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  • 12/1/2004

Walter Elias Disney


December 5,1901December 15,1966)

Walt Disney was born onDecember 5, 1901 inChicago, Illinois, the fourth of five children. While none of the children finished school, Walt, a talented artist, attended the Kansas City Art Institute for one year. In 1918, he joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps, and although he arrived in Europe just as World War I was ending, the time he spent in France made a lasting impression on him. Following his discharge Walt settled in Kansas City where he worked in a commercial art studio and later for a film ad company. Disney was a reserved and private man devoted to his family, wife Lillian Bounds Disney, and his two daughters, Sharon and Diane.

Unable to find satisfactory work in the film business, he and his brother Roy moved toHollywood in 1923, forming Laugh-O-Gram Films, which made animated commercials shown in local movie theaters. They began making cartoon shorts in a relative’s garage. By 1927, the brothers formed the Disney Brothers’ Cartoon Studio. The following year the studio releasedSteamboat Willie, starring Mickey Mouse in the first synchronized sound cartoon, and Walt Disney was established. Disney himself was the voice behind Mickey Mouse, who he originally named Mortimer. However, Lillian Disney, his new wife, said that Mortimer sounded too formal, and suggested Mickey. And so began the life of the world’s best-loved and most well-known character.

The World War II years were difficult for the studio. It wasn’t until the debut of the two television programs in 1955,Disneylandand The Mickey Mouse Club, and the July, 1955 opening of the Walt’s "brain child", Disneyland Theme Park, thatWalt Disney Enterprises became financially successful. In 1955 however, nobody, especially the Disney Board of Directors, thought that the theme park would succeed. Walt Disney saw himself as an entertainer and a man with a creative vision. He was involved in every step of his studio’s creative processes, and he was always willing to risk his personal fortune on the success of a project. His unique contributions to the world — a stable of family entertainment standards, and a vision of the possibilities of the future — remain synonymous with his name.

During Walt Disney’s lifetime he received 39 Oscars, 4 television Emmy Awards, and over 800 other awards. Disney paved the way in his industry by being the first to create the following:

The first synchronized sound cartoon – Steamboat Willie

First full color cartoon - Flowers & Trees

First animated feature - Snow White

First television series created by a major movie producer - Disneyland

First theme park - Disneyland

Before Disney’s untimely death onDecember 15, 1966 from lung cancer, he purchased land inOrlando, Florida for Walt Disney World (28,000 acres). While he did not live to see the completion of the park, he was instrumental in its planning. Walt Disney World quickly became one of the world’s premier tourist vacation destinations. The various Disney theme parks set standards globally for theme parks and resort development with a variety of entertainment venues, hotels, restaurants, golf courses, campgrounds, and shopping villages.

Today, the Walt Disney Company has grown into a multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar empire that includes not only the theme parks, motion picture and television studios, but also a television network, cable and radio stations, newspaper and book publishing companies, record companies, travel divisions, a cruise line, retail stores, special effects and engineering firms, new media companies, and much more. Walt Disney’s accomplishments provide extraordinary examples from which others seeking careers in the hospitality industry can learn.

Awards and Milestones:

 First feature-length animated film, "Snow White and the seven Dwarfs" released in 1937.

 Mickey Mouse created in 1928.

 Last movie: "The Jungle Book" (1967)

First Academy award: Flowers and Trees (1932) (was the first cartoon to be produced in color and the first cartoon to win an Oscar)

 He holds the record of earning the most Academy Awards.(32)

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