Disney, as a company and an empire, has become a staple in American pop culture. Known for its feel-good animated movies, beautiful castle-filled theme parks and memorable characters – the Disney brand had a large contribution to both American and international media. Collectively, Disney had a large influence to the world, and that became possible due to one man: Walt Disney.
Walt Disney is an extraordinarily successful artist whose visions as an animator, theme park developer and filmmaker changed entertainment in the 20th century and beyond. He revolutionized the entertainment industry by his animated movies, and iconic fictional characters – especially Mickey Mouse – but more than that, he did things that made other people do things, too. He inspired people to use their imagination and create.
Walt’s reputation changed after his death, from a purveyor of patriotic values to a representative of American imperialism. Nevertheless, he remains an important figure in the animation and cultural history of the United States, where he is considered a cultural icon. His work continues to be shown and adapted, his namesake company and studio maintains its high standards in producing pop entertainment, and the Disney amusement parks have grown in size and number, attracting thousands and millions of visitors in several countries.
Here are the ways Walt Disney left a mark in entertainment and pop culture:
He made animated movies a staple in pop culture.
Walt Disney’s impact on the animation industry is noteworthy. He may not be the father of animation, but he is probably the father of modern animated feature projects that shaped the culture of the generation today.
At the age of 18, Walt Disney got a job as a commercial illustrator. He moved to California in the early 1920s and established the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy. He developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928, and he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. As his studio grew, he became more adventurous, introducing synchronized sound and full-color three-strip Technicolor, and other technical developments in cameras, resulting in animated features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Fantasia, and more.
Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first feature-length animated film in color. This Disney classic is the forerunner of all animated cartoons and movies today due to its reputation. Walt was also the one who introduced advanced animation techniques that gave personalities to his characters. His drawings and animation made them more expressive and the pronounced expressions of many cartoon characters of today’s cartoons can be largely attributed to Walt Disney’s work.
At least eight animated feature films were released before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but Snow White was the breakthrough. Most of these animated features were made using cutout, silhouette or stop-motion techniques, but only Disney’s work was totally hand-drawn.
When it became known that Disney was working on a feature-length animation back then, critics regularly referred to his project as “Disney’s folly.” They did not believe that audiences could stand the expected bright colors and jokes for a long time. But when Snow White premiered on 1937 and became a worldwide success, Disney proved his critics wrong. The film continued Disney’s tradition to appropriate old fairy tales and stories, as would most of the Disney features that followed, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Ugly Duckling, and more.
He had a huge influence on American consumerism and economy.
Walt Disney had a great impact on consumerism and economy in America. With the creation of Disneyland, Walt Disney introduced the concept of theme parks. With its various shops, restaurants, hotels, and other amenities, Disney’s various resort locations serve as significant components of the large Disney empire due to the amount of revenue it generates.
The first Disneyland resort was founded by Walt Disney himself, which is located in Anaheim, California, and his brother Roy bought the first ticket. Disneyland resorts also exist in places like Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Millions of people visit these locations, generating more profit for the Walt Disney Company.
And along with every Disney story comes Disney merchandises. Children would prefer toys and other items with the Disney brand or a Disney character, as compared to other brands.
He inspired others to work hard and pursue their dreams despite failures and trials.
Before creating the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Walt Disney faced an unhappy childhood and countless business failures and setbacks. Walt had a strained relationship with his father, and followed his brothers as they runoff from home one by one to escape their abusive father. His first cartoon business he set up after returning home from war has become bankrupt. He packed his bags and took off to Los Angeles to try his luck at acting but failed. Then, he found his first animation studio with his brother, and not so long after, he found his major success with the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
However, Disney’s luck had run out as his producer took his team of animators from under him and stole the legal rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But instead of plotting revenge, Disney decided to walk away and start over again, which led him to create Mickey Mouse.
After years of driving up his debts and eating beans, Disney finally brought life to Mickey Mouse by creating a film in the late 1920s, but it has not been easy for him. Bankers rejected his famous mouse more than 300 times before one said yes. And even after Mickey Mouse became a success, he still faced challenges in keeping his business afloat. Disney was overworked, and tensions with his employer led to him having a nervous breakdown.
But after taking time off and recuperating, Walt Disney returned with a bold new idea – to develop a full-length animation feature, which turned out to be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It became a success, but the following films he created turned out to be duds.
And when he finally had the money to build Disneyland, the opening of the business was a rocky start. To the disappointment of many children, some of the park’s attractions weren’t ready to operate yet on opening day. The rush to finish construction caused problems, like weed sprouting, fresh asphalt melting that ensnared women’s high heels, and drinking fountains not working due to plumbers’ strike. Even worse, Disneyland was overloaded on the first day due to counterfeit tickets. Critics blasted the opening of Disneyland, calling it a Black Sunday.
But as always, Walt Disney persevered and turned his latest endeavor around. His animation studio and Disneyland became a colossal success, clearing out his financial debt. Walt Disney did not give up despite numerous failures that came his way. He worked hard for what he envisioned and never lost sight of what truly mattered to him. Walt Disney’s tenacity remains an inspiration to all – to never give up and lose hope in the pursuit of dreams.
Through his life, Walt Disney taught others the importance of imagination and how if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it. Walt did not only believe in himself, but on everyone’s potential to achieve great things. When he was ridiculed for having “childish” dreams, he didn’t listen, but instead, kept on pursuing his goals and started from nothing to an empire.
Disney films shaped up people’s beliefs.
There’s a good chance that some of your beliefs have been influenced by decades of Disney animated movies. The generation who is now filling up workplaces were fed with a feast of feature-length Disney animations during their formative years, while their parents grabbed an hour for themselves.
Disney films made a lasting impact of stereotypes in female behavior. Disney portrayed women into distinct eras. First was the domestic era, when females like Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty were portrayed as homemakers and in need of rescue by a man.
Then came the new-age, rebellious era in the form of Ariel, Princess Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. These women seemed to be more independent, trying to free themselves from the bonds of society. But still, these women forfeited their independence and identity to win the love of the prince, which sends a message.
Great thing is the company is attempting to keep up with times in terms of gender equality, representation, and diversity, with the female characters in Frozen, Brave, and Moana. The characters represent an independent, free-spirited era of Disney where the women are strong, in control of their lives, and no longer need a man to save the day.
Disney films may have also contributed to the reluctance of the younger workforce to apply in traditional workplaces. Millennials now demand more flexibility from employers than previous generations, and are more willing to transfer companies, change jobs or prefer self-employment than to be constrained to full-time contracts. This may be related to Disney’s early films portraying work as a horrible bad thing.
The high prevalence of evil in Disney films may also lead children to learn to demonize the people engaged in perceived bad behaviors. The battle between good and evil which is almost always present in Disney films, may have contributed to political polarization and social exclusion in the world today.
As an upside, Disney films are rich in pro-social behavior, wherein characters are seen helping others, sharing, offering complements or encouragement, which children have carried on as they grew up.
He brightened up the childhood of many people all over the world.
Because of Walt Disney’s efforts, Disney films has been a large part of many people’s childhoods. Many grew up with DVDs of Disney movies, making it the perfect electronic babysitter. Children would play it over and over again, and would occasionally watch them together with their playmates when they visit each other’s houses. Most people are familiar with Disney films, further reflecting the enormous impact it had and continues to have on American culture. The company that Walt Disney built is not merely a brand, but an icon of culture that as shaped the lives of children and adults alike.