Money Matters: The True Grit of Mr Walt Disney

There aren't many people who don't know Mickey Mouse. And of course, most of the people that do know of Mickey Mouse will know that the animated icon was created by a certain Mr Walt Disney.

Walt Disney is one of the world's most creative and it's fair to say, one of the planet's most successful ever people. But, like many success stories worth their salt, Walt's journey was paved with pitfalls, potholes and obstacles.

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Born in Chicago back in 1901, Walt Disney hailed from Irish-Canadian as well as German and English descent.

Walt’s dad, Elias, had moved to the States from Ontario in pursuit of Californian gold before settling in Kansas with his father. After marrying Walt's mother, Flora, in 1888, the family moved to Chicago in 1890 where Elias’ brother Robert lived. Robert assisted Walt financially in his early years.

When Walt was four, Elias decided to move to Missouri where his own brother Roy had bought a farm. During these days on the farm, Walt found and developed his love for sketching with one of his neighbours who used to commission him to draw pictures of his horse. To improve his techniques, Walt also used to copy front-page Cartoons from various newspapers.

Walt and his younger sister Ruth began school together in 1909 - the first formal schooling the pair ever had. They lived in Missouri for around four years until the time came where they had to sell their farm. After the sale, the family moved to Kansas City where Walt attended Benton Grammar School. At school, he met a certain Walter Pfeiffer, who came from a family of theatre aficionados. As a result of their firm friendship, Walter introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures.

In 1911, dad Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route and Walt was quickly recruited as a newspaper delivery boy. During his stint as a delivery boy, Walt worked two shifts, delivering both morning and evening newspapers. It was a challenging period for him, chiefly because he used to get up at 4.30am and work until the school bell rang. After the school, he used to deliver newspapers till supper. This pre and post school engagement affected his studies which ultimately resulted in him getting poor grades. This continued for almost six years.

Determined to succeed, in 1917, Walt started taking night courses at Chicago Academy of Fine Arts while he tackled his freshman year; it wasn't long before he became a cartoonist for the school newspaper. Not long after, he dropped out of the school in the hope of joining the army but was rejected because of his age. Instead, Walt decided to join Red Cross and was sent to France as an ambulance driver.

In 1919, Walt moved back to Kansas City to launch his artistic career but, alas, he was unable to find a job. His brother Roy helped him get a temp job creating advertisements for different newspapers, magazines, and movie theatres. There, he met Ubbe Iwerks and once both their job contracts ended, the pair decided to start their own commercial company: Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists.

But, due to a rough start, Walt joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company. There he became firmly interested in animation. The company owner was very supportive and allowed Disney to experiment with one of his cameras, and after a fleeting period, he opened his own animation business, creating cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams.

Walt's cartoons fast became popular and this success allowed the young man to acquire his own studio. However, the studio became bankrupt, mainly because of poor financial management. Despite the major setback, Walt didn’t quit and after some hard work and careful consideration decided to open a studio in Hollywood with his brother Roy.

Walt got to work instantly, creating animated shorts based on Alice in Wonderland. Walt’s primary task was animation and direction whereas his brother did the bulk of the camerawork. The studio released Alice’s Comedies which proved to be a huge success. In 1928, Walt went to New York to negotiate a higher fee for a new series, but, the producer told him that he had actually decided to reduce compensation. Walt declined the proposal and as a result, lost most of his staff, in addition to his earnings.

After turning down the proposal, Walt thought of creating a new character and finally, he settled on a little someone called Mickey Mouse.

The first animated short to feature Mickey was called 'Plane Crazy'. Walt’s artistic touch was pivotal in helping to grow Mickey’s popularity. By 1932, Mickey Mouse had become a beloved cinematic character, and Walt received an Academy Award for creating him. Later, Walt created the first-ever animated Technicolor feature made in America: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film was a monster smash and earned a whopping (at the time) $8 million. In fact, today, that equates to $134 million. Due to the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt built a brand new campus for the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

During the Second World War, Walt made animations for the serving soldiers. These pieces were used to provide the soldiers with light relief and boost their morale in trying times. In the later years, Mr Disney created a host of full-length films and educational productions in collaboration with NASA.

By early 60’s, Walt Disney‘s empire became a massive success and was a premier source of family entertainment the world over. Throughout his life as an animator, Walt conjured up famous fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. Walt Disney was the original voice for Mickey until 1947 when he handed the reins over.

During his lifetime, Walt Disney won seven Emmy awards, 22 Academy Awards and received four honorary Academy Awards from a grand total of 59 nominations. He has won more Oscar awards and nominations than any other person in history - an amazing achievement in anyone's book.

Walt Disney hit many bumps in the road but he never, ever let that stop him from realising his dream, no sir. If you have a passion, have faith, keep plugging away and never accept no for an answer - that's the Walt Disney way - and he did pretty well, to say the least.

Craving more inspirational stories? Check out the amazing WhatsApp saga.

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