Walt Disney, or Walter Elias Disney, was an American motion-picture and television producer, and a showman. He’s popular as a pioneer of animated cartoon films and as the creator of iconic cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. He was born on December 5, 1901. After more than a century, it’s easy for most people to forget that Disney was a real person and not just a caricature or company figurehead.
If you love watching cartoons and television shows on Disney, or if Disneyland is one of the best places for you, but you do not know much about the person who started it all, you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you interesting trivia and facts about Walt Disney.
1. Walt Disney started from a simple life.
Walt Disney was born in Chicago, and he’s the fourth of five children. When he was four, they moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. It was a small-town community that Disney remembered as an adult as having been wonderful. It was there where he first received encouragement for his growing interest in drawing from his aunt and as well as a neighbor who was a retired doctor.
However, in 1910, his father had a challenging time in making a living in Marceline and decided to sell the farm. After a year, their family moved to Kansas City, where his father bought a newspaper route. In the following six years, Walt Disney helped with the deliveries by working before and after school, and as well as on weekends. His father sold the paper route in 1917, and they moved back to Chicago. There, his father was employed at a jelly and fruit juice company.
When Walt Disney was 16, he dropped out of school. He had been an inattentive student back then but continued drawing. With the United States battling World War I, he joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps by faking his birth certificate to be able to meet the minimum age requirement of 17 by the Corps.
In 1918, Walt Disney was sent to France after signing the armistice that ended the fighting. He spent his time driving Red Cross officials and doing other responsibilities before being discharged in 1919.
2. Walt Disney was the voice of Mickey Mouse.
After Walt Disney’s Red Cross service, he moved to Kansas City with the goal of being a newspaper cartoonist. But instead, he found a job creating advertisements for magazines and movie theaters. After that, he became interested in animation. In 1922, he opened a film studio named Laugh-O-Gram. However, it struggled financially and have to close in 1923. In that same year, he moved to Hollywood, where he formed Disney Brothers Studio with his sibling Roy.
After making different short, animated cartoons, the studio began creating a series in 1927 about a character Walt Disney had developed called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. However, the following year, in what was a major blow, Walt Disney lost the rights to his popular creation. A lot of his employees were stolen in a corporate dispute. In response to this, he created a new character, which was originally dubbed as Mortimer Mouse before he thought that Mickey is a better moniker.
In 1928, Mickey Mouse debuted in a short film called “Steamboat Willie,” which was one of the first cartoons to ever used synchronized sound effects. The character quickly became a star. Soon, there were Mickey Mouse Clubs for kids, and as well as merchandise and a comic strip. In 1929’s “The Karnival Kid,” Mickey spoke for the first time. However, Walt was unhappy with his own voice to the mouse until “Mickey and the Beanstalk” in 1947, when he said he was too busy to continue doing so.
3. Walt Disney almost sold vacuum cleaners for a living.
In 1923, when Walt Disney joined his brother Roy in Los Angeles to pursue a career in animation, Roy had been selling vacuum cleaners to make ends meet. That’s why he also encouraged Walt to do the same. Walt Disney did consider it. However, before he could’ve started, he got a call from a company in New York that wanted him to make shorts for them.
4. Walt Disney’s favorite song was “Feed the Birds.”
Disney movies have a lot of wonderful hits over the years, but Walt Disney’s personal favorite was a ballad called “Feed the Birds,” which was a song written about the pigeon lady in Mary Poppins. According to songwriter Richard Sherman, Walt Disney usually stopped by the Sherman brothers’ office at Disney on Friday afternoons to request a personal performance of “Feed the Birds.”
5. Walt Disney was obsessed with trains.
Walt Disney always had a strong interest in trains. In fact, he even built an elaborate train model in his office, and he enjoyed running it for his guests. His hobby grew in 1948, and he decided to make a 1/8 scale model in his backyard with a track that spanned half a mile. He deemed this creation of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Model railwaying has always been one of his favorites – you can learn more about it here.
