Only a few entrepreneurs are remembered after their deaths, even when they left a huge mark behind. Why? Because people tend to focus more on the brands, companies, and entrepreneurship they handled instead of themselves.
However, a few ones are the exception, just like Steve Jobs or the big name we will reviewing today: Walt Disney.
For us, this magical entrepreneur is part of our childhood, even when we couldn’t directly enjoy the time when he was alive. Still, considering that his big industry has been part of everyone’s childhoods since its inception, it is only logical for us to mention this (and we are quite the fans).
He was a pioneer in the animation industry and other areas in this celebrity world that have left a huge mark in people’s hearts to this date, and we don’t have to mention the fact of the stunning and colossal theme parks we all love today.
But enough of what we know so far, and let’s focus on something a bit more interesting: Who was Walt Disney behind all the company’s magic?
Here, we will go over the details of his life and help you know that Walt Disney isn’t only the name of the company but rather of the big entrepreneur before anything else.
Early Life – When Everything Started
Disney was born in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood on December 5, 1901. He spent most of his childhood living in Marceline, Missouri. There he started drawing, painting, and selling pictures to family and friends.
Elias Disney was his father, who was an Irish-Canadian. Meanwhile, his mother, Flora Call Disney, was German-American, and along with his parents, he had four other siblings, three being boys and one girl.
His family moved to Kansas City in 1911, and this marked the time and place where Disney discovered a passion for trains.
His uncle Mike Martin was a train engineer and worked the route between Fort Madison in Iowa and Marceline. Later, Disney would sell newspapers and snacks to tourists as a summer job at the railroad.
He attended McKinley High School, Chicago. He studied drawing and photography and was a contributing cartoonist to the school’s paper while he took evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago.
At 16 years old, Disney dropped out of school in order to join the Army. However, he was refused because he was underage. As a result, he joined the Red Cross instead and was sent to France to learn how to drive an ambulance for a year.
In 1919, he returned to the U.S. to Kansas City in order to pursue a career working as a newspaper artist.
His brother, Roy, offered him a job at Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio. He met Ubbe Iwerks, the cartoonist knew as Ub Iwerks in this place.
Disney then worked for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he created commercials that were based on cutout animation.
This was the period when the cartoonist started to experiment with a camera and began hand-drawn cel animation. Soon later, he opened his own animation company where Fred Harman was his first employee.
Harman and Disney made a deal to screen their cartoons in a Kansas City theater. They called it “Laugh-O-Grams.” They were immensely popular, and Disney was able to acquire his own studio to which he bestowed the same name.
Laugh-O-Gram employed a variety of people, including Iwerks’ brother Hugh and Harman’s sister. The group created a series of seven-minute fairy tales that combined live-action and animation and called them “Alice in Cartoonland.”
However, Disney declared bankruptcy in 1923 after the studio was engorged with debt.
Starting the Big Success – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Finally, entering the part, you must be eager the most about. Everyone would think that Disney wouldn’t have success in the next entrepreneurship after the previous studio was in debt and wasn’t exactly successful. However, he proved everyone wrong.
In 1923, Walter and his brother Roy moved from California to Hollywood. There they founded The Disney Brothers’ Cartoon Studio. At Roy’s suggestion, the company changed its name to Walt Disney Studios later on.
Walt Disney Studios’ first deal was with Margaret Winkler in New York, to distribute their Alice cartoons. Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, was also created during this time, and the shorts were purchased at $1.500 each.
Later, Walter began to work on a series centered around Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, an animated character.
The series was a success, but Walt learned that M.J. Charles Mintz and Winkler had taken the rights to the character from Walt.
They also stole all of Disney animators except Ub Iwerks and his creations, and they never could solve the issue as there was no proof of how they stole all the rights.
As a result, Walt began drawing on a piece of paper while riding the train back home. These doodles resulted in a mouse called Mickey, the one we all know today.
Three Mickey Mouse cartoons were produced quickly using Walt and Ub as animators, Walt’s wife Lillian Disney, and Roy’s wife Edna Disney, to ink the animation cells.
After the first two cartoons didn’t sell well, Walt added synchronized sound to the third one, “El Botero Willie,” in 1928, and it was quickly picked up in which Walt did Mickey’s voice.
From here, Disney’s success didn’t seem to stop, and we are happy it didn’t.
He created the “Silly Symphonies” cartoon series in 1929, which didn’t feature a consistent character, yet it was another great success for the animator and entire studio.
“Árboles y Flores” (1932) was the first animated cartoon in color and was revolutionary for most people who got to watch it during its release.
