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Florida Guide > Disney General

Walter Elias Disney

Central Florida’s landscape would almost certainly been very different today if it had not been for one man with an incredible imagination – Walter Elias Disney – and his never-to-be-forgotten statement “If you can dream it, you can do it”.

The creator of Mickey Mouse and founder of the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Theme Parks was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 5, 1901 being one of five children, four boys and a girl.

Walt was raised on a farm in Missouri, and became fascinated with drawing at a very early age. At the age of seven he was selling his first pictures to neighbours.

In 1918, Disney tried to enlist for military service, but was turned down, as he was only 16. Not to be denied, he joined the Red Cross and spent a year driving a military ambulance. As may be expected, his ambulance was covered all over with drawings and cartoons!

Returning to Kansas City at the end of the war, in 1920, he created and marketed his first original animated cartoons.

Three years later he left for Hollywood with $40 in his pocket, and a completed animated and live-action film. Here, with his brother Roy, they borrowed $500 and constructed a camera stand in their uncle’ s garage. Within a very short time they received an order from New York for their first " Alice Comedy" film.

Mickey Mouse was conceived in 1928, but before the first cartoon could be released, sound was introduced to motion pictures. Taking immediate advantage of this development, Mickey made his screen debut in " Steamboat Willie, " the world’ s first fully synchronized sound cartoon, which premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York on November 18, 1928.

In December 1928 " Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" , which was the first full-length animated musical feature, was shown in Los Angeles. Amazingly, as this film was produced during the depression, it cost almost one and a half million dollars. The film opened to immediate critical acclaim and is still considered one of the finest animated films ever produced.

During the next five years, Walt completed such other full-length animated classics as " Pinocchio, " " Fantasia, " " Dumbo, " and " Bambi. "

In 1955, Walt launched his first theme park, Disneyland in Los Angeles, at a cost of seventeen million dollars. This park, named the Magic Kingdom, had entertained, by its third decade, more than 250 million people from all over the globe.

Realising how successful this small site had been, Disney authorised the covert purchase of 43 square miles of land - twice the size of Manhattan Island - in the centre of the state of Florida. Various subterfuges were used to ensure that the cost of the land being purchased did not rocket once the name of Walt Disney became known.

Here he planned the whole Disney world of entertainment to include a new amusement theme park and hotels. After more than seven years of planning and preparation, including 52 months of actual construction, Walt Disney World opened to the public as scheduled in October 1971.

Unfortunately, Walt did not live to see his final triumph and died on December 15, 1966.

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Page added on: 30 July 2008
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