Walt Disney, the enigmatic and creative genius of many talents, died on 15 December 1966, following an illustrious career that amongst many other things revolutionised the animation industry across the world.
Disney was born in Chicago in 1901 and showed an early interest in art, eventually becoming a commercial artist and cartoonist by the end of World War One.
He then made a decisive change in his career path when he shifted to animated cartoons – then in their infancy, forming Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy in 1923.
Disney created the Mickey Mouse character and Mickey Mouse cartoons appeared in 1928, creating the world’s first sound animations in the process. This, together with his 1934 Donald Duck character, added enormous impetus to his career. Many other classic animation films followed across the next three decades, including the iconic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature length cartoon run in full colour with sound.
Themed amusement parks began to interest Disney in the 1950’s, and he opened the fabulous Disneyland in 1955, with several of the attractions based on his cartoon characters.
Television also appealed to Disney’s interest in the 1950’s and his “Mickey Mouse Club”, a variety show designed for children, became one of the most famous television shows of the era, both in the United States and internationally.
Disney ultimately received a record 22 Academy Awards, together with 59 nominations, for his contributions to the motion picture industry, and all this was in addition to numerous international awards. He was also presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson on 14 September 1964.
To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savour the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
— Walter E. Disney, July 17, 1955
Image: A photograph of Walt Disney taken in 1946, some 9 years after he produced “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, and about 9 years before Disneyland opened, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.