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Walt Disney - The Man Behind The Mouse

Updated on August 31, 2017

Walt Disney

Walt Disney is a man who needs no introduction. Business man, animator, film producer, screenwriter, storyteller, and most man are just some of this amazing man's roles.

With his creation of one of the most famous cartoon icons of all times, Mickey Mouse, Walt became an American pioneer in the American Animation Industry during the 20th century. Along with his brother, Roy O. Disney, he co-founded Walt Disney Productions, better known now as The Walt Disney Company, which is one of the best-known motion picture companies in the world.

However, Walt's creativity didn't stop with his animation. He is also responsible for two of America's most beloved theme parks in the country - Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida.

Here is his story...

Early Years

Walter Elias Disney was born to Elias and Flora Call Disney on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He had three older brothers, Herbert, Raymond, and Roy, and a younger sister, Ruth.

The family moved to a farm in Missouri when Walt was only five years old. By the time he was nine, they'd moved to Kansas City, and there his father bought a newspaper route for the Kansas City Star, where Walt and his older brother, Roy, delivered newspapers.

Teenage Years

With a love for drawing, Walt sold sketches to his neighbors when he was only seven years old. During his high school years, he divided his time between his drawing and photography, while he attended the Academy of Fine Arts at night.

Roy joined the army during World War I when Walt was only sixteen years old. Walt wanted to join with his brother, but he was told he was too young. So he changed the date on his birth certificate and went overseas to drive an ambulance for the Red Cross.

The Beginning

After the War, Walt returned home to Kansas City, working as an advertising cartoonist until he joined his brother, Roy in Los Angeles. There they opened up their first business together making animated films, and so the Disney Brothers Studio was born. It would later be renamed to the Walt Disney Studio.

One of Walt's first employees was a lovely young lady named Lillian Bounds. She would later become Mrs. Lillian Disney or Lilly, as Walt called her. They were married on July 13, 1925.

A Mouse Is Born

Although Walt and Roy continued to produce cartoons, it wasn't until Walt came up with the idea of a singing, dancing mouse that they would have a hit. Walt had planned to name his creation, "Mortimer Mouse"; however, Lilly suggested the name "Mickey" instead. And you know the rest...

On November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse was born! He made his first appearance in "Steamboat Willie", which was the world's first sound cartoon. And Walt Disney, himself, provided the voice for his creation!

Mickey would soon be joined by his girl, Minnie, along with his dog, Pluto. The world fell in love with Mickey Mouse, and they could not get enough of Disney's cartoons! Eventually Mickey was joined by more friends - Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Goofy.

I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse.

Walt Disney

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Walt's Family

While Walt was having success with his cartoons, things were not so happy for him and Lilly on the homefront. Lilly had suffered two miscarriages, and now she was pregnant again. But this time would be different, this time they would welcome their precious baby daughter, Diane Marie Disney into the world on December 18, 1933.

Yet several years later in 1937, Lilly would once again miscarry, so she and Walt adopted a two-week old baby girl. They named her Sharon Mae Disney, who was born December 21, 1936.

Devoted to his wife and daughters, Walt was always present in their lives. His oldest daughter, Diane was quoted as saying, "Daddy never missed a father's function no matter how I discounted it. I'd say, 'Oh, Daddy, you don't need to come. It's just some stupid thing.' But he'd always be there, on time."

Walt, himself, once said, "A man should never neglect his family for business."

Walt's Continued Success

On December 21, 1937, Walt Disney once again outdid himself when he released Disney's first full-length animated movie - "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". The animated classic broke box-office records, and it made Walt Disney a well-known filmmaker.

Walt continued to bring Disney cartoons to the world with more classics like "Pinocchio", "Dumbo", and "Bambi. By 1954, he was bringing these much-loved animated features into our homes through his weekly televsion series, "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color". Walt had become an American television pioneer.


Walt's success did not stop with his film-making; he was about to open a whole new world for all to see. On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney opened his first amusement park in California; he called it Disneyland.

