Walt Disney

Overcoming Obstacles

Walt's Early Years

Walt Elias Disney was born on December 5th, 1901, in Chicago Illinois. Walt’s dad, Elias seeked environment so he purchased a farm in small town in Florida, after failing to make it to California for the Gold Rush. Life on the farm ended shortly after in 1910 when Elias was diagnosed with typhoid fever and pneumonia. The Walt family moved to Kansas, after the farm was sold. A year after they settled into their new home, Elias purchased a Kansas City delivery route. Walt his four siblings were all put to work and made their deliveries. Walt delivered papers for Elias, for six more years. When Walt was ten, he opened a lemonade stand in the Summer, and the started drawing caricatures of customers for free haircuts. In 1917, Walt graduated from seventh grade, and Elias sold the paper route and invested in a Jelly company back in Chicago. At the end of the Summer Walt enrolled in 8th grade and took three art classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and contributed cartoons to his high school's monthly magazine. Walt had a variety of jobs, and every job he had, he lied about his age to be able to work. Walt dropped out of school when he turned 16, in hopes to join the Army. He was rejected, so instead he again lied about his age to join the American Ambulance Corps.While in France, Walt earned money for drawing cartoon for the men he served with and submitted cartoons to humor magazines.


While in France, Walt earned money for drawing cartoons for the men he served with and submitted a few to humor magazines. Upon returning to the US, Disney landed a job as an apprentice at a commercial art studio. He worked there for about a month before he was laid off. Walt began working on samples, and founded a company called Iwerks-Disney with Ub Iwerks, a colleague who had been laid off too. Shortly after, he left for a job as an animator for Kansas Film company. Walt learned and experimented late at night after work and began to make his first films. He named his first film Newman Laugh-O-grams, after a local theater. Still, he continued working at night while producing one Laugh-O-gram a week while working his day job. Walt saved money to buy his own camera and rented a studio. His shop grew and he produced several longer films, but could not keep his company afloat. His company went bankrupt and Disney traveled to California with only $40 in his pocket. Walt launched Snow White which would be known as Disney’s “Golden Age,” winning him a full size Oscar and seven miniature ones, and allowed him to build a new studio in Burbank, California. In the late 1940s, Disney began working on ideas for a children’s theme park, an idea he would spend the next five years developing. The park finally opened in 1955, and and dedicated the park on live television saying: “To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past … and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

Overcoming Obstacles

Walt's formal education ended after 8th grade. Some have suggested that the many jobs Disney held and his struggle in school was due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Despite Disney’s lack of education, he was always learning new things, reading, teaching himself animation, and experimenting and working to improve himself. Walt says, “I failed… I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young… I learned a lot out of that.” He showed that it is possible to be successful despite not having a proper education or an expected path to go down, such as college.