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The Final Resting Place of Walt Disney.
Walt Disney 5th.December 1901 - 15th.December
Walt has his own small garden on the left hand side of the entrance to
the Court of Freedom. His plaque is behind the little mermaid on the left.
Walter Elias Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, and philanthropist. He was the son of parents Flora and Elias Disney, and had three brothers and one sister. As the co-founder (with his brother Roy O. Disney) of Walt Disney Productions, Walt became one of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation he co-founded, now known as The Walt Disney Company, today has annual revenues of approximately US $30 billion.
Walt Disney is particularly noted for being a successful storyteller, a hands-on film producer, and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design. His brother Roy helped him tremendously with his work. He also had two daughters, Diane and Sharon. He and his staff created a number of the world's most popular animated properties, including the one many consider Disney's alter ego, Mickey Mouse. He is also well-known as the namesake of the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in the United States.
In 1922, he started Laugh-O-Gram Films, Inc., which produced short cartoons based on popular fairy tales and children's stories with a contemporary spin. Among his employees were Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Rudolph Ising, Carmen Maxwell, and Friz Freleng. The shorts were popular in the local Kansas City area, but their costs exceeded their returns. After creating one last short, the live-action/animation Alice's Wonderland, the studio declared bankruptcy in July 1923. Disney then decided that he needed to go to the blossoming center of the entertainment industry: Hollywood, California. Disney sold his movie camera, earning enough money for a one-way train ticket to California. He left his friends and former staff behind, but took the unfinished reel of Alice's Wonderland with him. When Disney arrived in Los Angeles, he had $40 in his pocket and an unfinished cartoon in his suitcase. Interestingly, he first wanted to break away from animation, thinking he could not compete with the studios in New York City. Disney said that his first ambition was to be a film director. He went to every studio in town looking for directing work; they all promptly turned him down. Because of the lack of success in live-action film, Disney turned back to animation. His first Hollywood cartoon studio was a garage in his uncle Robert's house. Disney sent an unfinished print to New York distributor Margaret Winkler, who promptly wrote back to him. She wanted a distribution deal with Disney for more live-action/animated shorts based upon Alice's Wonderland.
Disney looked up his brother Roy, who was recovering from tuberculosis in a Los Angeles veteran's hospital. Disney pleaded with his brother to help him with his fledgling studio, saying that he could not keep his finances straight without him. Roy agreed and left the hospital with his brother. He never went back and never had a recurrence of tuberculosis. Virginia Davis (the live-action star of Alice’s Wonderland) and her family were relocated at Disney's request from Kansas City to Hollywood, as were Iwerks and his family. This was the beginning of the Disney Brothers' Studio. In 1925, Disney hired a young woman named Lillian Bounds to ink and paint celluloid. He was immediately taken with her. She began to pull double duty as secretary a few months later. Disney then began to take her out on dates, their first being the Broadway show, No, No, Nanette. He would also take her out on drives in the hills of Los Angeles. On one drive, he asked her if he should buy a new car or a ring for her finger. They were married on July 15, 1925. She later jokingly commented that he was disappointed that she did not tell him to buy the car. They honeymooned at Mount Rainier.
The new series, "Alice Comedies," was reasonably successful, and featured both Dawn O'Day and Margie Gay as Alice after Virginia Davis’ parents pulled her out of the series because of a pay cut. Lois Hardwick also briefly assumed the role. By the time the series ended in 1927, the focus was more on the animated characters, in particular a cat named Julius who recalled Felix the Cat, rather than the live-action Alice.
In 1932, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse, whose series was moved into color in 1935 and soon launched spin off series for supporting characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.
Although his studio produced the two most successful cartoon series in the industry, the returns were still dissatisfying to Disney, and he began plans for a full-length feature in 1934. When the rest of the film industry learned of Disney's plans to produce an animated feature-length version of Snow White, they dubbed the project "Disney's Folly" and were certain that the project would destroy the Disney studio. Both Lillian and Roy tried to talk Disney out of the project, but he continued plans for the feature. He employed Chouinard Art Institute professor Don Graham to start a training operation for the studio staff, and used the Silly Symphonies as a platform for experiments in realistic human animation, distinctive character animation, special effects, and the use of specialized processes and apparatus such as the multiplane camera. All of this development and training was used to elevate the quality of the studio so that it would be able to give the feature the quality Disney desired. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as the feature was named, was in full production from 1935 until mid-1937, when the studio ran out of money. To acquire the funding to complete Snow White, Disney had to show a rough cut of the motion picture to loan officers at the Bank of America, who gave the studio the money to finish the picture. The finished film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937; at the conclusion of the film the audience gave Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a standing ovation. Snow White, the first animated feature in English and Technicolor, was released in February 1938 under a new distribution deal with RKO Radio Pictures. The film became the most successful motion picture of 1938 and earned over $8 million (today $98 million) in its original theatrical release, all the more amazing because children were only charged a dime to see it. The success of Snow White allowed Disney to build a new campus for the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, which opened for business on December 24, 1939. The feature animation staff, having just completed Pinocchio, continued work on Fantasia and Bambi, while the shorts staff continued work on the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto cartoon series, ending the Silly Symphonies at this time. Pinocchio and Fantasia followed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into movie theatres in 1940, but both were financial disappointments. The inexpensive Dumbo was planned as an income generator, but during production of the new film, most of the animation staff went on strike, permanently straining the relationship between Disney and his artists. Shortly after Dumbo was released in October 1941 and became a successful moneymaker, the United States entered World War II. The U.S. Army contracted for most of the Disney studio's facilities and had the staff create training and instructional films for the military, as well as home-front morale-boosting shorts such as Der Fuehrer's Face and the feature film Victory Through Air Power in 1943. The military films did not generate income, however, and the feature film Bambi under performed when it was released in April 1942. Disney successfully re-issued Snow White in 1944, establishing a 7-year re-release tradition for Disney features.
