Disney Pictures History

Walt Disney's Time Line

Through 1955 when Disneyland was created

December 5, 1901
Walter Elias Disney is born.

July, 1923
Walt moves to Hollywood planning to become a director. Roy (Walt's brother) was already in California.

October 16, 1923
Walt & Roy sign a contract with M.J. Winkler, a New York cartoon distributor.

They rent a room at the back of a real estate office. Roy operates a secondhand camera while two girls were hired to ink & paint the celluloids. Walt does the animation.

Febuary, 1924
Walt hires the first animator, Rollin Hamilton and moves into a small store with a window bearing "Disney Bros. Studio."

March, 1924
The first "Alice Comedies" reaches theaters.

July 13, 1925
Walt marries Lillian Bounds.

Feb, 1926
Walt renames the studio to the "Walt Disney Studio."

Walt, on a train ride, develops Mickey Mouse and along with Ub Iwerks creates a new cartoon, "Plane Crazy." Audiences were in love with the mouse. "Steamboat Willie," the third cartoon is created. Walt pursues New York film companies to record the cartoon with sound. Walt urges Ub to go forward with the fourth Mickey Mouse Cartoon "The Barn Dance."

November 18, 1928
"Steamboat Willie" opens at the Colon Theater in New York. Billed as "the first animated cartoon with sound," it gets rave reviews."

Film companies come calling for Walt to make a deal. All these distributors want the rights to Mickey Mouse, however Walt learned from his experience from Oswald the Rabbit.

A deal with Pat Powers, who wants to promote Cinephone, is struck. Walt returns to California with a contract and $2500.

Walt plans to release "Skeleton Dance" as the 1st of a new series of cartoons called Silly Symphonies. This new film was also released in Technicolor, a brand new color technique, that Walt Disney held right to for two years.

Walt hires a lawyer for legal assistance in regards to the deal with Pat Powers. Ub Iwerks signs a contract with Powers, stunning Walt. The lawyer negotiates an agreement to dissolve Iwerks' contract with Disney and is paid $2,920 for 1/5 interest.
Mickey Mouse turns into a national craze and Mickey Mouse Clubs spring up all over the country.

Walt breaks off negotiations with Pat Powers, suspecting him of being crooked. Disney could not afford a lawsuit, so they walk away and start anew.

Columbia Pictures signs with Disney, as Walt breaks all ties with Powers with a payment for relinquish of the 21 Disney cartoons.
Roy Disney signs the first contract for merchandising.
Walt assigns Ub Iwerks to devise a comic strip.
Syndication comes from King Features and Mickey Mouse makes his first comic strip on January 13, 1930.

Pluto makes 1st appearance in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, "The Chain Gang."

The Mickey Mouse Clubs reach a million members. Mickey Mouse is now known in every civilized country.

Walt suffers a nervous breakdown, caused by pushing himself and animators on the job. Walt takes a vacation on doctor's orders. On return, exercise and work balancing is required.


Herman Kamen, a Kansas City advertising man, signs a contract to represent the Walt Disney Studios. He licenses Lionel Corporation for merchandising Mickey and Minnie toy trains. Lionel is hit hard by the Depression and files for bankrupcy. 253,000 toys were sold in 4 months, beginning the return of the Lionel Corporation. The association with Disney is credited for the return of Lionel.

Disney asks Columbia to increase advance on each cartoon to $15,000; Columbia declines.

Walt agrees to United Artists' proposal, a $15,000 advance on each cartoon.

Walt is determined to add color to animation. United Artists agrees to grant Disney 2 years exclusive use of 3-color Technicolor.

November, 1932
The first class of the Disney Art School is held at the Chouinard Art Institue. Nelbert Chouinard agrees to help the Studio

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awards "Flowers and Trees" to Walt Disney.

"Three Little Pigs," the 36th Silly Symphony, is produced. Audiences everywhere love it and relate it to the people vs. the Depression. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" becomes a national rally cry. Roy convinces Walt to produce 3 more "Pig" movies, "The Big Bad Wolf,", "Three Little Wolves" and "The Practical Pig." None were as successful as the first one.

