Disney, Walter Elias (1901–1966) By Leskosky, Richard J.
Walt Disney, (b. 5 December 1901, d. 15 December 1966) born in Chicago and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, was a film producer and entrepreneur who built an entertainment empire on the foundation of his animated cartoons. As a result of Disney’s resounding success and influence, the vast majority of animation studios across the world, at different times, either emulated or reacted against his style and production model.
After early business failures, Disney gained worldwide success with the release of the world’s first synchronised sound cartoon and the debut of Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie (1928). The cartoon’s huge popularity permitted Disney to launch the Silly Symphonies series – where he experimented with new animations techniques – leading directly to his first cartoon feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Disney films are known for their Midwestern sensibilities, sentimentality, and a realistic style that aspired to create the ‘illusion of life’. Disney drew upon works by European artists and illustrators including Honoré Daumier, Gustave Doré, Heinrich Kley, Arthur Rackham, and John Tenniel to inspire his staff. Disney provided training for his animators, enrolling them in drawing classes at the Chouinard Art Institute.