Walt Disney

Table of Contents

Walt Disney

Walter Elias Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was a prominent American animator, film producer, and entrepreneur who played a pioneering role in the American animation industry. His contributions revolutionized the production of cartoons. As a film producer, he holds the remarkable distinction of earning the most Academy Awards and nominations by an individual. Disney was also honored with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award, among other accolades. Many of his films have been enshrined in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and recognized as some of the greatest cinematic achievements by the American Film Institute.

Born in Chicago in 1901, Disney showed a keen interest in drawing from a young age. He took art classes during his childhood and secured a position as a commercial illustrator at the age of 18. In the early 1920s, he relocated to California and, alongside his brother Roy, established the Disney Brothers Studio, which later became The Walt Disney Company. Collaborating with Ub Iwerks, he introduced the iconic character Mickey Mouse in 1928, marking his first major success. Disney even provided the character’s voice in its early years. As the studio expanded, he ventured into innovative territories, incorporating synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, feature-length cartoons, and technical advancements in camera technology. These innovations were notably showcased in films like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia” (both 1940), “Dumbo” (1941), and “Bambi” (1942), pushing the boundaries of animated filmmaking. Post-World War II, Disney continued to create both animated and live-action films, including the critically acclaimed “Cinderella” (1950), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), and “Mary Poppins” (1964), which garnered five Academy Awards.

In the 1950s, Disney expanded his endeavors into the amusement park industry, culminating in the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in July 1955. To finance this ambitious project, he diversified into television programs such as “Walt Disney’s Disneyland” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Disney also played a role in planning significant events like the 1959 Moscow Fair, the 1960 Winter Olympics, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In 1965, he embarked on the development of another theme park, Disney World, the centerpiece of which was to be the innovative “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT). Unfortunately, Disney’s life was cut short by lung cancer, and he passed away in December 1966, before the completion of either the park or the EPCOT project.

In his personal life, Disney was characterized as a reserved, self-deprecating, and insecure individual, but he projected a warm and outgoing public persona. He maintained high standards and expectations in his work relationships. While there have been allegations of racism and antisemitism directed at him, many who knew him have contradicted these claims. Historiography of Disney offers a spectrum of perspectives, from viewing him as a promoter of wholesome patriotic values to considering him a representative of American imperialism. Undoubtedly, Disney remains one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, with a lasting impact on animation and the cultural history of the United States. He is revered as a national cultural icon, and his film work continues to be celebrated, adapted, and showcased. Disney theme parks have expanded across multiple countries, attracting visitors worldwide, and his company has evolved into one of the world’s largest mass media and entertainment conglomerates.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Real Name

Nick Name

Date of Birth

Birth Place

Country

Date of Death 

Death of Place

Title

Wifi

Children

Profession

Burial Place

Awards

Walter Elias Disney

Walt Disney

December 5, 1901

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

U.S [3]

December 15, 1966

Burbank, California, U.S.

President of The Walt Disney 

Lillian Disney

2, including Diane Disney Miller

Animator , Film producer

Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California

26 Academy Awards
3 Golden Globe Awards
1 Emmy Award

Career - 1920 to 1966

1920–1928

In January 1920, when Pesmen-Rubin’s revenue dwindled after the Christmas season, 18-year-old Disney and Iwerks were laid off from their positions. In response, they ventured into their own business, briefly operating as Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. Faced with a lack of clients, Disney temporarily left to seek employment at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, led by A. V. Cauger, and the following month, Iwerks, unable to manage their business alone, also joined the company. They produced commercials using the cutout animation technique, although Disney’s true passion was for drawn cartoons like “Mutt and Jeff” and Max Fleischer’s “Out of the Inkwell.” Disney’s curiosity led him to experiment with animation at home, concluding that cel animation held greater promise compared to the cutout method. Unable to convince Cauger to adopt cel animation at the company, Disney established a new business with a colleague from the Film Ad Co, Fred Harman. Their primary client was the local Newman Theater, and the short cartoons they produced were marketed as “Newman’s Laugh-O-Grams.” Drawing inspiration from Paul Terry’s Aesop’s Fables, Disney modernized the first six “Laugh-O-Grams,” which were based on fairy tales.