The Disney studios also created inexpensive package films, containing collections of cartoon shorts, and issued them to theaters during this period. The most notable and successful of these were Saludos Amigos (1942), its sequel The Three Caballeros (1945), Song of the South (the first Disney film to feature dramatic actors) (1946), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). The latter had only two sections: the first based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, and the second based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
By the late 1940s, the studio had recovered enough to continue production on the full-length features Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, which had been shelved during the war years, and began work on Cinderella. The studio also began a series of live-action nature films, entitled True-Life Adventures, in 1948 with On Seal Island.
As Mickey's co-creator and producer, Disney was almost as famous as his mouse cartoon character, but remained a largely private individual. His greatest hope was to be a father to many children. However, the Disneys' first attempts at pregnancy ended in miscarriage. This, coupled with pressures at the studio, led to Disney having "a hell of a breakdown", as he called it. His doctors said that he had to get away for a while, so he and his wife went on a Caribbean cruise and then traveled to Washington, D.C. When Lilly Disney became pregnant again, Disney told his sister in a letter that he did not care what gender the child was, just as long as they were not disappointed again. Lilly finally gave birth to a daughter, Diane Marie Disney, on December 18, 1933. Disney was excited to finally have a child. A few years later the Disneys adopted a second daughter, Sharon Mae Disney, born on December 21, 1936.
During 1949, Disney and his family moved to a new home on a large piece of property in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles, California. With the help of his friends Ward and Betty Kimball, owners of their own backyard railroad, Disney developed the blueprints and immediately set to work creating a miniature live steam railroad for his backyard. The name of the railroad, Carolwood Pacific Railroad, originated from the address of his home that was located on Carolwood Drive. The railroad's half-mile long layout included a 46-foot-long trestle, loops, overpasses, gradients, an elevated dirt berm, and a 90-foot tunnel underneath Mrs. Disney's flowerbed. He named the miniature working steam locomotive built by Roger E. Broggie of the Disney Studios Lilly Belle in his wife's honor. He had his attorney draw up right-of-way papers giving the railroad a permanent, legal easement through the garden areas, which his wife dutifully signed; however, there is no evidence the documents were ever recorded as a restriction on the property's title.
On a business trip to Chicago in the late-1940s, Disney drew sketches of his ideas for an amusement park where he envisioned his employees spending time with their children. He got his idea for a children's theme park after visiting Children's Fairyland in Oakland, California. This plan was originally for a lot south of the Studio, just across the street. However, the city of Burbank declined building permission. The original ideas developed into a concept for a larger enterprise that was to become Disneyland. Disney spent five years of his life developing Disneyland and created a new subsidiary of his company, called WED Enterprises, to carry out the planning and production of the park. A small group of Disney studio employees joined the Disneyland development project as engineers and planners, and were dubbed Imagineers. When describing one of his earliest plans to Herb Ryman (who created the first aerial drawing of Disneyland to present to the Bank of America for funds), Disney said, "Herbie, I just want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train." Entertaining his daughters and their friends in his backyard and taking them for rides on his Carolwood Pacific Railroad had inspired Disney to include a railroad in the plans for Disneyland.
By the early 1960s, the Disney empire was a major success, and Walt Disney Productions had established itself as the world's leading producer of family entertainment. After decades of trying, Disney finally procured the rights to P.L. Travers' books about a magical nanny. Mary Poppins, released in 1964, was the most successful Disney film of the 1960s and featured a memorable song score written by Disney favorites the Sherman Brothers. Many hailed the live-action/animation combination feature as Disney's greatest achievement. The same year, Disney debuted a number of exhibits at the 1964 New York World's Fair, including Audio-Animatronic figures, all of which were later integrated into attractions at Disneyland and a new theme park project to be established on the east coast, which Disney had been planning ever since Disneyland opened.
In 1964, Walt Disney Productions began quietly purchasing land in central Florida west of Orlando in a largely rural area of marginal orange groves for Disney's "Florida Project." Disney did so under the mask of many fake companies, in order to keep the price of land as low as he could. As soon as the word got out that Disney was purchasing the land, however, the prices immediately rose. The company acquired over 27,000 acres (109 km˛) of land, and arranged favorable state legislation which would provide unprecedented quasi-governmental control over the area to be developed in 1966, founding the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney and his brother Roy then announced plans for what they called "Disney World." Disney's involvement in Disney World ended in late 1966; after many years of chain-smoking, he was diagnosed with cancer in his left lung. He was checked into the St. Joseph's Hospital across the street from the Disney Studio lot and his health began to deteriorate, causing him to suffer cardiac arrest. Walter Elias Disney died on December 15, 1966, ten days after his 65th birthday. He was cremated on December 17, 1966 at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Roy Disney continued to carry out the Florida project, insisting that the name be changed to Walt Disney World in honor of his brother. Roy O. Disney died just three months after the Magic Kingdom opened for business in 1971.