There is probably no artist's name as well known, as attached to so many works of art and that has inspired more people than Walt Disney. From creating Mickey Mouse to building Disneyland to creating arguably the largest entertainment company on planet Earth, he is a giant personality whose works will be felt for many years into the future. Any artist should study the life of this American genius because they will find mountains of inspiration from any chapter of his brilliant story.
He grew up in a poor, yet hardworking farming family in the Midwest and at an early age discovered a love for drawing. He never finished high school, dropping out because he wanted to fight in the war but fortunate for us they turned him down because he was only 16. He found work in making advertisements which led him to discovering animation. He had no formal training whatsoever but was fascinated by the subject and found a book on it, read it, and soon after opened up an animation company. It gained some success but could not turn a profit and quickly failed. That's right, Walt Disney's first animation business went bankrupt and failed! He decided to move from Kansas City to Hollywood where the entertainment industry was. With the help of his brother Roy, they began creating new and exciting animation.
Disney's company had success with a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, although it was technically owned by Universal and through strong arm business tactics the character was not only taken from Disney's company but also every single one of his animators except for one. With such a huge loss of staff and resources he did not wallow or dive into self-pity, instead he flourished and prospered through the creation of one of the most globally recognizable characters in human history: Mickey Mouse. Disney had the idea to produce a cartoon in sound and with the production of "Steamboat Willie" in 1928, his company had a bonafide hit on their hands, with Walt Disney's own voice imbuing the new animated star with a lovable soul.
Walt Disney would continue innovating in the field of animation with his most ambitious project yet. At the time, cartoons were short and shown before a movie played, but Disney had the idea to produce a feature length cartoon. This was unheard of and they called him crazy, constantly saying that no one would sit through a whole movie of a cartoon; it was ridiculous! Disney spent four years working on his feature length cartoon until he ran out of money and was forced to show early, unfinished material to bankers, and finally his film was released in 1937. You may have heard of it. It was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and it went on to earn Disney an Academy Award, was the most successful film of 1938, is listed in AFI's List of the 100 Greatest American Films (one of only two animated films to be on the list, the other is Disney's Fantasia) and Albert Einstein at the time said it was, "the greatest film ever made."
Despite the success of Snow White and Mickey Mouse, The Walt Disney Company had not managed to reach viability as a company because of huge loan debts and large investments into expanding the Disney Studios and beginning production on more animated feature films. Just when the public wanted to see Disney films, the world was thrown into World War II and the company faced giant obstacles to stay afloat and somehow survive. Walt Disney did not let a global war stop him from creating art and when the dust settled he was in control of a company that knew no boundaries, produced more animated films, expanded into live action films, had it's own distribution company and an international merchandising empire.
When Walt Disney wanted to create a place where parents could bring their kids that was beautiful, fun, and other worldly, they again called him crazy. His company would go into further debt and had to think creatively of how to raise more money for the idea of a theme park at a time when no one knew what a theme park was. He struck gold by working out a deal with ABC to air a TV show about his new theme park and it's construction and through an investment with ABC was able to get enough money to build his park and promote it on TV at the same time. Until Disneyland opened in 1951, the Walt Disney Company had spent its first 20 years in debt, but it could now go on to amass enormous revenue from the success of "the happiest place on Earth," which would evolve into more parks, including Disney World in 1971.
The Walt Disney Company now owns the companies ABC, Miramax, Marvel and Pixar, to name a few. It has produced countless hours of television, motion pictures, and music. It has arguably created more memorable pieces of art and entertainment than any other company in history, and to think it all stemmed from a man from very humble beginnings that wanted to draw instead of farm. His genius lay not in the ability to amass fame and fortune, but in his ability to constantly create art and push the limits of what was possible in whatever artistic field he was involved. and the fame and fortune were inevitable. He ignored the naysayers and always looked to the future. If they call Times Square the "center of the universe" and refer to a "Disneyfication" of it, it only means we have arrived at a future world that Walt Disney helped create, decades ago, while drawing pictures and wanting them to move.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.