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Walt Moves to Kansas City in 1911

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					     Walt Moves to Kansas City in 1911-fareast-font-family: Times New Roman; mso-ansi-
    language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">In 1908
  Herbert and Raymond decided they had had enough of farming, and of their father's
insistence that they use any extra money they could earn to help support the family. Now
 16 and 18 -- grown men by the standards of the time -- they departed for better times in
 Chicago. In the fall of 1909, Walt started at the brand-new Park School in Marceline. But
  he wasn't to be there long. In the fall of 1910 Elias contracted typhoid and almost died.
He recovered, slowly, but knew he couldn't keep the farm afloat. So the farm was sold for
   $5,175, and the family moved to Kansas City in the summer of 1911. Paradise was lost.

In Kansas City, EliIn Kansas City, Elias bought a newspaper route. Walt and Roy were his
staff, and he imbued in them a drive for perfectionism. Walt rose at 3:30 a.m. and was
required to place every paper behind the customer's storm door -- not out on the lawn
like other newsboys. In the winter, crawling up icy steps with heavy bags of papers more
than once drove Walt to cold tears. As a result, Walt's schooling was characterized by
intermittently successful efforts to stay awake. Occasionally, though, he'd surprise his
teachers. In fifth grade he memorized the Gettysburg Address, came to school dressed
as Lincoln, and performed for every class in the school. He loved theatrics and studied
Charlie Chaplin movies for tips on performing. He and a buddy, Walt Pfeiffer, worked up
little skits to act out at amateur-night competitions. A talent for art also clearly emerged,
and Walt drew his own versions of Maggie and Jiggs, a popular comic strip.

Elias has often been described as a ne'er-do-well who bounced from job to job. In fact,
his newspaper route was very successful, and he began investing money in a jelly firm in
Chicago, the O'Zell Company. O'Zell planned to produce a bottled carbonated
beverage, and Elias was convinced that such drinks had a big future. So he sold the
paper route, increased his investment in the factory to $16,000, and became head of the
company's plant construction and maintenance. This, of course, required moving to
Chicago. Unfortunately, the executives in charge were less than honest, and O'Zell didn't
last very long. When Walt's folks left for Chicago, he chose to stay behind for the summer.
He lived in the family house with Roy and his oldest brother, Herbert, who by now was
married and had a two-year-old daughter, Dorothy.n="center">Walt Returns to Chicago

Roy decided that it would be educational for Walt to have a summer job selling
newspapers, candy, fruit, and soda on the Santa Fe Railroad. Walt loved the uniform, the
trains, the candy, and the chance to see the country. He paid scant attention to the
business end of the enterprise, however, and wound up losing money. Walt didn't mind.
He never did anything for the money. At summer's end, he joined his family in Chicago,
where he attended McKinley High School. But his mind was thousands of miles away, on
the battlefields of Europe. Walt wanted to be part of the War to End All Wars. In the
meantime, he attended the Chicago Institute of Art, worked at the O'Zell Company, and
drew patriotic sketches for the school paper. When school let out for the summer, he
began to work at the post office, where he narrowly escaped an untimely end when the
building was bombed.
                         Summer 1918/ Kansas City Add Company


In the summer of 1918, Walt was 16 -- too young for the military. When he heard that the
Red Cross Ambulance Corps would accept 17-year-olds, he lied about his age, joined,
and began training. All the same, he almost missed his chance when he came down
with influenza in an epidemic that killed about 20 million people worldwide. The war
ended. But the Ambulance Corps still needed 50 more men, and Walt was the fiftieth
selected. He was on his way to France. For the next year, Walt drove an ambulance,
chauffeured officers, played poker, started smoking, and wrote letters. Contrary to myth;
because he was never dishonorably discharged from the army (a particularly peculiar
myth; he was never in the army). He made money with another young man painting
helmets with camouflage colors, banging them up to look battle-scarred, and then
selling them to Americans in search of realistic souvenirs

Walt returned home from France in the fall of 1919, determined to become an artist. He
moved into the old Disney house in Kansas City with his brothers, Roy and Herbert (and
Herbert's family), and tried unsuccessfully to get a job as an artist at the Kansas City "Star."
Roy helped him get a position as an apprentice at the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art
Studio, where he drew horses, cows, and bags of feed for farm-equipment catalogues.
Of course, he didn't ask what he'd be paid: the princely sum of $50 a month.
Unfortunately, just before Christmas, there wasn't enough business to keep him on the
payroll, and Walt was laid off. So he and another laid-off artist, Ub Iwerks, decided to
start a commercial-art business together, called Iwerks-Disney (because the other way
around it sounded like an eyeglass company!).

Iwerks-Disney had one big client off the bat; the father of Walt's old friend Walt Pfeiffer
hired them to work on the United Leatherworkers Journal. But business wasn't booming.
Walt was offered a $40-a-week job at the Kansas City Slide Company (later renamed the
Kansas City Film Ad Company), making animated commercials. He took the job, and a
few months later Ub joined him. Cartoon-making was in its infancy. Even the best -- like
Krazy Kat and the Katzenjammer Kids -- were jerky, repetitive black-and-white efforts
based on popular newspaper comic strips. But the public was still intrigued and amazed
by the new form of entertainment. As was Walt. He wanted to improve upon the clumsy
means of animation used at Kansas City Film Ad. He read books about animation and
discovered how the leading New York animators worked. And he started making his own
cartoons.