In May 1921, the success of these “Laugh-O-Grams” led to the formation of the Laugh-O-Gram Studio. Disney expanded his team of animators, hiring individuals like Fred Harman’s brother Hugh, Rudolf Ising, and Iwerks. However, the income generated from the Laugh-O-Grams was insufficient to keep the company financially stable. In response, Disney commenced the production of “Alice’s Wonderland,” a project based on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” that blended live-action with animation. He cast Virginia Davis in the titular role. The result was a 12-and-a-half-minute, one-reel film, but it was completed too late to save Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which went bankrupt in 1923.

Disney relocated to Hollywood in July 1923 at the age of 21. Although New York was the epicenter of the cartoon industry, he was drawn to Los Angeles because of his brother Roy’s recuperation from tuberculosis in the area. Disney aspired to become a live-action film director. His efforts to sell “Alice’s Wonderland” proved fruitless until he received an offer from New York film distributor Margaret J. Winkler. She was losing the rights to both the “Out of the Inkwell” and “Felix the Cat” cartoons and required a new series. In October, they inked a contract for six Alice comedies, with an option for two additional series of six episodes each. Disney and his brother Roy founded the Disney Brothers Studio, which would later evolve into The Walt Disney Company, to produce these films. They successfully persuaded Virginia Davis and her family to relocate to Hollywood to continue production, with Davis under contract at $100 per month. In July 1924, Disney also convinced Iwerks to make the move from Kansas City to Hollywood. The first official Walt Disney Studio was established at 2725 Hyperion Avenue in 1926, although it was demolished in 1940.

By 1926, Winkler’s role in distributing the Alice series had transitioned to her husband, film producer Charles Mintz, and their relationship with Disney occasionally became strained. The Alice series ran until July 1927, by which time Disney was eager to move away from the mixed format to focus entirely on animation. Mintz requested fresh material to distribute through Universal Pictures, prompting Disney and Iwerks to create Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney envisioned Oswald as a character that was “peppy, alert, saucy, and venturesome, while also being neat and trim.”

In February 1928, Disney sought to negotiate a higher fee for producing the Oswald series but found Mintz insisting on reduced payments. Additionally, Mintz had persuaded many of the artists involved, including Harman, Ising, Carman Maxwell, and Friz Freleng, to work directly for him. Disney also discovered that Universal held the intellectual property rights to Oswald. Mintz threatened to launch his own studio and produce the series himself if Disney did not accept the reduced terms. Disney declined Mintz’s ultimatum, resulting in the loss of most of his animation staff, except for Iwerks, who chose to remain with him.

1928–1934

As a replacement for Oswald, Disney and Iwerks embarked on the creation of Mickey Mouse, with its origins possibly rooted in a pet mouse Disney had adopted while working in his Laugh-O-Gram studio, although the exact inspiration for the character remains uncertain. Disney’s initial choice for the character’s name was “Mortimer Mouse,” but his wife, Lillian, found it too formal and suggested the more friendly “Mickey.” Iwerks refined Disney’s preliminary sketches to make the character more animation-friendly. Disney, who had started to distance himself from the animation process, provided Mickey’s voice until 1947. As one Disney employee put it, “Ub designed Mickey’s physical appearance, but Walt gave him his soul.”

Mickey Mouse made his debut in May 1928 with a test screening of the short film “Plane Crazy.” However, this and the subsequent feature, “The Gallopin’ Gaucho,” failed to secure a distributor. In the wake of the 1927 sensation “The Jazz Singer,” Disney employed synchronized sound for the third short film, “Steamboat Willie,” which became the first post-produced sound cartoon. After completing the animation, Disney struck a deal with Pat Powers, a former executive of Universal Pictures, to utilize the “Powers Cinephone” recording system. Cinephone became the new distributor for Disney’s early sound cartoons, which quickly gained popularity.

To enhance the quality of the music in his cartoons, Disney enlisted the services of the professional composer and arranger Carl Stalling. At Stalling’s suggestion, the Silly Symphony series was developed, using music to tell stories. The inaugural film in this series, “The Skeleton Dance” (1929), was entirely drawn and animated by Iwerks. During this period, Disney also hired numerous artists, both local and from New York. Both the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies series found success, but Disney and his brother felt they were not receiving their fair share of profits from Powers.

In 1930, Disney attempted to streamline the animation process by urging Iwerks to switch from animating every individual cel to adopting a more efficient technique of drawing key poses and letting assistants create the in-between poses. Disney also requested higher payments for the cartoons from Powers, but Powers refused and signed Iwerks to work for him. Stalling resigned shortly after, believing that without Iwerks, the Disney Studio would close. In October 1931, Disney suffered a nervous breakdown, which he attributed to Powers’ actions and his own excessive workload. Consequently, he and Lillian embarked on an extended vacation to Cuba and a cruise to Panama to recuperate.

