The Walt Disney Story, How One Man Made Dreams Come True

For decades, The Walt Disney Company has been preeminent in the field of entertainment. But not much is known about the man who co-founded the company and re-invented animation to an art form. His achievements that combine television, music and theme parks have overshadowed his life story. 

Beyond Disney’s magical stories and fantastical world of imagination lies the story of a man who was driven by passion, ambition, and faith in his “impossible dreams.” His 43-year Hollywood career has spanned award winning feature films and globally recognized icons.

Photo by Atiq Nazri / CC BY 2.0

During his lifetime Disney live-action films had netted almost $300 million and by the time of his death in 1966, Walt had accumulated a net worth of $5 billion. Not a small feat for a man who revolutionized the American film industry.

Early Artistic Life

Walter Elias Disney was born in 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the son to Elias Disney a business contractor and Flora Call a teacher. He had an idyllic childhood together with his four siblings. In 1906, the Disneys’ moved to Marcelline, Missouri.

Walt fell in love with Marceline. It was a small farm, but he would never stop talking about its dazzling front yard carpeted green with its crowded weeping pillows. To him, everything seemed heavenly and paradisiacal even when it wasn’t.

By the age of seven, Walt had started showing his knack for art and drawing. He would doodle pictures of animals and nature which he would sell to his neighbors. His interest in art and design led him to the Academy of Fine arts where his artistic skills continued to flourish.

During the fall of 1918, Walt enlisted to join the army but was rejected for being under aged. He later decided to join the Red Cross where he worked as a chauffeur in France. Even as a chauffeur, his love for animation could be seen from his ambulance which was covered with Disney’s Cartoons.

Off To A Shaky Start…

Walt Disney moved back to Kansas City where he decided to pursue a career as a newspaper artist, but no one was willing to hire him. But this did not deter Walt from pursuing his dreams. He began producing short animated films the most notable one being “The Alice Comedy Series.”  His Company Laugh-O-Grams became bankrupt, and the production had to be halted. Despite the early flop of the series, Walt headed to Hollywood this time, more ambitious than ever to see his dreams come to life.

Photo by Sam Howzit / CC BY 2.0

New Horizons: Success With Disney

Hollywood was kind to its new found star and soon, Walt Disney's imaginative comics were gracing films and theatres. In collaboration with his brother Roy, Walt started the Disney Brothers Studios. The Alice comedies which was once a flop became popular across the world. Disney Brothers became a massive hit producing iconic characters such as Mickey Mouse.

In 1925, the Disney Brothers Studio changed its name to to The Walt Disney Studios. Walt continued to experiment with his wild imagination and in 1932, he won his first Academy Award for the film Flowers and Trees. A string of accolades followed thanks to Walt’s immaculate works.

Beyond his animation and pop art, Disney changed the shape of recreation in America by building Disneyland in 1955. A magical kingdom where you can sail with the pirates, hunt in the jungle, and immerse yourself  in the fantasy world truly an amazing phenomenal experience for both adults and children.

Disney has gone on to churn out timeless comics, films and animations through the years. Even after his demise, Walt’s legacy continues to live on.

Lessons From Walt Disney 

  • Do what you love and follow your passions with all your might
  • Believe in all your dreams and turn them into reality. “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them”
  • Embrace your challenges and adversities they make you stronger. “A kick in the teeth may be the best thing for you”
  • Optimism introduces you to a new set of possibilities and opens doors you never imagined existed.
  • Once you get started, keep moving and focus of daily improvement.

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"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

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