Walt agreed to pay his father $5 a month to rent the family's garage as a studio (though
Roy never recalled ever seeing any money actually change hands). After work, Walt
stayed up late into the night working on animation. At the time, Kansas City theaters
rented cartoons from East Coast animators. Walt decided he could compete with them
by creating his own with a local twist. He successfully sold the idea to the Newman
Theater and began making his own Newman Laugh-O-grams. Typically, he priced them
too low and made no money. But he was in the cartoon business. His folks had returned
to Kansas City, but they didn't stay for long. In 1921, Herbert, Ruth, Flora, and Elias moved
to Portland. Then Roy came down with tuberculosis and went to a hospital in Arizona.
Walt, all alone, found a place in a rooming house.


Walt threw himself entirely into cartooning, bringing in several young, unpaid
apprentices. Using an amazing gift for salesmanship, Walt raised some $15,000 from
investors, quit his job, and incorporated his tiny company, called Laugh-O-gram Films. He
made a deal to sell a series of fairy-tale cartoons for $11,100, accepting a down
payment of $100. After six months of work, his client claimed bankruptcy. Walt never saw
another penny. Despite desperate efforts to make money, Walt couldn't pay the rent
and moved into the Laugh-O-gram office. His workers left him. He barely had enough
money to feed himself. Then, he got $500 for a dental hygiene film and poured it into a
new effort called "Alice's Wonderland." But before it could be completed, he had to
declare bankruptcy. With the unfinished film in hand, he took his remaining few dollars
and purchased a train ticket to California.

When Walt arrived in Hollywood, he got a job as an extra in a western. But it rained the
day Walt's scene was to be filmed, and the studio replaced him. "That was the end of my
career as an actor," Walt said. He turned to his one real skill -- animation -- and set up a
tiny studio in his Uncle Robert's garage. He wrote to M. J. Winkler, a film distributor,
announcing that he was "establishing a studio in Los Angeles for the purpose of
producing a new and novel series of cartoons." The studio, of course, was a garage. And
the new and novel series was his half-finished "Alice's Wonderland" cartoon, from Kansas
City -- a combination of a real little girl and a menagerie of animated characters. Winkler
bought half a dozen Alice cartoons from Walt for $1,500 apiece, and Walt was off and
running.

Walt knew that he didn't have a sterling record in running the financial side of his
creative efforts. So he convinced Roy to join him in California as a partner in his new
business. That may have been the best single decision of Walt's career. Walt was now
free to let his imagination run wild, while Roy made sure they both had enough money to
eat. In 1923 they launched the Disney Brothers Studio with $200 Roy had saved, $500
borrowed from Uncle Robert, and $2,500 that Flora and Elias contributed (and for which
they had to mortgage their house in Portland). They bought a used camera, rented a
tiny studio in the back of a real-estate office, moved into a one-room apartment
together, hired a couple of assistants, and according to Walt began the process of
making "the name Disney famous around the world."

On the way to international fame, Walt fell in love. He had hired a sweet, gentle woman
named Lillian Bounds. At night he would drive her and another female employee home
in a used pickup truck he and Roy had purchased. He always dropped the other young
woman off first. Walt loved listening to Lillian's tales about her life as the youngest of 10
children of a blacksmith. After a while they began taking long drives, talking all the time.
But Walt never accepted Lillian's invitations to meet her family. Not until he saved up
enough money to buy a new suit was he willing to be introduced. He fit in immediately.
Walt and Roy, meanwhile, were getting sick and tired of one another as roommates. In
early 1925, Roy asked his longtime girlfriend, Edna Francis, to marry him. And soon after,
on June 13, 1925, Walt and Lilly got married.

illy -- as Walt always called her -- quickly came to understand that she wasn't the only
love in Walt's life; he had deep feelings for his work as well. They'd spend a pleasant
evening out together with friends or family, and inevitably Walt would announce, "I've
just got one little thing I want to do at the studio." Next thing Lilly would know, she was
being awakened on the office couch in the middle of the night -- Walt had been
working for hours -- and it was finally time to go home. The Alice series was pretty
successful. But M. J. Winkler had turned over her company to her husband, Charlie Mintz,
and Mintz was a tough customer, frequently chastising Walt. When the Alice series was
no longer in sufficient demand, Walt started to work on a new character, Oswald the
Lucky Rabbit. Ultimately, however, the rabbit wasn't going to be so lucky for Walt.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit delighted filmgoers and gave Walt and Roy a sense of security.
They purchased adjoining lots and moved into identical homes in the fall of 1927. Lilly's
mother joined her daughter and Walt (Walt and Lilly were to serve as long-term hosts for
several of Lilly's relatives over the years). Around Thanksgiving, Walt decided he wanted
a puppy. He did research and determined that the chow was the perfect choice: "The
chow does not shed hair," he reported. "The chow does not have fleas. The chow has
very little dog odor." He presented the puppy to Lilly in a large hatbox at Christmastime.
She was startled when the present turned out to be a dog instead of a hat. But she was
soon in love with the new pet. (Walt remembered, and used the scene of the dog in the
hatbox years later in "Lady and the Tramp.")

As Oswald's stardom grew, Walt decided that he could renew the contract for the
cartoons at a better price. So he and Lilly headed off for New York City to cut a new
deal. But there was a lot Walt didn't know as he blithely headed east. He didn't know
that Charlie Mintz had offered Walt's staff more money and freedom if they came to
work for him. He didn't know that most of his staff had accepted. Most important, he
didn't know that Charlie Mintz -- and Universal Pictures -- really owned the legal rights to
Oswald. It may have been Walt and his staff who had turned Oswald into a star, but
Mintz and Universal held the star's contract! Mintz demanded that Walt give up his own
business and work exclusively for him. Walt refused. Mintz was unrelenting. And Walt left
New York without most of his staff and without Oswald.