Following the loss of Powers as a distributor, Disney’s studio signed a contract with Columbia Pictures to distribute the Mickey Mouse cartoons. These cartoons achieved increasing popularity, both domestically and internationally. Disney and his team also introduced new cartoon characters, including Pluto in 1930, Goofy in 1932, and Donald Duck in 1934. Disney was always eager to embrace new technology and, encouraged by his new contract with United Artists, he produced “Flowers and Trees” (1932) in full-color three-strip Technicolor. He also negotiated a deal giving him exclusive rights to use the three-strip process until August 31, 1935. Subsequently, all Silly Symphony cartoons were produced in color. “Flowers and Trees” resonated with audiences, winning the inaugural Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) at the 1932 ceremony. Disney had also received a nomination in the same category for another film, “Mickey’s Orphans,” and was honored with a special Academy Award “for the creation of Mickey Mouse.”

In 1933, Disney created “The Three Little Pigs,” a film regarded by media historian Adrian Danks as “the most successful short animation of all time.” The film earned Disney another Academy Award in the Short Subject (Cartoon) category. The film’s triumph led to a significant expansion of the studio’s staff, with nearly 200 employees by the end of the year. Disney recognized the importance of crafting emotionally engaging stories to captivate the audience and invested in a “story department” separate from the animators. This department included storyboard artists who detailed the plots of Disney’s films.

1934–1941

By 1934, Disney had grown dissatisfied with the routine production of formulaic cartoon shorts and believed that creating a feature-length cartoon would be a more lucrative endeavor. The studio embarked on the ambitious four-year journey of producing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” based on the beloved fairy tale. When news of the project leaked, many in the film industry anticipated it would lead to the company’s financial ruin, earning it the nickname “Disney’s Folly.” This groundbreaking film marked the first full-color and sound animated feature, with a production cost of $1.5 million, which was three times over budget.

In a quest for maximum animation realism, Disney sent his animators to receive training at the Chouinard Art Institute. He even introduced live animals to the studio and hired actors to aid the animators in observing lifelike movements. To recreate the changing background perspectives as a camera traversed a scene, Disney’s team developed a multiplane camera, allowing drawings on glass plates to be positioned at varying distances from the camera. This innovation created an illusion of depth, as the glass plates could be moved to simulate a camera’s passage through a scene. The first work using this camera, a Silly Symphony titled “The Old Mill” (1937), garnered the Academy Award for Animated Short Film due to its impressive visual impact. Although “Snow White” was mostly completed by the time the multiplane camera was ready, Disney insisted on re-drawing certain scenes to incorporate the new effects.

“Snow White” premiered in December 1937 to widespread acclaim from both critics and audiences. It went on to become the most successful motion picture of 1938, and by May 1939, it had grossed a total of $6.5 million, making it the most successful sound film up to that point. For his contributions, Disney received another Honorary Academy Award, consisting of one full-sized Oscar and seven miniature statuettes. The success of “Snow White” marked the beginning of one of the studio’s most prolific eras, commonly referred to as the “Golden Age of Animation.” With “Snow White” completed, the studio commenced work on “Pinocchio” in early 1938 and “Fantasia” in November of the same year. Both films were released in 1940 but faced lackluster box office performances, partly due to reduced revenues from Europe following the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The studio incurred losses on both productions and was deeply in debt by the end of February 1941.

In response to this financial crisis, Disney and his brother Roy initiated the company’s first public stock offering in 1940 and implemented substantial salary reductions. The latter measure, coupled with Disney’s occasionally autocratic and insensitive management style, led to a five-week animator’s strike in 1941. While a federal mediator from the National Labor Relations Board worked with both sides, Disney accepted an offer from the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to embark on a goodwill trip to South America, ensuring his absence during an outcome he anticipated would not favor the studio. As a result of the strike and the studio’s financial struggles, several animators departed, and Disney’s relationships with other staff members were permanently strained. The strike temporarily interrupted the production of the studio’s next film, “Dumbo” (1941), which Disney executed in a straightforward and cost-effective manner. The film garnered a positive response from both audiences and critics.

