On this day in 1901 a legend was born. Walter Elias Disney, the man behind our favorite movies and theme parks, was born on December 5, 1901. A pioneer and innovator, Walt had one of the world’s most fertile imaginations. In celebration of his birthday, we’ve got some fun facts about Uncle Walt. Take a look and see if these are things you already knew!
- Walt began developing his skills as a cartoonist as a young kid. He sold his first sketches to neighbors when he was only seven years old.
- At 16 years old, Walt Disney tried to join the Army. Due to his age, he was rejected but he was able to join the Red Cross and became an ambulance driver. He spent a year driving an ambulance in France.
3. In 1920, he created and marketed his first original animated cartoons.
4. Disney’s very first animation studio was called Laugh-O-Gram, where he began telling modernized fairy tales based on Aesop’s Fables before the studio quickly went bankrupt.
5. On July 13, 1925, Walt married one of his first employees, Lillian Bounds, in Lewiston, Idaho.
6. Mickey Mouse was not Walt’s first iconic character. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created while Disney was under contract with Universal Pictures. When Walt left, he lost the rights to Oswald.
7. Walt created Mickey Mouse in 1928. Originally Walt wanted to name him Mortimer Mouse but Lillian convinced him to change the name.
8. Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse until 1947.
9. Disney was hell-bent on creating a feature-length animated Snow White film, despite everyone else’s doubt. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937 and earned more than $8 million during its original release. The film is still accounted as one of the great feats and imperishable monuments of the motion picture industry.
10. Disney received more Academy Awards and nominations than has anyone else. Between 1932 and 1969, he won 22 Academy Awards and was nominated 59 times.
11. Disney loved trains. His fascination began as a child when he would watch the trains pass by near his house. His uncle, a train conductor, would blow the whistle as a greeting. Later, as an adult, Disney built a miniature steam railroad in the backyard of his L.A. home.
12. Walt Disney had big dreams of opening a theme park where parents and children could have fun together. He told a colleague that he wanted it to look “like nothing else in the world.” Disneyland opened in 1955 and Walt Disney World opened in 1971.
13. Disneyland employees have only their first name listed on their name tags because Walt despised being called Mr. Disney.
14. Disney has a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with Mickey Mouse, who was the first animated character to receive one.
15. When Disney died, 25 percent of his estate went to CalArts, helping the private university build up its campus. Of Cal Arts, Walt once said, “It’s the principal thing I hope to leave when I move on to greener pastures. If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the future, I think I will have accomplished something.”
16. The last film Disney personally oversaw was The Jungle Book, before his death from lung cancer in 1966.
Walt Disney did more to touch the hearts and minds of millions of Americans than anyone else in the last century. His name represents imagination, optimism, and self-made success in the American tradition. He is truly a legend and our world will know only one Walt Disney.
Credit: D23 & Disney
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