Before boarding the train home, Walt sent Roy a telegram: "LEAVING TONIGHT STOPPING
OVER KC ARRIVE HOME SUNDAY MORNING SEVEN THIRTY DON'T WORRY EVERYTHING OK
WILL GIVE DETAILS WHEN ARRIVE -- WALT" But while Walt was trying to protect his brother
from the real story, it would appear that his mind was already working on a way to make
the telegram true by the time he arrived home. As Walt told the story of that now famous
trip to Los Angeles, he knew that he had to come up with a new character. And so he
dreamed up the idea of Mickey Mouse on the way home. At first Walt thought he'd call
his new creation Mortimer. But Lilly didn't like that name. "How about Mickey?" she asked.
As hundreds of millions of fans now know, he took her advice. Soon after Walt got home,
he began creating three cartoons starring his new featured player.
                                  Mickey Mouse/Children

Efforts to sell Mickey Mouse cartoons were initially discouraging. Mickey was just another
cartoon creature competing for screen space with Felix the Cat and even Oswald (who
continued to be drawn by Mintz's new staff). The solution: Synchronize one of the three
cartoons -- "Steamboat Willie" -- to sound. Like many of Walt's ideas, it wasn't easy. But it
was Mickey's ticket to fame. Walt found a "big and influential guy" named Pat Powers
who provided the sound equipment and soon agreed to distribute the cartoons as well.
Initial efforts were unsuccessful, but Walt persevered and eventually triumphed.
Reviewers -- and more important, the public -- loved it. Though there were disquieting
reasons to think that Powers might not be the most trustworthy of partners, Mickey was
soon bringing in enough money for Walt to hire top animators and many trainees. And
Walt was ready to use them to begin new enterprises.

"Mickey's popularity skyrocketed," writes Charles Solomon, the well-known animation
historian, and the loveable mouse soon eclipsed Felix the Cat as the world's favorite
animated character. "A Mickey Mouse cartoon" appeared on theater marquees with
the title of the feature, and "What, no Mickey Mouse?" entered the popular lexicon as a
synonym for any disappointment. Between 1929 and 1932 more than one million children
joined the original Mickey Mouse Club. Mary Pickford, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Benito
Mussolini, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and King George V of England were all Mickey fans.
As Mickey's star blazed ever brighter, he spawned a number of offshoots -- Walt and Ub
started a newspaper comic strip. Carl Stalling wrote Mickey a theme song, "Minnie's Yoo
Hoo." ("I'm the guy they call little Mickey Mouse. Got a sweetie down in the chicken
house ... .") It, too, became popular from coast to coast.

As the studio cranked out Mickey Mouse cartoons, Walt moved forward on an entirely
different front. Up until this time, popular cartoons were based on individual characters
and had predictable plot lines. Walt's new series -- to be called Silly Symphonies --
would break the mold. They would be animated pieces, generally set to classical music,
that would give his animators a chance to experiment endlessly. The first was "The
Skeleton Dance." The cartoon, suggested by songwriter Carl Stalling, featured macabre
dancing skulls and bones twirling their way through a graveyard on a moonlit night.
Though Pat Powers initially said he couldn't sell the new cartoon, Walt prevailed, and
soon the Silly Symphonies were profitable -- and moving the state of animation forward.
Walt set up a unit of animators, separate from those who focused on Mickey Mouse, to
devote their time to Silly Symphonies.

Though business was booming, checks from Pat Powers were smaller than anticipated
and arrived erratically. In late 1929, Roy visited Powers and came to one positive
conclusion: "That Powers is a crook. He's a definite crook." Walt defended Powers at first.
"You don't believe in people," he told Roy. Of course Roy was right. Powers had been
withholding cash to make the Disney brothers desperate. And finally he announced his
intention to take over the Disney studio. His ace in the hole: He had seduced Ub Iwerks --
Walt's star animator -- into jumping ship in exchange for a cartoon series of his own.
Powers had decided that Ub was really the secret to Walt's success. Walt was terribly
disappointed. But he didn't consider yielding. And the studio went on without Ub, who
gave up a 20% interest in the Disney company that would be worth billions of dollars
today.

Meanwhile, Mickey and the Silly Symphonies forged on. Mickey acquired a body of
supporting players who became stars in their own right, including Donald Duck, Pluto,
and Goofy. When Walt decided it was time to experiment with color, he took a nearly
finished cartoon, "Flowers and Trees," and redid it entirely in beautiful Technicolor. Roy
argued that this was expensive and might not work. But Walt won out, and "Flowers and
Trees" -- in color -- won an Academy Award in 1932. Mickey debuted in color in "The
Band Concert" in 1935. The studio began using storyboards -- wooden boards on which
hundreds of sketches could be placed -- to make sure that the plot of cartoons flowed.
"Three Little Pigs" was a milestone in character development. And "The Old Mill" gave
Walt a chance to experiment with techniques for adding depth to cartoons -- something
that would be required for his next big leap forward.

