Walt Disney Youth

Walt Disney, born December 5, 1901 in Chicago, lived in Canada for a few years before his family moved to a Missouri farm. The conditions were difficult and Walt had to wait until he was 8 years old before he could go to school.

Walt’s father could no longer take over the farm, so the Disney family moved back in 1909. Then they moved twice before installing near Walt brother’s in Kansas City. Disney, back then 9, discovers amusement parks and an active city that he will idealize.

His father owns a newspaper distribution business, so Walt and his brother work hard in their free time to help the family financially. But their father being very violent with them, 2 of Walt’s brothers leave the family home.

Walt Disney jeune

In 1917, Walt Disney enrolles at the William McKinley High School. He also follows drawing classes on Saturday morning in the Chigago Art Institute. While continuing his education, Walt continues to do little jobs to support his family.

During World War I, Walt entered the McKinley High School. There, he will illustrate the student magazine entitled “The Voices”. Meanwhile, something obsesses him, winning the war. He then leaves school at the age of 16 to join the army but was not old enough to do so.

In 1918, he entered the World War I by being incorporated into the division of ambulances of the American Red Cross in France. He remained in France until September 1919, then returned to his family in Chicago. He decided to start a career as a cartoonist .  

His beginnings in the animation field

Back in the United States and having always dreamed of making films, Walt postulates for many jobs. One of them was to work with Charlie Chaplin. He is hired at the “Pesman-Rubin Commercial Art Studio” with a salary of $ 50 per month. There, he will cover a weekly newspaper called “Newman Theater”.

It is there that he meets a young animator of his age named Ubbe Iwerks. He founded with him in 1920 the company “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists”. They are then hired by the “Kansas City Film Ad Company” to make promotional animations for local cinemas.

Ub Iworks with Walt Disney

In his free time, Walt makes his own one-minute films talking about with local issues and pleasing the public. He later sold them in 1922 to the Newman Theater Company. In 1922, Walt launched “Laugh-O-Gram Inc.”, but the company’s costs exceeded the revenues.

The local company “Pictoral Club” offers them a contract of about $ 11,000 for a few films. But the company that ordered the movies goes bankrupt and Disney will never be paid for the realization of these. The studio went bankrupt just after the last short film “Alice in Wonderland” (in real footages).

Walt Disney studios Creation

Walt’s brother, Roy, invites him to Hollywood. Together, they create the “Disney Brothers Studio” in their uncle’s garage, and get a distribution deal. This is how began the Disney animation studios !

In 1925, Walt bought a lot to build a studio. Shortly after, one of the studio’s employees, Lillian Bounds (then Intervalist Painter), became later Walt Disney’s wife. In 1926, the studio is named “Walt Disney Studio”.

Walt staged 2 characters in animated films: Julius (a Felix the cat like character) and Oswald (the lucky rabbit). But it was later that Walt created the first drawing of the one who would become an icon of the animation field : Mickey Mouse !

Walt Disney avec Plutot, Dingo, Riri, Fifi, Loulou, Donald Duck et Alice au pays des merveilles

Disney launches in 1927 a cartoon with sound and starring Mickey : Steamboat Willie. The film is projected on November 18, 1928 in New York, at the “Colony Theater”. This was the 1st cartoon with synchronized sound. That same year will be created the characters of Minnie Mouse and Pat Hibulaire.

Walt produced a new series of musical cartoons in 1929 called “Silly Symphonies“. He then creates the “Walt Disney Enterprise” company for the derivative products. In 1932, Mickey Mouse became the most popular cartoon character.

In 1932, Disney won an Oscar for his movie “Trees and Flowers”. He received the same year an Oscar of honor for the creation of Mickey Mouse. He will then launch the production of other series featuring the characters of Pluto, Dingo and Donald Duck.

The golden age of Walt Disney studios

With Disney studios is running out of money, so Walt launch the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film will premiere in Hollywood in 1937. This is the first animated feature film produced. He brought back to the studio over $ 8 million (98 million today).

The film’s success enabled Disney to build a new campus-style complex. This was called “Walt Disney Studios“, in Burbank. The animation team finishes the films “Pinnochio“, “Fantasia” and “Bambi“. While the short film crew produce the animated series of Mickey Mouse and other characters.

Walt Disney avec Mickey Mouse et Donald Duck

In 1941, the State Department asked Disney to represent the United States in Latin America to fight against Nazism. Walt reluctantly agrees because it allows him to continue to produce films. His influence from his travels in Latin America can be found in the short films “Saludos Amigos” (1942) and “The Three Caballeros” (1944).

The same year, he decides to participate in the war effort. Then, the studio produces the film “Four methods of flush riveting” about methods of riveting aircraft for new employees of factories. Subsequently, the popularity of the studios will continue to grow.

The film “Dumbo” was produced at low budget in order to be profitable. During the production of the film, the studio’s employees complain about the working conditions. They then launch the 1st strike of the studios.

Walt Disney et les personnages de Peter Pan

The studio is also requisitioned during the Second World War by the US Army. The goal was to produce propaganda and instructional films for the military, but they brought back not enough money.

It was at the end of 1940 that the company found enough money and animators to continue the production of feature films such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan“.

The business man

Between 1949 and 1955, Disney derivative products are in full expansion. To diversify his activities, Walt wants to take advantage of the potential offered by the media that is television. He then launches for Coca-Cola the first show “One hour in Wonderland”, broadcasted at Christmas 1950.

He will then launch other television series such as the “Mickey Mouse Club“, “Disneyland” or “The wonderful world of Disney”. Disney then devotes more himself to other activities rather than to the animation department that he will abandon to key animators called “The Nine Old Men“.

In 1955, Walt launched the opening of Disneyland Park. His company founded with his brother, The Walt Disney Productions, have become a trading empire. They diversify their activities such as movies, television, the park and by-products.

Walt Disney et ses produits dérivés

In 1960, the Disney empire became the largest family entertainment producer in the world. He opened 4 attractions the same year in the pavilions of the World Expo in New York, including animatrionics. The animatronics technology will be used later for Disney theme parks.

In 1964, Walt bought some lands in central Florida to establish what would later be the “Walt World Disney Resort”. Disney World is an expanded vision of Disneyland. More attractions, hotels, golf courses … And especially the park was used as an experimental prototype for the city of tomorrow.

World Disney Resort

Walt Disney was a visionary man who had big dreams.

Walt Disney’s heritage and how it impacts the animation field today

While working at Disney Studios, the “Nine Old Men” created the 12 basic principles of animation. Disney was one of the first pioneers of animation and allowed the expansion of the field through its great creativity and imagination.

Les 9 sages du studio Disney

He was also a great businessman and had never been very good at drawing. This did not prevent him from creating Mickey mouse and he contributed greatly to the advanced cinematographic technologies of the time thanks to the use of the multiplane camera.

He improved the animation field in general and left an imprint that marked his era and we can still feel it today. The Disney company still produces animated films. These are sold all over the world. And the studio always contributes to the progress of the animation field thanks to the new technologies that are developed there.

Today, the knowledge and expertise of those who made the fame of the studios back then continues to be transmitted in schools of art and animation. It is undeniable that without the contribution of Walt Disney, the world of animation would not be what it is today and he will always remain an example for all those who will study and want to embark on this magic field…

And don’t forget what Walt Disney used to say :
“If you can dream it, you can do it”.  


I am a professional 2D and 3D animator who worked for years on Animated TV Series and Video Games. (see complete profil description on the sidebar of the Blog). Have fun!

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