6. During World War II, Disney produced propaganda films for the U.S. government.
Disney employees created educational films for different federal agencies during the war. This includes a 1942 animated short called “The New Spirit,” starring Donald Duck. This was commissioned by the Treasury Department to encourage people to pay their income taxes as a way to support the war effort. It was shown in thousands of movie theaters, and it even earned an Academy Award nomination. Aside from that, Disney also created training films for the American military.
Walt Disney was reluctant to risk tarnishing his image as a non-political entertainer by producing deliberately propagandistic works. But his team eventually made animated shorts like “Der Fuehrer’s Face” in 1943, which made fun of the Nazis.
Also, after reading the 1942 bestseller by Major Alexander de Serversky called “Victory Through Air Power,” Walt Disney decided to adapt it as a 1943 live action-animated feature of the same title to be able to win support for the book’s theories about the strategic long-range bombing, which was considered controversial by some U.S. military officials. Both British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt saw the film, which allegedly made an impression on them.
7. Disneyland was initially planned only as a small amusement park.
Walt Disney originally planned to build a small amusement park near his Burbank studio. But in 1953, his plans grew more ambitious, and hired a research firm to find the optimal location in Southern California for a large-scale theme park. After they studied different factors, such as weather patterns, transportation options, and population growth, the firm endorsed the site that would become Disneyland’s home. It was a 160-acre parcel that has orange trees in Anaheim.
In July 1954, the construction of the site started, and it opened a year later on July 17. However, the opening did not go smoothing because people produced counterfeited tickets, which led to overcrowding. This caused rides to break, and parts of the park were incomplete, and a gas leak forced Fantasyland to be closed. This debut was shown in a live TV broadcast. However, the program was riddled with technical difficulties. But after a month, Disneyland became an immediate success, and it hosted more than half a million visitors. Even Walt Disney enjoyed spending time at the park. In fact, he even had an apartment there.
8. Walt Disney was a great promoter.
In all of pop culture history – there was no better promoter than Walt Disney himself. He totally understood the power of mass media. Beginning in the 1940′s, Walt Disney movies, plus a dash of radio and moving merchandise, extended into the new medium of television. He found a willing partner in ABC-Paramount back in 1954. ABC-TV would broadcast a new TV show – one that was a video version of his up-and-coming theme park located in California. “Disneyland” was the name of the show and name of the park.
“Disneyland” the park opened in July of 1955 and September began season #2 of ABC-TV’s “Disneyland.” And later that year, Disney began using radio as a second media choice. Thought to be dead a few years earlier, radio was catching on again, and Walt Disney wasted no time in creating a new radio show in addition to TV’s “Disneyland.”
The program, “Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom” ran daily on the ABC radio network around noon time. The first ad stated, “A new kind of morning listening with all the wonderful Disney magic direct from fabulous Disneyland in California. Listen today, where Walt himself will introduce the first show.” It didn’t last long, but it’s a fascinating piece of Disney history. Many years later, Disney would pick up the radio angle. In 1996, Radio Disney, but its first foray into radio, began in late 1955 and lasted about a year.
9. Walt Disney did not like unions.
Walt Disney may have loved mice but detested unions. He once told the HUAC that unions were nothing more than Communist tools. His studio was the stage for many a union labor strike, sending Uncle Walt into small fits.
10. Disney studios worked on one movie production outside of its own.
Let’s face it. Disney is known for – Disney. But, did you know that the Disney studios did work on at least one (outside) movie production? That’s correct. It was the 1956 color sci-fi movie “The Forbidden Planet” where the Disney studios contributed some of the special effects. But this was not a Disney film. Not by any means. So, just so you know, it did happen, once back in 1956.
These are some of the interesting trivia and facts about Walt Disney. It’s amazing to know that there are lots of stories and events that happened along with the creation of your most favorite Disney shows and Disneyland, as well.