Walt loved children. Before he had his own, his nieces, Dorothy (brother Herb's daughter)
and Marjorie (sister-in-law Hazel's daughter) were recipients of his affectionate
generosity. "Aunt Lilly made me clothes for my dolls," said Marjorie. "And Uncle Walt gave
me skates and scooters and all the exciting things." In 1930, Hazel and Marjorie moved in
with Walt and Lilly, and Walt acted the father role to the hilt. If Marjorie came home late,
Walt would be waiting for her at the top of the stairs when she opened the door. Much
to Walt and Lilly's dismay, their first two pregnancies ended in miscarriages. The third time
around, in 1933, Walt wrote to his mother, "Lilly is partial to a baby girl. I, personally, don't
care -- just as long as we do not get disappointed again." They weren't. On December
18, 1933, Diane Marie Disney was born.
                            Walt's Mother Dies/Walt Presses On




Weeks before Diane was born, Walt wrote, "I've made a lot of vows that my kid won't be
spoiled, but I doubt it -- it may turn out to be the most spoiled brat in the country." Walt's
initial tendency was to surround his daughter with toys and games -- Christmas of 1934
featured a giant tree and a sea of presents. But true to his vow, he didn't spoil her. "Dad
realized after a time that the more you want things, the better you like them," Diane said.
Walt wanted more children, and when Lilly suffered another miscarriage they decided to
adopt. In January 1937, two-week-old Sharon Mae Disney entered the family. The girls
had little idea their father was famous. "We weren't raised with the idea that this was a
great man," said Sharon. "He was Daddy."

It would have been easy to get newspaper photographers to cluster around little Diane
and Sharon sitting on Mickey Mouse's lap or attending a new cartoon. But Walt and Lilly
kept the girls out of the public eye, both for their safety and out of a desire for privacy.
This was an incredibly busy time for Walt. He was churning out Mickey Mouse cartoons
and Silly Symphonies that garnered a host of Academy Awards. And by the time Sharon
entered the family, he had thrown himself thoroughly into work on Snow White, even
while thinking about other feature-length animated films that might follow. In 1937, Walt
and Roy grew concerned about their parents who had been running a rooming house in
Portland. Their health wasn't great, and the boys could afford to buy them a house in
California and hire a housekeeper to help take care of it.

The gas heating in the house wasn't properly installed. Flora had complained that the
furnace wasn't operating well, and Walt sent studio repairmen to fix it. But they didn't
succeed. So, on the morning of November 26, 1938, gas fumes spread through their
home. When Elias woke up, he found his wife's body on the bathroom floor. He passed
out himself trying to carry her to another room. When their housekeeper began to feel
dizzy she rushed to check on them, found them both unconscious, and got a neighbor to
help her get them out of the house. It was too late for Flora. Elias survived, but never
completely recovered. And though nobody knows precisely how he felt, it would appear
that Walt never got over the tragedy either. Years later, he wouldn't even talk to Sharon
about it

When Walt decided to create the world's first feature-length animated film -- "Snow
White" -- virtually everyone thought he was headed down the wrong path. Roy and Lilly
were unhappy. With Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies doing well, the brothers had
plenty of money. Why gamble? After all, a feature-length cartoon was estimated to cost
at least half a million dollars (and, largely due to Walt's perfectionism, it would ultimately
cost about three times that). His wife and brother weren't alone. Others in the
entertainment business thought he was foolhardy too. They didn't think Walt could come
up with a story line that would hold people's attention for over an hour of animation. They
thought that such a cartoon would hurt audiences' eyes. They called the venture Disney's
Folly. Of course, Walt listened to none of this.

In fact, Walt was a better businessman than many realized. He knew that movie houses
were no longer showing as many cartoons as they once did (a casualty of increasingly
common double features, which left less time for animated shorts). What's more, Walt's
competitors were coming on strong with cartoons -- like Popeye -- that rivaled Mickey
Mouse in popularity. "I knew if we wanted to get anywhere we'd have to go beyond the
short subject," he said. The selection of Snow White was carefully thought out. Walt: "I had
the sympathetic dwarfs, you see? I had the heavy. I had the prince. And the girl. The
romance. I thought it was a perfect story." Staffers were convinced he was right after an
evening in early 1934 when he acted out the entire story -- all by himself. After several
exhausting hours playing an evil queen, a sweet heroine, a handsome prince, and seven
individual dwarfs, they were won over.

As "Snow White" proceeded, alongside a prodigious output of shorts, the studio
expanded. In 1935 alone, 300 additional artists were added. Meanwhile, Walt was
convinced that in order to really progress he needed to train his own staff; there was
simply no place else for them to learn the skills he was demanding. So he held classes
every night as well as for two half days each week. His artists became increasingly
proficient at re-creating the real world in an animated feature. "I definitely feel that we
cannot do the fantastic things based on the real until we can do the real," he said. The
Silly Symphony "The Old Mill" gave Walt's animators the opportunity to experiment with a
new invention, the multiplane camera, which gave them the ability to simulate depth.
Another Silly Symphony, "The Goddess of Spring," was utilized to help them with the
extremely difficult task of animating the human form.