Another, “Los Tres Cerditos” from 1933, became so popular that it was often billed before the feature films it accompanied.
Walt began work in 1934 on a new idea. He wanted a cartoon to be as long as a feature movie. It was referred to as “Disney’s Folly” by Hollywood, but “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) won critical praises and the admiration of the public.
Walt now lists animated features on his ever-growing list. He also began producing animated shorts. “Pinocchio” (1940), “Dumbo” (41), and “Bambi” (1942) were all success stories.
Now, although the “Silly Symphonies” ceased to be produced in 1939, Mickey and his friends, including Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, and Pluto, were still popular and very much alive for the studio which led to more work created around them.
Disney began creating “packaged features” in the mid-1940s. These were shorts that are grouped together and run to feature-length. In 1950, Disney was refocusing its attention on animated features.
His last major success was the motion picture “Mary Poppins.” It was released in 1964 and featured live-action and animated scenes.
Among the other most well-known Disney movies are:
- “Fantasia” (1940).
- “Cinderella” (1950).
- “Treasure Island” (1950).
- “Alice in Wonderland” (1951).
- “Peter Pan” (1953).
- “Sleeping Beauty” (1959).
- “101 Dalmatians” (1961).
Disney was also one of the first to use television as an entertainment medium.
The “Mickey Mouse Club” is a variety show that features a cast made up of teens known as the Mouseketeers and was a big success on screen.
He opened Disneyland in California in 1955. The park was safe and clean and allowed children along with adults to explore the area and take rides.
Walt didn’t stop there. He continued onward with plans for a new Florida theme park and a prototype city.
However, he died before the realization of his plans. In 1966, he was diagnosed with lung cancer due to his chain-smoking. At 65 years old, he died from a heart attack after undergoing cancer surgery.
Roy continued to plan for the Florida theme park, and it was inaugurated in 1971 under the name Walt Disney World.
To this date, his company continues to thrive, producing live-action and animated films, and overseeing an empire that was started by Walt Disney, who will be forever remembered.
His Worth – How Much Was Walt Disney Net Worth?
It is very hard to come up with the answer considering that the money from that time and now aren’t equal to the same considering inflation.
However, we can tell you that, fortunately, we have the estimate by the time of his death, and many would be surprised, while others not so much, with the fact that he was a billionaire.
Walt’s net worth was set at $1 billion when adjusting it for inflation, and this was by the time he died in 1966.
By the time, his net worth and based on the worth of things, was set at $150 million, but the price of his assets increased much more today, leading to approximately $ 1.1 billion in specific.
Most of the billion (today) comes from his stake in the Disney company, which is worth $600 million, this includes the studio but also the current Disney World and Disney World Resort.
He also owned the largest stake in Walt Disney Inc., an individual property to control Disney’s properties and creations founded in 1953.
Disney left 45% of his net worth to his wife and children, 10% to his sister, nieces, and nephews after his death. The remaining was dedicated to charity, to CalArts, to be more specific, which is a private art school. The money was mostly used to give opportunities to artists and students who couldn’t finance the school.
There aren’t many more details about his net worth, but we can assure you that the rest was invested in real estate and small projects related to the company itself.
After all, Walt’s life was put into the company and his beloved animations and characters.
Impact & Charity: Helping Who Needs It
During his life, Walt was known for being someone who supported arts and animators more than anyone else. After all, he was the victim of people stealing his work and the effort of many of his animators.
Although there aren’t many details disclosed about his donations at the time, it is known that Disney donated to nonprofit organizations that focused on kids and families to help them achieve comfort and education.
The main goal was to bring smiles and a better life their way. Thus, the purpose of over 90% of the donations was designated to help children and their families.
To this day, you will find a Walt Disney Charity that donates millions every year to specific organizations.
Last year, in 2020, it donated about $333 million in cash to help communities worldwide, and this is by following its founder’s heart and decisions from previous donations.
Right now, the studio has many partnerships with charitable organizations like Make-A-Wish Foundation, First Book, and Toys for Tots.
Billions have been donated over the past few years and since Walt Disney company and himself had the money to do so.
Inspiring New Businesses
People seek out positive role models and people who have achieved success in their chosen fields to motivate them to learn, work, or take that first step towards achieving the goal they have been pursuing.
Walt Disney is one of our favorite people to follow because regardless of all difficulties, he started the empire that Disney was back then and continues to be today. Of course, with the help of people he trusted.
So, if there’s something we like to tell ourselves about him, is that: if he could, why wouldn’t we be able to start our business?
Entrepreneurs always encourage us to invest our time more effectively and look for new opportunities.
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