1941 - 1950

Shortly after the release of “Dumbo” in October 1941, the United States entered World War II. In response, Disney established the Walt Disney Training Films Unit within the company, dedicated to producing instructional films for the military, such as “Four Methods of Flush Riveting” and “Aircraft Production Methods.” Disney also held discussions with Henry Morgenthau Jr., the Secretary of the Treasury, and agreed to create short Donald Duck cartoons to promote war bonds. Additionally, Disney contributed to several propaganda productions, including shorts like “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” which received an Academy Award, and the 1943 feature film “Victory Through Air Power.”

While the military films covered their costs, they didn’t generate significant profits. Meanwhile, the release of the feature film “Bambi” in April 1942, which had been in production since 1937, underperformed at the box office, resulting in a $200,000 loss. In addition to the disappointing earnings from “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia,” the company found itself $4 million in debt to the Bank of America by 1944. During a meeting with Bank of America executives to discuss the company’s future, the bank’s chairman and founder, Amadeo Giannini, expressed confidence in Disney’s work, saying, “I’ve been watching the Disneys’ pictures quite closely because I knew we were lending them money far above the financial risk… They’re good this year, they’re good next year, and they’re good the year after… You have to relax and give them time to market their product.”

In the late 1940s, Disney’s production of short films decreased, coinciding with increasing competition in the animation market from Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Roy Disney, for financial reasons, proposed a shift towards more combined animation and live-action productions. In 1948, Disney launched a series of popular live-action nature films under the title “True-Life Adventures.” “Seal Island” was the first in this series, and it went on to win an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject (Two-Reel) category.

1950 - 1966

Disney’s Ventures in the 1950s and 1960s

In the early 1950s, Disney embarked on several notable endeavors:

  1. Cinderella and Live-Action Films: In 1950, Disney produced “Cinderella,” the studio’s first animated feature in eight years. The film was both critically acclaimed and a box office success. Simultaneously, Disney delved into live-action films with “Treasure Island” (1950) and “The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men” (1952).

  2. Diversifying Productions: Disney ventured into both all-live-action features and continued to create full-length animated features such as “Alice in Wonderland” (1951) and “Peter Pan” (1953). During this time, he entrusted much of the animation department’s operations to his key animators, known as the Nine Old Men.

  3. Establishing Buena Vista: Disney set up his film distribution division, Buena Vista, replacing the previous distributor, RKO Pictures.

In the mid-1950s, Disney’s dream of building a theme park started taking shape:

  1. Creating Disneyland: Inspired by his visits to clean and unspoiled parks with his daughters and influenced by the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Disney decided to build a theme park. He obtained zoning permission to construct it in Burbank but later acquired a larger plot in Anaheim, where Disneyland was built and opened in 1955. Disneyland featured themed lands, including Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.

  2. Financial Backing and Imagineers: Disney founded WED Enterprises, later known as Walt Disney Imagineering, and invited stockholders like ABC to fund the project. He employed a group of designers and animators, known as “Imagineers,” who worked on the park’s plans. After completing construction, Disneyland quickly became a popular attraction, attracting millions of visitors.

The financial support from ABC was tied to Disney producing television programs. His collaboration with ABC included shows like “Walt Disney’s Disneyland” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.” These programs were accompanied by extensive merchandising.

In addition to his work on Disneyland and television, Disney was involved in various projects outside the studio. He contributed to exhibits at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, producing attractions like “It’s a Small World” and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” These exhibits later found a place in Disneyland.

Disney also contemplated a ski resort in Mineral King, California, and sought opportunities for other theme parks, including a project in St. Louis that did not come to fruition. In the mid-1960s, he announced the development of “Disney World” (now Walt Disney World) in Florida, featuring the “Magic Kingdom” and the visionary “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).

Throughout the 1960s, Disney remained involved in various film projects, including “The Jungle Book,” “The Happiest Millionaire,” and “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.” Disney’s creative influence extended across different aspects of the entertainment industry during this period.

Illness, death and aftermath

Walt Disney’s Final Days and Legacy

Walt Disney’s lifelong struggle with smoking ultimately led to his untimely demise. He had been a heavy smoker since World War I, using cigarettes without filters and, in his youth, a pipe. In early November 1966, he received a diagnosis of lung cancer and underwent treatment with cobalt therapy. As his condition worsened, he was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital by ambulance on November 30. Sadly, on December 15, 1966, at the age of 65, Walt Disney succumbed to the disease, experiencing a circulatory collapse caused by lung cancer. His remains were cremated two days later, and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Despite Disney’s passing, his impact on the world of entertainment continued to grow. Films he had been involved in raised the total number of feature films to 81, including “The Jungle Book” and “The Happiest Millionaire,” both released in 1967. Posthumously, “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day,” released in 1968, earned Disney an Academy Award in the Short Subject (Cartoon) category.