Scenes were added and cut, and when "Snow White" was close to completion, Walt
decided she looked too pale. So inkers and painters added blush to her cheeks in tens of
thousands of drawings. It was all worth it. The film opened on December 21, 1937, in the
Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Shirley
Temple, and George Burns were all there. As animator Ward Kimball recalled, "The
highlight was at the climax of the film, when Snow White is presumed to be dead and
she's laid out on the slab ... . Here was a cartoon, and here was the audience crying. The
biggest stars, you name them, were all wiping their eyes." As John Culhane, an animation
authority and author of the soon-to-be released "Fantasia 2000: Visions of Hope," has
written, "In Disney's 'Snow White,' for the first time, moving drawings became moving
drawings."
                                 New Studio/Tough Times

With the cash that "Snow White" generated, Walt began building a new studio in
Burbank. It was a $3 million investment, and Walt was personally involved in virtually every
element of its design. And what a design: a beautiful campus for artists and other staffers
to enjoy when they weren't working; offices with outside views, many of which had the
north light that artists prefer; a snack shop that delivered to employees' offices. It would
even have air conditioning, in a day when that was something of a luxury. Walt's artists
had grown accustomed to calling screening rooms "sweatboxes," because the small
enclosed rooms were often unbearably hot. But in the new studio they'd be comfortable,
even in the heat of the summer. (Of course, they continued to be called sweatboxes --
given Walt's proclivity for making his artists sweat when he was reviewing their work.)

As the studio was being constructed, work moved ahead on three more feature films:
"Pinocchio," "Fantasia," and "Bambi." Each of these projects was to bring the studio
forward in a different way. "Pinocchio" would encourage and enable artists to create an
animated world of startling detail and design; "Fantasia" would be a giant leap forward
in using animation to picture in a totally new way, via various pieces of classical music;
and "Bambi" would bring a new level of realism to the screen, portraying animals with a
true-to-life quality that was far more difficult to animate than the cuddly critters that
populated Snow White's universe. As work progressed, however, some of Walt's staffers
were less than happy. They were working incredibly hard and still weren't being very well
paid. Meanwhile, the expense of the new studio and the success of "Snow White"
convinced some that Walt had endless resources. He didn't.

In fact, Walt had no extra cash left over, given the large sums he was spending on his
new films. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thrusting Europe into war, his foreign
markets were cut off, and that left him extremely hard up. Matters weren't helped by the
fact that Walt never saw a budget he couldn't go over. His yearning for artistic realism
slowed down the creation of "Bambi" until it was far behind schedule. Production on
"Pinocchio" was stopped when Walt decided he just didn't like the character enough.
Solution: Add Jiminy Cricket to the film, as the puppet's conscience and friend. Though
"Pinocchio" was a critical success, the loss of foreign markets and a weaker-than-
expected reception in the United States meant it didn't bring in as much revenue as
anticipated. "Fantasia" had problems at the box office too. With 1,500 people on the
payroll, the studio soon was $4.5 million in debt.
Then a union stepped in to organize Walt's workers and demand higher wages (they
could hardly demand better working conditions than those they already had). Walt saw
this as disloyalty from people he regarded as family. He handed over relations with the
unions to others -- notably lawyer Gunther Lessing. Intransigent union heads clashed with
Lessing. Anger and mistrust mounted on both sides. On February 10, 1941, Walt spoke to
his staffers, trying to win them over. It was too little, too late. In late May, Walt was hit with
a strike. He was deeply hurt by the cruel taunts of picketers. So sick was he of "this god-
awful nightmare" that he escaped on a goodwill mission to South America. While away,
Elias passed on. By the time he returned, the strike had been settled. But never again
would Walt consider his staff an extended family. Business, he now understood, was
business.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States was drawn into the Second
World War, the nation was in a state of near panic. Americans sat glued to their radio
sets to hear the news. Would there be more bombings? Was California safe? That night,
Walt's phone rang. It was his studio manager. "Walt," he said, "The army is moving in on us.
I said I'd have to call you. And they said 'Call him. But we're moving in anyway.'" Hours
later, some 700 soldiers had, in fact, seized the Disney Studio. Their purpose was to help
protect the nearby Lockheed aircraft plant -- an installation that was vital to the nation's
security. The next day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war. And for the next
eight months, until other provisions could be made, soldiers ate, trained, and lived in
Walt's studio

At the time, Walt was working on "Bambi" -- and beginning other projects including "Peter
Pan" and "Alice in Wonderland." He dropped work on almost everything except "Bambi,"
which was released on August 21, 1942, a great artistic success. Instead of fairy tales,
Walt's studio made dozens of films for the military. As animation historian Charles Solomon
writes, "Prior to the war, the largest annual output of the studio had been 37,000 feet of
film; during fiscal year 1942-43 alone, Disney turned out more than five times that amount
-- 204,000 feet of film, 95% of it for government contracts." Walt made animated training
films and a variety of other civic projects. Notable was "The New Spirit," a cartoon aimed
at convincing Americans that it was their responsibility to pay income taxes. Sixty million
people saw the film; a Gallup poll indicated that 37% of them were more willing to pay
taxes afterward.

Other cartoons "combined propaganda with entertainment," writes Solomon. For
example, in "Der Fuehrer's Face," Donald Duck appears as a misbegotten, hungry soul
stuck in Nazi Germany. Luckily for the duck, it turns out that the whole thing was only a
dream. "Victory Through Air Power" was based on a controversial book by Major
Alexander de Seversky. It used powerful images to form a persuasive argument that
aircraft would change the nature of war, a concept that was far from generally
accepted at the time. It features a powerful finale in which an evil octopus, representing
the Japanese empire, is destroyed by a soaring eagle that represents American air
power. Though government contracts certainly brought money into the studio, Walt was
hardly getting rich from this work. Some of it was done at cost. All of it was pretty
expensive. "Victory Through Air Power" lost almost $500,000 at the box office.

