Walt Disney was one of the famous motion-picture producers in history. He first became known in the 1920’s and 1930’s for creating such cartoon film characters as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. He later produced feature length cartoon films, movies about wild animals in their natural surroundings, and films starring human actors.
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Disney won 32 Academy Awards for his movies and for scientific and technical contributions to filmmaking. He also gained fame for his development of theme parks. Walter Elias Disney was born on Dec. 5, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois. His family moved to Missouri, and he spent much of his boyhood on a farm near Marceline. At the age of 16, Disney studied art in Chicago. In 1920, he joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he helped make cartoon advertisements to be shown in movie theaters. In 1923, Disney moved to Los Angeles to become a film producer or director. When he failed to find a job, he returned to producing cartoons. He set up his first studio in the back half of a real estate office. For several years, Disney struggled to pay his expenses. He gained success in 1928, when he released the first short cartoons that featured Mickey Mouse.
Earlier filmmakers had found that animals were easier to animate than people. Mickey Mouse, drawn with a series of circles, proved ideal for animation. In 1927, sound that had been added to motion pictures, and a process for making movies in color was developed a few years later. Disney and his staff made imaginative use of sound and color. Disney himself provided Mickey Mouse’s voice for Steamboat Willie (1928), the first cartoon to use synchronized sound. His cartoon Flowers and Trees (1932) was the first cartoon in full Technicolor. From 1929 to 1939, Disney produced a cartoon series called Silly Symphonies, which played in theaters along with other animated films featuring Mickey Mouse and other characters, like Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. After 1924, Disney actually did more of the drawing necessary for his animated films. His genius lay in creating, organizing, and directing the films. In 1937, Disney issued the first full-length animated feature film to be produced by a studio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
It became one of the most popular movies in history. Disney’s later full-length animated films included Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), 101 Dalmations (1961), and the Jungle Book (released in 1967, after his death). In 1950, Disney released Treasure Island, his first full-length movie to use only human actors. Mary Poppins (1964), which combines human actors with animation, is the most successful of Disney’s later films. During World War II (1939 to 1945), Disney’s studio made educational films for the U.S. government as well as cartoon comedies. After the war, Disney created fewer animated movies. He concentrated on making films that starred real animals or human actors. In 1948, Disney released Seal Island. This short movie was the first in a series of ”True-Life Adventures” that showed how animals lived in nature. In 1953, Disney released his first full- length nature film, The Living Desert. All of his nature movies included scenes of animal life rarely seen by human beings. After television became popular about 1950, many filmmakers either ignored T.V. or fought it as a threat to the movie industry.
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But Disney adjusted easily to the new form of entertainment. He hosted a weekly show that presented Disney films made especially for television, featuring such characters as Davy Crockett, and Ludwig Von Drake. Disney achieved one of his greatest successes in 1955, when he opened Disneyland, a spectacular theme park in Anaheim, California. Many of the attractions at the park are based on the Disney films. During his last years, Disney developed plans for building a huge entertainment and educational complex in Florida. This project, known as Walt Disney World, was completed after Disney’s death. Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966, in Los Angeles. The Walt Disney Company carried on Disney’s work after his death.