Following Disney’s death, his studios continued to produce live-action films prolifically but shifted away from animation until the late 1980s. This period marked the “Disney Renaissance,” commencing with “The Little Mermaid” (1989). Disney’s companies have maintained a legacy of success, producing films, television shows, and stage entertainment that resonate with audiences worldwide.

Disney’s visionary plans for the futuristic city of EPCOT remained unrealized. After his passing, his brother Roy postponed retirement to assume full control of the Disney companies. The project’s focus shifted from a functional city to an attraction. In 1971, at the inauguration, Roy dedicated Walt Disney World to his brother. Walt Disney World continued to expand, with the opening of Epcot Center in 1982, transforming the concept into a permanent world’s fair.

In 2009, the Walt Disney Family Museum, designed by Disney’s daughter Diane and her son Walter E. D. Miller, opened in the Presidio of San Francisco. The museum features thousands of artifacts from Walt Disney’s life and career, including numerous awards he received.

Finally, in 2014, Disney’s influence remained undeniable, with Disney theme parks around the world hosting approximately 134 million visitors. Walt Disney’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit continues to shape the entertainment industry and inspire generations of storytellers and dreamers.

Reputation

Evolution of Perceptions on Walt Disney and His Legacy

Over the years, perceptions of Walt Disney and his work have evolved, eliciting both praise and criticism. Mark Langer, in the American Dictionary of National Biography, highlights these shifts, noting, “Earlier evaluations of Disney hailed him as a patriot, folk artist, and popularizer of culture. More recently, Disney has been regarded as a paradigm of American imperialism and intolerance, as well as a debaser of culture.” Steven Watts points out that some have labeled Disney “as a cynical manipulator of cultural and commercial formulas.” PBS records that critics have scrutinized his work for its “smooth façade of sentimentality and stubborn optimism, its feel-good re-write of American history.”

One aspect of controversy surrounds accusations of antisemitism. Disney once gave Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl a tour of his studio a month after Kristallnacht, a fact he disavowed three months later, claiming he had been unaware of her identity when issuing the invitation. However, none of Disney’s employees, including animator Art Babbitt, who had a contentious relationship with Disney, accused him of making antisemitic slurs or taunts. The Walt Disney Family Museum acknowledges that early cartoons included ethnic stereotypes common in films of the 1930s. Yet, it also points out Disney’s regular donations to Jewish charities and his recognition as “1955 Man of the Year” by the B’nai B’rith chapter in Beverly Hills. The studio also employed a number of Jewish individuals, some holding influential positions. Biographer Neal Gabler, who gained unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concludes that there’s no substantial evidence supporting claims of antisemitism. Gabler contends that, while Disney himself wasn’t antisemitic, he did align himself with individuals who held such views, contributing to his reputation. Disney distanced himself from the Motion Picture Alliance in the 1950s. Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney-Miller, recounted that her sister Sharon dated a Jewish boyfriend without her father’s objections.

Another source of criticism pertains to perceived racism, particularly in Disney’s productions from the 1930s to the 1950s, containing racially insensitive material. “Song of the South” faced censure for perpetuating Black stereotypes, although Disney advocated for an Honorary Academy Award for its star, James Baskett, the first Black actor to be so honored. Floyd Norman, the studio’s first Black animator, who worked closely with Disney during the 1950s and 1960s, attested that he never observed Disney displaying racist behavior and that his treatment of all people was exemplary.

Critics argue that Disney’s post-World War II films advanced a form of cultural imperialism, reflecting and promoting middle-class American values worldwide. They see Disney as an “agent of manipulation and repression,” even though the studio has aimed to link its name with “fun, family, and fantasy.”

Walt Disney has been depicted in various fictional works. H. G. Wells referenced Disney in his novel “The Holy Terror.” Disney was portrayed by Len Cariou in a 1995 made-for-TV film and by Tom Hanks in the 2013 film “Saving Mr. Banks.” The German author Peter Stephan Jungk published a fictional work, “Der König von Amerika,” which reimagined Disney as a power-hungry racist. The opera “The Perfect American” (2013) was based on Jungk’s book and composed by Philip Glass.