After the war, the studio was deep in debt. Walt wanted to try bold new projects. Roy
wanted to be more cautious. The two fought often. Nothing seemed to go right. Though
"Song of the South," released in 1946, has been praised in subsequent years, it wasn't
warmly received by critics when it opened. It was also accused of being racist. For the
next couple of years, Walt and Roy compromised by producing films with little in the way
of plot that were nothing more than packages of occasionally well-done short pieces.
But Walt wasn't one to be caught in the doldrums for long. "Let's do anything to get some
action," he said. And action he got, as he set the studio working in three directions at
once -- at whatever risk that entailed: True-Life Adventures, live-action films, and a
reinvigoration of cartoon features, led off by "Cinderella."




                            Academy Awards/Trains/Disneyland




Of course "Cinderella" -- though it would prove to be a wildly profitable animated feature
-- was just an extension of work Walt had done before World War II. True-Life Adventures,
however, was something entirely different. When Walt sent a husband-and-wife team of
filmmakers to Alaska to take movies, staffers were baffled. And when they saw the
endless footage of seals that seemed to so enchant Walt, they were further mystified.
"You never saw anything so dull in all your life," said one. But where others saw miles of
boring seals, Walt saw gold. He added music, clever writing, some jokes, and solid
editing, and next thing, the water-loving creatures were the stars of "Seal Island," Walt's
first True-Life Adventure. Though his distributor, RKO, balked at the idea, they were
ultimately convinced. In time, Walt would make 13 True-Life Adventures between 1948
and 1960; eight would win Academy Awards.

"Actors are great," Walt once teased his animators. "You give 'em the lines, they rehearse
a couple of times, and you've got it on film -- it's finished. You guys take six months to
draw a scene." No doubt, Walt was attracted to live-action films from the beginning.
Though his distributor tried to discourage the shift -- why try to turn a successful cartoon-
maker into just another producer? -- they were unsuccessful. And Walt proved himself
adept in this new field. His first effort, "Treasure Island" -- which was filmed in England and
permitted Walt and his family to take a memorable trip there -- showed that the same
skills that made him a virtuoso of the animated character applied to stars that breathed
air. His amazing story sense, attention to detail, and willingness to pursue perfection were
keys to success in this field too.

Walt had loved trains all his life. And in 1947, he wrote his sister Ruth that "I bought myself
a birthday/Christmas present, something I've wanted all my life -- an electric train . . . you
probably can't understand how much I wanted one when I was a kid, but I've got one
now." For some time, Walt had enjoyed polo as a hobby, and had even dragged Roy
and a number of friends from the studio into it. However, an injury kept him from
competitions on horseback, and so he threw all his extra energies into his trains. He loved
making tiny miniatures as well. Some of them would be used in his train sets. "He'd come
up to the dinner table," recalled Diane, and "bring this little piece of wood he had [been
working on] and sit there all through dinner and be so proud of it."

In 1949, Walt and Lilly decided to build a new house. They didn't want a typical
Hollywood mansion, preferring one that would be easy to maintain. Not that it was an
ordinary house. It featured a projection room, for example, and "a playroom with a soda
fountain," Walt wrote, "where the girls can entertain their friends without disturbing the
rest of the household." Walt loved his soda fountain, too, and Sharon recalled, "He'd go
out there and make these weird concoctions that nobody would eat, including himself."
Most notably, though, the house featured a half-mile circle of one-eighth-size train tracks,
on which Walt would ride his own miniature train engine. "Walt was not so much
interested in a new house as he was in the property, so that he could build his train on it,"
said Lilly. A 120-foot-long, S-shaped tunnel was included, under Lilly's garden.

"The voyage that ended with the opening of Disneyland in 1955 really began when Walt
was entertaining his little girls on Sundays in the early 1940s," reports the Disney biography
"The Man Behind the Magic." "As the children took their fifteenth ride around the merry-
go-round, Walt would sit quietly on a wooden bench, wondering why no one had
invented a clean safe place where parents and children could enjoy themselves at the
same time." Walt played with a sequence of ideas that grew steadily bigger. Just before
World War II, he considered a small amusement park across the street from the studio
that would feature pony rides, a train, and statues of his popular characters. Later, he
considered a traveling show featuring a series of scenes of old-time America" He wanted
[the show] to go to the people," recalled studio artist Harper Goff. But eventually Walt
determined that that was impractical

Walt visited amusement parks around the United States and the world. Mostly, he found
them to be awful, smelly, dirty, and not particularly safe. He was particularly taken by the
Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, which was fairly priced and clean as could be. Of course,
he continued working in the studio on feature-length cartoons like "Alice in Wonderland"
and "Peter Pan"; more True-Life Adventures; and live-action films, notably "20,000 Leagues
Under the Sea," his most ambitious film project to date. Money was no object here; when
the squid sequence seemed unrealistic, Walt just ordered it reshot -- for $250,000. But the
idea of his amusement park consumed him. The company had, by this time, sold stock to
the public, and Roy was concerned that shareholders would be furious if he put the
company's resources in such a risky new venture.

