Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Walt Disney: a brief history

Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1901 to Elias and Flora Disney.  His father was of Irish and Canadian decent, while his mother was of German decent.  The name Disney was anglicized from the french name d'Isigny.

In 1906, Elias had moved his family to Marceline, Missouri, where Elias purchased farmland.  It was there where Walt discovered his fondness for drawing.  They remained there for only four years until Elias decided farming was too difficult for the family.  They then moved to Kansas City where Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route for the Kansas City Times.  Walt and his older brother Roy had to deliver all 700 of their newspapers on the routes owned by their father.  Regardless of the weather, the two boys delivered in rain, sleet and snow.  The soles of their shoes worn through, they would stack cardboard inside, as money was too tight to replace them.  They would return home, just to head out to school.  Once their studies were through for the day, they would head back out to deliver the evening edition of the paper.  This would continue for six years.  While exhausting work, it earned Walt a strong work ethic what he would demand from his future employees.

While in high school, Walt took night art classes at Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and became a cartoonist for his high school paper. Dropping out of high school at the age of 17, he joined the Red Cross and drove ambulances in France for a year in World War 1.  When he returned to Chicago in 1919, he got  job as a cartoonist for a local paper where he illustrated political cartoons and ads.  It was there where he met a very talented artist Ub Iwerks.  He and Ub started a cartoon business called Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists.  It proved to be short lived, so they joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company where Walt grew an interest in animation.

In those days, animation was very crude.  Walt didn't merely want to continue the way cartoons were made, but he saw the potential in evoking emotion from their audiences.  He began Laugh-O-Gram films, where they produced animated cartoons with a minimal team, but proved quite popular in Kansas City.  When it wasn't proving financially successful, Walt then decided to pack up and urge his fellow artists to move to Hollywood California.  

More on his beginnings in Hollywood to come...

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