Disney is often considered a cultural icon. His films reflect values cherished in American Christian society, including individualism, decency, love for one’s fellow man, fair play, and toleration. According to The Times, his films were “wholesome, warm-hearted, and entertaining, of incomparable artistry and touching beauty.” Disney is acknowledged as an entertainment creator, ingenious merchandiser, and significant figure in history. Alistair Cooke referred to him as a “folk-hero,” and Gabler states that Disney reshaped American culture and consciousness. Disney’s influence has only grown posthumously, as his vision of a modern, corporate utopia rooted in traditional American values continues to resonate.

In December 2021, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York honored Walt Disney with a special exhibit titled “Inspiring Walt Disney,” running for three months.

Awards and honors

Walt Disney’s Awards and Honors

Walt Disney garnered an extraordinary collection of awards and honors throughout his prolific career:

  •  He received 59 Academy Award nominations, a record, and won 22 Oscars, also a record.
  • Disney was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards but did not secure a win. However, he did receive two Special Achievement Awards for “Bambi” (1942) and “The Living Desert” (1953) and was bestowed with the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
  • His television work earned him four Emmy Award nominations, with one win for Best Producer for the Disneyland television series.
  • Numerous Disney films, such as “Steamboat Willie,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Fantasia,” “Pinocchio,” “Bambi,” “Dumbo,” and “Mary Poppins,” are considered culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant and have been included in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
  • In 1998, the American Film Institute recognized “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (ranked 49th) and “Fantasia” (ranked 58th) as two of the 100 greatest American films.
  • Walt Disney was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960, with two stars: one for his motion picture contributions and another for his television work. Mickey Mouse and Disneyland also received stars on the Walk of Fame in later years.
  • Disney was honored with an induction into the Television Hall of Fame in 1986 and the California Hall of Fame in December 2006.
  • In 2014, Walt Disney was the inaugural recipient of a star on the Anaheim Walk of Stars.
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum notes that Disney and his staff collectively received over 950 honors and citations from around the world.
  • He was named a Chevalier in the French Légion d’honneur in 1935 and was later awarded the Officer d’Academie in 1952.
  • National awards from various countries include Thailand’s Order of the Crown (1960), Germany’s Order of Merit (1956), Brazil’s Order of the Southern Cross (1941), and Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle (1943).
  • In the United States, Walt Disney received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on September 14, 1964, and posthumously received the Congressional Gold Medal on May 24, 1968.
  • The National Association of Theatre Owners honored Disney with the Showman of the World Award.
  • In 1955, the National Audubon Society awarded Disney its highest honor, the Audubon Medal, for his contributions to promoting the “appreciation and understanding of nature” through his True-Life Adventures nature films.
  • An asteroid discovered in 1980 by astronomer Lyudmila Karachkina was named 4017 Disneya.
  • Disney was awarded honorary degrees from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Personal Life

In the early months of 1925, Walt Disney brought an ink artist named Lillian Bounds into his company, and the two of them soon became more than just professional colleagues. They tied the knot in July of that year, with a small and intimate ceremony held at Lillian’s family home in Lewiston, Idaho. The marriage was generally happy, though Lillian did not always quietly accept Walt’s decisions or unquestioningly adhere to his status. According to biographer Neal Gabler, Disney would often playfully tell people how “henpecked” he was, a sentiment Lillian didn’t dispute. Lillian wasn’t particularly interested in the world of films or the Hollywood social scene; instead, she was content with managing their household and providing unwavering support to her husband.

Walt and Lillian’s marriage brought them two daughters: Diane, born in December 1933, and Sharon, adopted in December 1936 just six weeks after her birth. The family decided to be open within their home about Sharon’s adoption, although they felt irritated when outsiders brought up the topic. The Disneys took significant measures to keep their daughters out of the public eye, especially in the wake of the Lindbergh kidnapping, with Disney going to great lengths to prevent the press from photographing his children.

In 1949, the Disney family relocated to a new residence in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. Here, with the assistance of friends Ward and Betty Kimball, who already had their own backyard railroad, Disney began working on constructing a miniature live steam railroad on his property. He named it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, inspired by the street where their home was situated. The miniature steam locomotive, known as the Lilly Belle, was crafted by Disney Studios engineer Roger E. Broggie and named in honor of his wife, Lillian. Unfortunately, a series of accidents involving guests prompted Disney to put the Lilly Belle into storage after three years.