Walt had long dreamed of a place where familes could play together, "...a family park where parents and children could have fun together." Walt wanted his visitors to feel as if they were in another world.

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

Walt Disney

A New Dream

Due to the success of Disneyland, it was in 1958 that Walt decided to build yet another Disney theme park, this time it would be across the country in Florida. It would be called Disneyworld, but for now it was known as the "Florida Project".

Walt Disney purchased some 27,000 acres in Florida between 1964 and 1965. He wanted to make sure he had plenty of room for his new theme park. However, land prices soared when it was discovered that it was Walt Disney who was buying up the land.

It's kind of fun to do the impossible.

Walt Disney

A Great Loss

Walt continued to oversee his Florida project, and working close with his brother, Roy, he had even began working on a new film, "The Jungle Book". But Walt Disney would never see his new film or his new theme park finished.

He started experiencing health problems, and after undergoing surgery to remove cancer from one of his lungs in November 1966, Walt worked for as long as he could. But on December 15, 1966, Walter Elias Disney was no longer with us.

His brother, Roy made an announcement expressing the world's great loss. Walt Disney, the man...the legend was mourned by everyone as flags flew half-staff at Disneyland.

Walt Disney World

After his brother's passing, Roy took over both the Disney Company and the Florida Project. He would rename Disney World to Walt Disney World, so that everyone would remember that it was his brother's dream. He would make sure that dream came true, and on October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World opened its gates to the public.

Sadly, Roy O. Disney, joined his younger brother in death on December 20, 1971.

We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together.

Walt Disney

Which of the two original theme parks have you visited?

An American Legend

During his lifetime, Walt Disney brought us so much. His imagination, creativity, and entertainment enriched our lives. His countless contributions to the film industry are immeasureable.

He came into our lives, our homes, and he taught us what it meant to dream. Most importantly, he brought us even closer to our families.

He taught us to believe in magic, and it still lives on today! Walt Disney is a great American legend!

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney's World of Color

Watch as Walt Disney takes you on a tour of Disneyland on Walt Disney's World of Color.

Please sprinkle me with pixie dust...

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    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 3 years ago

      @poutine: I think so! He's definitely one of my favorites! Thank you for visiting me!

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 3 years ago

      @LauraHofman: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for visiting me!

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 3 years ago from Naperville, IL

      Very interesting lens! I'm looking forward to the new movie coming out soon about his life.

    • profile image

      poutine 3 years ago

      A very interesting man to say the least.

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 3 years ago

      @RHKnight: Thank you! I think Walt Disney was an awesome man! And no, I haven't seen that, I'll have to check it out! Thanks so much!

    • RHKnight profile image

      RHKnight 3 years ago

      Great lens, I can tell you care a lot about the man behind so much imaginative joy and adventure. I recently watched Walt & El Grupo about his travels to South America pre-WWII. He was serving as a "cultural ambassador." If you haven't seen this documentary, I highly recommend it.

    • Old Navy Guy profile image

      Old Navy Guy 3 years ago

      A very nice look back at a remarkable man and his vision. Thank you.

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you so much for visiting! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Hugs!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      LOVE the lens. :)

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 4 years ago

      @johnrh1: Thanks johnrh1 so much for visiting my lens! And I agree! Mortimer just doesn't fit our Mickey! *smile* So glad you enjoyed my lens! Have a nice night!

    • profile image

      johnrh1 4 years ago

      Thanks to his wife lilly, we grew up with micky mouse! I don't know how the name moritime mouse would sit?...good lens :)

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 4 years ago

      @othellos: Thank you so much for the nice comment, othellos! I grew up with Walt, too, and I love Disney! You're so welcome! I'm so glad you enjoyed my lens! Have a great day!

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Excellent lens. I grew up with Disney and cannot forget him. Thanks for the delightful memories:=)

    • CharMarie profile image

      CharMarie 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Can't wait! Glad you like the lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Awesome! This has inspired me even more..we are going so my baby can experience the magic that we already know exists!