Walt Disney was an American entrepreneur, cartoonist, animator, voice actor, and film producer. He was a prominent figure within the American animation industry and throughout the world, and is regarded as a cultural icon, known for his influence and contributions to entertainment during the 20th century.
Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago’s to Elias Charles Disney and Flora Call Disney. He lived most of his childhood in Marceline, Missouri, where he began drawing, painting and selling pictures to neighbors and family friends. In 1911, his family moved to Kansas City. The young Walt Disney developed an interest in art, and took lessons at the Kansas City Institute and later Chicago Art Institute. He became the cartoonist for the school magazine.
When Disney was 16, he dropped out of school and joined the Red Cross and was sent to France for a year to drive an ambulance. Disney returned from France in 1919 and worked at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animation. Disney was able to acquire his own studio but by 1923, however, debts forced Disney to declare bankruptcy.
Disney and his brother Roy soon moved to Hollywood and there they began the Disney Brothers’ Studio. Their first deal was with New York distributor Margaret Winkler, to distribute their Alice cartoons. They also invented a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and contracted the shorts at $1,500 each.
In 1925, Disney married Lillian Bounds,an ink-and-paint artist. In 1929, Disney created Silly Symphonies, which featured Mickey’s newly created friends, including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto. One of the most popular cartoons. Flowers and Trees, was the first to be produced in color and to win an Oscar. On December 21, 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated film, premiered in Los Angeles. It produced an unimaginable $1.499 million and won a total of eight Oscars.
In December 1939, a new campus for Walt Disney Studios was opened in Burbank. During the mid-1940s, Disney created “packaged features,” groups of shorts strung together to run at feature length, but by 1950, he was once again focusing on animated features. In all, more than 100 features were produced by his studio.
Disney’s $17 million Disneyland theme park opened on July 17, 1955, in Anaheim, California. In a very short time, the park had increased its investment tenfold, and was entertaining tourists from around the world. Disneyland has expanded its rides over time and branched out globally with parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, with a Shanghai location slated to open in the spring of 2016. Sister property California Adventure also opened in 2001. Within a few years of the opening, Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on December 15, 1966, at the age of 65.