As he grew older, Disney’s political views became more conservative. Although he was a supporter of the Democratic Party until the 1940 presidential election, he shifted his allegiance to the Republican Party and became a generous donor to Thomas E. Dewey’s 1944 presidential campaign. In 1946, he helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, an organization that stood against what they considered subversive ideologies such as communism and fascism. In 1947, during the Second Red Scare, Disney testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and identified three former animators and labor union organizers as communist agitators. He argued that their 1941 strike was part of an organized communist effort to gain influence in Hollywood. It was later reported by The New York Times in 1993 that Disney had been secretly providing information to the FBI from 1940 until his death in 1966. In return for this information, J. Edgar Hoover permitted Disney to film at the FBI headquarters in Washington. Disney was designated a “full Special Agent in Charge Contact” in 1954.

Despite his public image, Walt Disney’s true personality was remarkably different. He was characterized as shy, diffident, and self-deprecating by playwright Robert E. Sherwood. Disney’s biographer Richard Schickel noted that he concealed his shyness and insecurity behind a public persona, which led to a disconnect between his public and private selves. Kimball argued that Disney knowingly portrayed himself as a bashful tycoon, understanding that this was expected of him. Disney even acknowledged this facade and stated, “I’m not Walt Disney. I do a lot of things Walt Disney would not do. Walt Disney does not smoke. I smoke. Walt Disney does not drink. I drink.” One critic, Otis Ferguson of The New Republic, described Disney’s private persona as “common and everyday, not inaccessible, not in a foreign language, not suppressed or sponsored or anything. Just Disney.”

Many who worked closely with Disney noted that he rarely offered direct praise or encouragement to his staff due to his exceptionally high expectations. Animator Floyd Norman recalled that when Disney said, “That’ll work,” it was considered high praise. Instead of verbal approval, Disney rewarded high-performing staff with financial bonuses or recommended them to others, counting on his praise to be conveyed indirectly.

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Table of Contents Update : 5/25/2024 × Dismiss this alert. Mobile Views Please Open Desktop View On Mobile Show All Information . × Dismiss this alert. Eihi Shiina 椎名英姫 (Actress) Eihi Shiina (椎名英姫, Shiina Eihi), born on February 3, 1976, in Fukuoka, Japan, is a renowned Japanese fashion model and actress. Shiina began her modeling […]
Akira Fuse 布施 明 (Actor)  – Biography Points
Table of Contents Update : 5/24/2024 × Dismiss this alert. Mobile Views Please Open Desktop View On Mobile Show All Information . × Dismiss this alert. Akira Fuse 布施 明 (Actor) Akira Fuse, born on December 18, 1947, is a multi-talented figure in the Japanese entertainment industry, excelling as both a singer and actor. His […]
Stenorhynchus Seticornis (Arrow Crab) – Biography Points
Table of Contents Stenorhynchus seticornis (Arrow Crab ) Stenorhynchus seticornis, commonly known as the yellowline arrow crab or simply arrow crab, is a fascinating marine species renowned for its distinctive features. One striking characteristic is its elongated, spider-like legs, which are more than three times the length of its body, reminiscent of a daddy long-legs […]
German Spaniel – Biography Points
Table of Contents German Spaniel (Deutscher Wachtelhund) The German Spaniel, alternatively referred to as the Deutscher Wachtelhund or German Quail Dog, boasts a rich heritage dating back to 1890 Germany, where it emerged as a prized hunting companion. Originating from the esteemed lineage of the Stöberer, a favored breed among commoners post the 1848 German […]
Nicobar Pigeon – Biography Points
Table of Contents Nicobar Pigeon (Nicobar Dove) The Nicobar pigeon, scientifically known as Caloenas nicobarica, is an exquisite bird inhabiting small islands and coastal regions stretching from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India, across the Indonesian Archipelago, to the Solomons and Palau. Remarkably, it stands as the sole surviving member of the Caloenas genus, […]
Long-Nosed Snake – Biography Points
Table of Contents Long-Nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei ) The long-nosed snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei) is a captivating member of the Colubridae family, indigenous to North America, boasting two distinguished subspecies. Once considered part of a larger genus, it stands distinct with its slender body and elongated snout, distinguishing features that facilitate its unique hunting habits. Contrary […]