Walt Disney

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Walt Disney
Walter Elias Disney
BirthplaceHermosa, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, formerly known as Walt Disney Productions
EducationMcKinley High School, Chicago Academy of Fine Arts

Disney, Walt

(Walter Elias Disney) (dĭz`nē), 1901–66, American movie producer and pioneer in animated cartoons, b. Chicago. He grew up in Missouri, in the small town of Marceline and in Kansas City. He moved to Chicago in 1917, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and began (1920) his career as a cartoonist making animated film advertisements. In 1928 Disney created the character Mickey Mouse in the silent film Plane Crazy. That same year Mickey also appeared in Steamboat Willie, a short that initiated the concept of making a separate cartoon for each animated movement. Instantly famous, the film was also Disney's first attempt to use sound (his own voice for Mickey), and it was followed by many other shorts starring Mickey and his animal sidekicks. An international success, by 1935 Mickey Mouse cartoons had been viewed by some 500 million moviegoers. Disney also experimented with the use of music (The Skeleton Dance), the portrayal of speed (The Tortoise and the Hare), three-dimensional effects (The Old Mill), and the use of color (one of the earliest color shorts was 1933's Three Little Pigs).

Disney produced the first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), which took three years to complete. Additional features included Pinocchio (1939), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). In Song of the South (1946), he merged live actors and animated figures. During World War II, Disney's studio produced cartoons for the armed services as training tools and morale builders.

Beginning with Treasure Island in 1951, Disney added live-action movies to his output, while still producing such animated classics as Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953). Thereafter, his studio produced several animal stories (e.g., Greyfriars Bobby, 1960), musical fantasies (e.g., Mary Poppins, 1964), and television programs, beginning in the early 1950s with the weekly Disneyland and its famous Mouseketeers. Disney and his productions received numerous Academy and other awards during his lifetime. After his death, the Disney studios remained active, diversified, and ultimately became enormously successful. In the early 1980s, they began producing films for adults, and in the 1990s they greatly expanded into television with the acquisition of the ABC network and related television assets. The acquisition of 20th Century Fox (later 20th Century Studios) in 2019 further increased the Walt Disney Co.'s film and television business.

Disneyland, a huge theme park in AnaheimAnaheim
, city (1990 pop. 266,406), Orange co., S Calif., SE of Los Angeles; inc. 1870. Anaheim was founded by Germans in 1857 as an experiment in communal living. In an area once dominated by citrus and walnut groves, the city is now an industrial center, making electronic and
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, Calif., which in part celebrates America's hometowns and small-town values, was opened by Disney in 1955. Disney's California Adventure, a second, smaller theme park in Anaheim, opened adjacent to Disneyland in 2001. An even bigger park, Walt Disney World, opened near OrlandoOrlando
, city (1990 pop. 164,693), seat of Orange co., central Fla., in a lake region; inc. 1875. In a citrus fruit and farm area, it is one of the world's most visited vacation spots.
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, Fla., in 1971 as a theme park and resort, and Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom have since been added there. Disneyland parks have also opened near Tokyo (1983), in Marne-la-Vallée, near Paris (1992), in Hong Kong (2005), and in Shanghai (2016).


See biographies by D. D. Miller and P. Martin (1956), B. Thomas (1958), M. Eliot (1993), S. Watts (1998), and N. Gabler (2006); R. Schickel, The Disney Version (1968); C. Finch, The Art of Walt Disney (1973); R. Merritt and J. B. Kaufman, Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney (1994); H. A. Giroux, The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (1999); D. Smith and S. Clark, Disney: The First 100 Years (1999); R. Snow, Disney's Land (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Disney, Walt


Born Dec. 5, 1901, in Chicago; died Dec. 15, 1966, in Burbank. American motion picture producer. Studied at the Chicago Academy of Art.

From 1919 to 1922, Disney worked as a commercial artist. Shortly afterward, he began his work in motion pictures; he created short animated films, featuring the principal characters of Alice (1923-26) and Oswald (1926-28). His first sound cartoons appeared in 1928 and featured Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Disney’s full-length films include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), Pinocchio (1939), Bambi (1942), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Sleeping Beauty (1958). The majority of Disney’s works are distinguished by witty characteristics of their heroes, expressive rhythm, coordination of musical leitmotivs and the fabric of the film, and vivid color. During World War II (1939-45), Disney released several films commissioned by the State Department that propagandized the “American way of life.” After 1950 he earned recognition as a producer of documentary and feature films (for the theater and also for television). In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif. Among the park’s many attractions are the re-creations of various characters and scenes from Disney’s films.


Arnol’di, E. M. Zhizn’ i skazki U. Disneia. Leningrad, 1968.
Jacobs, L. “Walt Disney: Virtuoso.” In The Rise of the American Film. New York, 1941.
Schickel, R. The Disney Version. New York, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disney, (Walter Elias) Walt

(1901–66) movie animator, producer, showman; born in Chicago. He spent most of his boyhood on a farm in Missouri, and at age 16 went to Chicago to study art. From 1920–22 he was in Kansas City, Mo., where, under the pioneer animator Ub Iwerks, he made simple cartoon advertisements that were shown in movie theaters. He moved to Los Angeles in 1923 to open his own animated cartoon studio; very quickly, too, he found that his great talent lay in conceiving new images and projects and then directing others in bringing them into being—he actually did little of the animation. His first series—Alice in Cartoonland (1924–26) and Oswald the Rabbit (1926–28)—were not especially successful but in 1928 he introduced Mickey Mouse in the first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie. Always quick to adopt the latest technology, his Flowers and Trees (1932) was the first film of any kind made in complete Technicolor. From 1929–39, he produced a series of full-color animated cartoons, Silly Symphonies, that featured his soon-to-become famous characters, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. In 1937 he released the first full-length cartoon feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to enormous financial and critical success; it would be followed by others such as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). During World War II his studio made educational films for the U.S. government. After the war, he began to produce True-Life Adventures, a series of short films showing hitherto unseen close-ups of animals in natural settings; his first full-length nature film was The Living Desert (1953). He also began to produce movies with live actors; his first was Treasure Island (1950), followed by others including Davy Crockett (1955) and Mary Poppins (1964). In 1954 he also launched a successful television series for children; it featured many of his studio's creations. In 1955 he opened Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., an amusement park heavily drawing on his studio's productions; Disney World, in Orlando, Fla., did not open until 1971. Greatly honored in his lifetime, with numerous Oscars—including a special award for Mickey Mouse in 1932—and an honorary degree from Harvard, he remains acknowledged as a true genius of popular entertainment.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.