By: Jackson Bewley
Walter Elias Disney was born December 5, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois. Walt Disney was an American motion-picture and television producer and showman. Disney is most known for his cartoons. Disney created cartoon characters like Mikey Mouse and Donald Duck. He also planned and built Disneyland, a large amusement park located in Anaheim, CA that opened in 1955. Before his death in 1966, Disney started working on his second amusement park. Walt Disney World was an amusement park located in Orlando, FL. Unfortunately, he died before he could see the completion of the park. Walt Disney World is now the most popular theme park in the world with 19.33 million people visiting annually. During his lifetime, Disney has won 22 Academy Awards. In 1966, Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on December 15, 1966, at the age of 65. Disney’s company is now one of the biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world.
Life didn’t always come easy for Walt, he had to push through bankruptcy and the Great Depression in order to succeed. When Walt Disney was little he lived under a very strict roof. To escape his harsh reality he would draw pictures of beautiful perfect places. Walt Disney dropped out of high school to work with the Red Cross in France during WWI. In 1919, he moved back to Kansas City. In 1921 he founded Laugh-O-Grams. This was his first cartoon company. Unfortunately, this company went bankrupt. Before starting his own company with his brother Roy he worked for Universal Studios. While at Universal Studios he created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. When Disney wanted to start his own company Universal wouldn’t let him have Oswald. Disney and his brother moved to Hollywood and created their own company after this. In 1929, Disney made a film series called Silly Symphonies. This was about Mickey and his friends. This was the first cartoon to be published in color and to win an Oscar. On 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered. It was the first full-length animated film. It made $1.499 million and received eight Oscars. Though the next five years, Disney would make a string of full-length animated films, Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942).
On July 17, 1955, Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. The park was so popular because families could explore, enjoy rides and meet characters. In 1965, before his death, Disney purchased 43 acres of land in Orlando, FL. Unfortunately, Disney died before he could see the completion of the park. Walt Disney World opened in 1971. By the early 21st century Disney World had grown to 27,000 acres and had four theme parks (Magic Kingdom), (Epcot), (Animal Kingdom), and (Hollywood Studios). Walt Disney World is the most visited theme park in the world to this day.
Walt Disney is an example of an “American hero” because he had a sense of what the public wanted. Disney had a relentless work ethic and had many bright visions for the public. Disney was able to succeed even through poverty and the Great Depression. In 1963, Disney was presented with the George Washington Award for inspiring and promoting the American way of life.
Although Walt Disney was a successful man he was also in a good amount of controversy. These rumors stated that he was anti-semitic and racist. In the 1930s, Disney apparently attended a meeting for a pro-Nazi organization, the German-American Bund. He also hosted and gave a tour of Disneyland to Nazi propagandist and filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl. Disney was also accused of promoting black stereotypes in his films. For example in Disney’s probably most notorious film Song of the South, slavery was glorified and depicted as being happy. In Walt Disney’s The Three Little Pigs, Disney depicts a Jewish peddler as being big nosed and greedy. Disney’s racial and anti-semitic allegations are still debated to this day.