People Who Kick Buts: Walt Disney
It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
- Born on December 5, 1901 and passed away on December 15, 1966.
- An American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century.
- With his brother Roy O. Disney, he was co-founder of Walt Disney Productions, which later became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation is now known as The Walt Disney Company and had an annual revenue of approximately US$36 billion in the 2010 financial year.
- Disney is particularly noted as a film producer and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design. He and his staff created some of the world’s most well-known fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, for whom Disney himself provided the original voice. During his lifetime he received four honorary Academy Awards and won 22 Academy Awards from a total of 59 nominations, including a record four in one year, giving him more awards and nominations than any other individual in history.
- The year after his December 15, 1966 death from lung cancer in Burbank, California, construction began on Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. His brother Roy Disney inaugurated the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971.
- Disney was born on December 5, 1901, at 2156 N. Tripp Avenue in Chicago’s Hermosa community area to Irish-Canadian father Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney, who was of German and English descent.
- In 1878, Disney’s father Elias had moved from Huron County, Ontario, Canada to the United States at first seeking gold in California before finally settling down to farm with his parents near Ellis, Kansas, until 1884.
- In January 1920, Disney and Iwerks formed a short-lived company called, “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists”. However, following a rough start, Disney left temporarily to earn money at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, and was soon joined by Iwerks who was not able to run their business alone. While working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animations, Disney became interested in animation, and decided to become an animator.
- The new series, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was an almost instant success, and the character, Oswald — drawn and created by Iwerks — became a popular figure.
Disney went to New York in February 1928 to negotiate a higher fee per short and was shocked when Mintz told him that not only did he want to reduce the fee he paid Disney per short but also that he had most of his main animators, including Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng—but not Iwerks, who refused to leave Disney—under contract and would start his own studio if Disney did not accept the reduced production budgets.
Universal, not Disney, owned the Oswald trademark, and could make the films without Walt.
Disney declined Mintz’s offer and as a result lost most of his animation staff whereupon he found himself on his own again.
- The Disneys’ first attempt at pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Lillian became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter, Diane Marie Disney, on December 18, 1933. Later, the Disneys adopted Sharon Mae Disney (December 31, 1936 – February 16, 1993)
- Diane married Ron Miller at the age of 20 and is known as Diane Disney Miller. The Millers established and own a winery called Silverado Vineyards in California. Diane and Ron Miller have seven children: Christopher, Joanna, Tamara, Jennifer, Walter, Ronald and Patrick. Years later, Diane went on to become the cofounder of The Walt Disney Family Museum, with the aid of her children.
- Sharon Mae Disney was born December 31, 1936, in Los Angeles, California and was later adopted by the Disneys, due to Lillian’s several birth complications.
Sharon was a philanthropist and had contributed to charities such as the Marianne Frostig Center of Educational Therapy and the Curtis School foundation. In 1993 at the age of 57, Sharon died from cancer at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
After Sharon’s death, her estate donated $11 million to the California School of Performing Arts, where she was a member of the board of trustees for almost two decades. Sharon’s donation was commemorated by renaming the School of Dance the Sharon D. Lund School of Dance
- Like many people of the time, Walt Disney was a chain smoker his entire adult life, although he made sure he was not seen smoking around children.
In 1966, Disney was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair an old neck injury caused by many years of playing polo at the Riviera Club in Hollywood.
On November 2, during pre-operative X-rays, doctors at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, across the street from the Disney Studio, discovered a tumor in his left lung. Five days later a biopsy showed the tumor to be malignant and to have spread throughout the entire left lung.
After removal of the lung, doctors informed Disney that his life expectancy was six months to two years. After several chemotherapy sessions, Disney and his wife spent a short amount of time in Palm Springs, California.
On November 30, Disney collapsed at his home. He was revived by fire department personnel and rushed to St. Joseph’s where on December 15, 1966, at 9:30 a.m., ten days after his 65th birthday, Disney died of acute circulatory collapse, caused by lung cancer. The last thing he reportedly wrote before his death was the name of actor Kurt Russell, the significance of which remains a mystery, even to Russell.