But the lack of ready money had never stopped Walt before. He borrowed on his life
insurance, sold his vacation home in Palm Springs, borrowed money from employees,
and founded Walt Disney, Incorporated (which later became WED Enterprises, for Walter
Elias Disney), to do the work. That still left him short on cash. No problem. He and Roy
struck a deal to create a television show for ABC. In exchange, ABC would put up
$500,000 in cash, guarantee $4.5 million in loans, and receive one-third ownership in the
park (which it later sold back to Walt). The show, "Disneyland," would make Walt's face as
famous as his name; his lead-ins provided an opportunity for him to talk directly to his
audience in a tone that was natural and familiar and made him a favorite guest in
millions of homes. For three years it was the only ABC show in the top 15 rated programs.
"Disneyland" led to the "Mickey Mouse Club" and "Zorro." The "Mouse Club," of course,
was a phenomenon in its own right. And it owed a great deal of its success to Walt's
insistence that children could be entertained without being condescended to. Soon,
television wasn't just a means for funding Disneyland; it was an important part of Walt's
empire as well. Meanwhile, on the home front, Diane had fallen in love with a handsome
young man named Ron Miller. Walt described him in a letter to his brother Herb as "a
wonderful boy, a big athlete whom we all love." Diane and Ron got married in a tiny
church in Santa Barbara, California. Ron played professional football for a while and then
went to work for Walt. "I have a great ambition for him," Walt told friend Herb Ryman, "He
will run the studio one day."

onths before Disneyland opened, Walt became a grandfather for the first time. He was
absolutely delighted. But there was one disappointment: Walt had hoped his first
grandson would be named after him, and Diane had decided to name the baby
Christopher. "Afterwards, I felt that we had made a mistake," she said. Walt would have
to wait while Diane had three girls before Walter Elias Disney Miller was born. In all, Diane
would have six children during Walt's lifetime -- a seventh after he died. Sharon, who
married an architect named Bob Brown in 1959, would have one child, Victoria, during
Walt's lifetime. Two more would follow later. Walt was a loving, doting grandfather. "He
always had a camera with him," recalls granddaughter Tamara. "He had a tendency of
handing the camera to a child. There's a great series of him crouching lower and lower
as a child took the pictures."

Though there are now many themed amusement parks, Walt's was the first. As
Disneyland historians David Mumford and Bruce Gordon write, "Everyone has a
hometown, and Walt always considered his to be Marceline, Missouri." To welcome
guests to Disneyland, Walt would invite them into his home, or rather his hometown. A
single corridor, themed as a "better than the real thing" midwestern Main Street, would
guide guests into the heart of Disneyland. From there, they could choose to enter a
number of themed lands, each of which was based on a world that was near and dear
to Walt's heart and populated with the characters he loved. Mumford and Gordon write,
"Stories of the construction of Disneyland are legendary. From the Frontierland riverbed
that leaked dry the first time the banks were filled, to the flying Dumbo elephants that
were too heavy for the ride's armature, it was clear nothing like this had ever been built
before."

Several days before Disneyland opened, Walt and Lilly celebrated their 35th anniversary
at the park. It was a happy night for the family, complete with Walt and Lilly dancing on
the stage of the Golden Horseshoe. Diane recalls her father in the backseat of the car on
the way home, holding a rolled-up Disneyland map: "He was tooting through it like a little
boy with a toy trumpet. And then he was singing a song. And before I knew it, there he
was like a little boy, sound asleep, with his trumpet folded in his arms." Opening day of
the park was televised on a 90-minute live television program that was the most-watched
TV event up to that time. Some 20 cameras posted around the park telecast a vision of
exciting attractions, heartfelt dedications, and relaxed commentary from Art Linkletter,
Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan.

But like so much on television, reality didn't quite live up to the illusion. In fact, the park
wasn't really ready for prime time yet. Opening day, rides broke down; there were too
few trash cans; lines were far too long; not enough water fountains were operating.
Perhaps worst, thousands of counterfeit invitations had been distributed, and so the park
was overloaded, while the roads leading to Disneyland were jammed with bumper-to-
bumper cars filled with irate passengers. But opening day was soon over, and most of the
problems were fixed. Better yet, Walt was able to start making changes and
improvements. Dumbo Flying Elephants, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Mike
Fink Keel Boats were all in operation before the end of the year. Tom Sawyer Island
opened the next. "Disneyland will never be completed," Walt said. "He practically lived
there," recalled Lilly.

Considering his commitment to Disneyland, it's not surprising that Walt was unable to
devote himself to the studio's film output as he had in the past. Though quality was
somewhat erratic -- more than one less-than-wonderful film was released -- the studio
produced a series of successful films through the early 1960s. The animated features
included "Lady and the Tramp," "Sleeping Beauty," "101 Dalmatians," and "The Sword in
the Stone." Live-action films included "Johnny Tremain" (which featured Sharon in a bit
part), "Old Yeller," "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," "Swiss Family Robinson," and
"Pollyanna." Walt was always involved with casting, and for Pollyanna he hired 12-year-
old Hayley Mills, a very talented young lady who went on to star in a number of Disney
productions. "She would mess with her mouth and be very natural. Walt loved her,"
reported artist Peter Ellenshaw.

In 1959, Walt came out with "The Shaggy Dog," the first of a series of lighthearted
comedies that did reliably well in the box office. Like "The Shaggy Dog," "The Absent-
Minded Professor" similarly relied upon impossible situations for much of its humor. Though
Fred MacMurray was billed as the star of that film, it was actually the flying car that held
audiences spellbound. As a result of the success of such films, by 1961, Walt's company
was debt free for the first time in some 20 years. He would have liked to expand his scope
to a wider range of films, but his public wouldn't have stood for it. In the 1960s, he saw the
movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" and told Ron Miller he'd like to make a picture like it. But he
knew that was impossible. "He was very frustrated," recalled Miller. "Walt had created this
image and he got locked in."

