disney

Productions built a new studio designed by Walt. It was an

animators dream.

Walt"s new animated studio was the perfect setting to set

his latest idea, Snow White. It was the first animated movie

to actually be a feature presentation. One night Walt sat all

his animators down at a table and told them the story of

Snow White. His animators found the story fascinating, but

wondered how they were going to make an actual feature

length movie with cartoons. When Walt was about half way

done with the movie he realized that he did not have a

distributor to release his film.

Walt hired a man by the name of Pat Powers; he was the

best distributor they could afford at that time. Snow White

was finally released and the money was rolling in, but not all

of it. Walt and Roy noticed royalty money was not being

paid in accordance with their contract. They looked to Pat

Powers for the answer. When Walt confronted Pat Powers

about the lower royalties, Powers just shrugged jokingly as

if Walt didn"t know how to run a business. He then asked

Disney if he could buy out his company, but Walt was not

about to give up his business. Powers then overwhelmed

Walt with the news that he had offered Ubbe Iwerks his

own animation business and Ubbe accepted. Walt was

furious and immediately purchased Ubbe"s part of the

Disney Productions business in cash. Ubbe received 3,000

dollars at the time and today would be worth more than

500 million dollars. Walt eventually got his past dew royalty

payments and his total earnings from Snow White were

over 8 million dollars. The film earned Walt Disney an

academy award, the first animated feature to be honored in

such a way.

After Snow White"s lengthy, successful time in theatres

WWII started and Disney Productions entered a difficult

time. Walt had a 4.5 million-dollar debt in his hands and

didn"t know how to get rid of it. To make things even

worse, Pearl Harbor was bombed and Disney"s studio was

used as an anti-aircraft base. The anti-aircraft base was

removed in a month nonetheless, but Disney"s studio didn"t

stop in the war effort. Instead they were used to advertise

war bonds and other governmental positions. This slowed

Walt"s business drastically, but the government offered

Walt an opportunity to travel to S. America as a diplomat

and they would pay off all his debt. Walt accepted and

enjoyed the experience. There he found new ideas for

future films.

Walt returned home from S. America and trouble was

brewing in his studio. When war had broken out, Disney

Productions had stopped production on two films Bambi

and Fantasia. These movies were then released near the

end of the war, but they made no profit just more debt and

Disney animators were not provided bonuses as they were

promised. Walt was oblivious when he heard the news. He

had thought his new studio would have solved all these

problems, but unfortunately the animators didn"t find it to

be the paradise Walt did. Not seeing bonuses in their

paychecks, Disney animators went on strike. To solve this

problem, Walt elected to sell stock in his company and it

sold immediately. Walt was now out of debt, but he had a

new idea, an expensive idea.

Walt now had Disney Land on his mind and wouldn"t stop

thinking about it till it was created. " Disney Land really

began when my 2 daughters were very young. Saturday

was always "Daddy"s Day" and I would take them to the

merry-go-round and sit on the bench eating peanuts while

they rode. And sitting there, alone, I felt that there should

be something built, some kind of family park where parents

and children could have fun together." (Disney qtd. in

Fanning, 98) Disney Production could not afford this idea

though and Walt had determined that making another

movie would not raise sufficient capital to finance the

project. Walt decided to approach the networks to

produce a weekly Disney show. The American

Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) jumped at the chance to

have a Disney show on weekly and in turn ABC would

fund the construction of Disneyland in its" entirety. Roy was

not thrilled with the idea of building a theme park, but loved

the idea of a TV show. "It seemed to him (Roy) that every

time the studio started to get a little bit ahead Walt found a

way to get them back in red." (Fanning, 70)

Now with ABC"s money and Roy"s support Walt needed

to find a place to build his park. He found 200-acre lot in

Anaheim, California and purchased it immediately.

Construction was completed and the park opened in 1955

and by that time Disney Productions was a financial

success. People were so anxious to be the first ones in

Disneyland that when only 15,000 tickets were sold for

opening day 33,000 people showed up, half of them had

counterfeit tickets.

Certainly, Walt Disney was a man of vision. A man who

had the creativity to develop ideas and then have the

patience and perseverance to carry them out. Walt Disney

showed courage and the desire you need to build a

successful life. Even when all odds were against him, he still

was able to find a way to conquer his dreams. He taught us

many things and I hope we remember this man not only for

his cartoons, but also for his work ethics and the

contributions he made to society.


Fanning, Jim. Walt Disney. New York, NY: Chelsea

House Publishers, 1994.

Fisher, Maxine P. Walt Disney. New York, NY: A First

Book, 1988.

Greene, Katherine, and Greene,

Richard. The Man Behind The

Magic. New York, NY: Penguin

Books, 1991

Schroeder, Russell. Ed. Walt

Disney, His Life In Pictures.

New York, NY: Disney Press,



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