Walt and Roy -- who had always had their differences -- had one of their most protracted
battles in 1963 when Roy determined he had to deal with Walt's own company -- WED --
which was beginning to put efforts into a new project in Florida. Roy felt, perhaps
justifiably, that there was a potential conflict of interest between Walt's personally owned
company and the stockholder-owned Disney Company. Lawsuits could follow. Walt, he
said, would have to sell portions of WED to the Disney Company. Writes Bob Thomas,
author of biographies of both brothers, "For months they would not talk to each other,
communicating through intermediaries and impersonal memos. Only their close
associates were aware of the frost between them." Finally, a compromise was reached.
And Walt gave Roy a Native American peace pipe, writing, "It was wonderful to smoke
the pipe of peace with you again -- the clouds that rise are very beautiful."
                              Mary Poppins/Walt Disney World

In 1964, Walt once again focused most of his attentions on a big-screen creation -- "Mary
Poppins." Not a single element escaped his scrutiny. The result, of course, was
unforgettable. Walt and Roy had been trying to get rights to the book, by P.L. Travers, for
years, and were finally successful (though the relationship between Walt and Travers was
somewhat rocky through the creation of the film). Walt brought in two of the best song-
writers in the business, Richard and Robert Sherman, who shared his vision for the story. He
particularly loved the song "Feed the Birds." In fact, many evenings toward the end of the
day, he'd call for the brothers to come to his office and "Play the song" for him. They
knew which tune he meant. "Mary Poppins" premiered on August 27, 1964, to nearly
universal critical acclaim. It received 13 Academy Award nominations

As Walt entered his mid-60s, he didn't seem to be slowing down. In fact, he appeared to
be speeding up. He decided to create four exhibits for the 1964 World's Fair in New York.
Why? So that he could experiment with new ideas -- particularly Audio-Animatronics --
while using other people's money. The Mr. Lincoln attraction he developed for the State
of Illinois was one of the hits of the fair, and allowed him to take Audio-Animatronics a
giant step forward. His other exhibits -- done for General Electric, Pepsi-Cola, and Ford --
were also hits at the fair. Meanwhile, he was working on other plans for the future: a ski
resort called Mineral King was to be built near the SequoiaNational Park. He considered
a tourist site that might be called Walt Disney's Boyhood Home in Marceline, and even
bought up properties there.

Neither Mineral King nor Walt's Boyhood Home actually came into being. But his plans for
a new kind of university were more successful. Declared Walt, "A completely new
approach to training in the arts is needed. That's the principal thing I hope to leave when
I move on to greener pastures. If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the
future, I think I will have accomplished something." He certainly did. Dubbed CalArts, an
amalgamation of the Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music,
it would educate students in all facets of the arts -- dance, music, drama, visual arts, and
film. CalArts opened in 1961 and has been growing ever since. But though Walt was
excited about all of these efforts, their scope paled in comparison to the so-called
Florida Project -- a gigantic effort set for an area twice the size of Manhattan Island in the
middle of Florida

Of course the Florida Project would include a theme park like Disneyland, but that's not
really what fascinated Walt. No, he had decided that he could apply his lifetime of
experiences to a brand-new kind of city; a city whose residents would utilize the best
thinking about transportation, communication, and sanitation. "Solving the problems of
the city obsessed him," says John Hench, who began working for Walt in 1939 and is still
with the company Walt left behind. Walt called his dream EPCOT, for Experimental
Prototype Community of Tomorrow. He studied, planned, and sketched ideas for it. On
the last trip the Disney family took all together -- a memorable yacht ride through British
Columbia waters -- Walt relaxed by reading books about city planning. Although EPCOT
exists today, it's not the place Walt envisioned. He simply didn't live long enough to see
this dream to reality.

Late 1966, Walt was diagnosed with lung cancer. Years of smoking had caught up with
him. Walt told his family that they shouldn't be concerned, that he'd have the cancer
removed and quickly recover. But on Monday, November 7, the surgeon told Lilly, Diane,
and Sharon that the cancer had spread and that Walt had between six months and two
years to live. There were a few more visits to the studio -- which was working on "The
Jungle Book" and "The Happiest Millionaire" -- and to WED. But Walt spent most of the
next few weeks with his family, making plans for the future: "I'm going to concentrate on
the parks and building EPCOT," he told son-in-law Ron. On November 30, he went back
to the hospital. And on December 15, he died. The flag at Disneyland flew at half mast.
And as commentator Eric Severeid said, "We'll never see his like again."

What was Walt's favorite attraction at Disneyland?

One time, shortly before Walt's death, a reporter asked him this question. He began
describing a ride that featured pirate ships and cannons. Few in the audience knew that he
was talking about Pirates of the Caribbean, an attraction that was still in development.
The point is, Walt's favorite attraction was always the one he was working on.




How many children did Walt have?

Walt and his wife, Lilly, had two children. Diane was born in 1933. Her younger sister,
Sharon, was adopted in January 1937.




Some Disneyland Changes Over the Years

Many things have changed over the years. Space Mountain was
added in 1977, the Matterhorn Bobsled ride was redesigned in 1978.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was added in 1979. In early 1983,
Fantasyland was overhauled, giving it a classic European motif. Next
came Captain E-O and one of my favorites, Star Tours.

In 1989 Splash Mountain was added to Critter Country - there you
could find many of the Audio-Animatronic Characters from America
Sings. In 1992 came Fantasmic! The Rivers Of America are the stage
for this wonderful spectacular of sight and sound using the latest
technology. Toon Town was added to the park just beyond It's A Small
World and in 1995 Indiana Jones was introduced.

				
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