Walt & Lillian move into a new home in Los Feliz.

December 18, 1933
Lillian gives birth to Diane Marie Disney. Their first child.

1934, 1935, 1936
Donald Duck debut's in a Silly Symphony film, "The Wise Little Hen."

Walt's staff grows to 187 employees. Walt announces that "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" will be the 1st feature film. Work on "Snow White" is the center of attention.

Disneys disassociate themselves with United Artists.

December 21, 1936
Lillian and Walt adopt Sharon Mae Disney.

Donald Duck gets his own series of short films.

December 21, 1937
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is seen by the public in Los Angeles. It makes a 3 week run at Radio City Music Hall, then some New York theaters."Snow White" grosses $8 million and wins an Academy Award. Within 6 months, the Disneys pay off all bank loans.

The Disney Studios are expanded and they put deposit down on property in Burbank, CA. Walt & Roy move their parents to Southern California.

Work begins on a second feature, "Pinocchio."

November 26, 1938
Flora Disney dies of asphyxiation due to a defective furnace. Walt & Roy blame themselves because it occured in the house they purchased.

Walt decides that Mickey Mouse should star in a feature of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Leopold Stokwski volunteers to conduct the music. Stokowski tells Disney to create a single Feature. Fantasia.

"Bambi" is started at the same time but is last to be released due to the time it took to draw the animals. The studio resembled a zoo at times with many animals on hand to be drawn. Video was captured and photos were donated for the film.

Burbank Studio construction continues, making it a workers paradise.

The start of World War II causes business of "Pinocchio" to fall short of what is expected.

Febuary, 1940
"Fantasia" opens at New York's Broadway Theater (formally called "The Colony"), the same place that Mickey Mouse made his debut. Walt was forced to cut "Fantasia" into a short version, cutting from his 3+ hours' version. "Fantasia" loses even more than "Pinocchio."

April, 1940
Due to losses of "Pinocchio,""Fantasia" and "Bambi," along with the cost of the new studio being built, Disney is forced to offer public stock, something Walt & Roy did not want to do. 600,000 shares of common stock sold at $5 a piece. Stock offering sold out quickly and temporarily filled the hole of debt. Disney employees grow to 1,000 workers.

"Dumbo" is produced and finished in 1 year. Walt originally planned it as a 30 minute film but expanded it into a feature film of 64 minutes. It makes an $850,000 profit.

Ub Iwerks returns to the Walt Disney Studios.

Movie studios unionize and 2 unions sought to organize the Disney cartoonists. One union leader, Herb Sorrell, threatens to strike Disney by stating publicly Walt's business affairs.

May 29, 1941
A picket line forms in front of the Walt Disney Studios, directed by Herb Sorrell.

August 17, 1941
Walt makes a film making & goodwill tour of South America.

Elias Disney passes away while Walt is away, never really recovering from the loss of Flora. When Walt returns, the strike has ended but takes away Disney employees due to production slow down.

Walt arrives in time for the premiere of "Dumbo."

"Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros" are the result of the the South America trip. Both films are successfull in North & South America.
High demand for war films occurs.
The draft takes 1/3 of Walt's artists. The army moves into the Disney Studios.

August, 1942
"Bambi" is released but has disappointing numbers at the box office in both the U.S. and foreign cities.

The company's debt rises to $4.3 million.

"Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Bambi" & "Dumbo" are playing in Europe, but no revenue is coming in due to the damaged economy. Roy urges Walt to cut expenses & staff; Walt refuses.

"Make Mine Music," a short cartoon, is released and produces a small profit. Walt really is not pleased with the film.

The work on "Mickey And The Beanstalk," interrupted due to the war, is resumed. It is combined with another cartoon and released as "Fun and Fancy Free." It is the last time the voice of Mickey Mouse is portrayed by Walt. A sound effects worker becomes the voice of Mickey Mouse.

"Song of the South" is produced. It is 30% cartoon and 70% live action. It premieres in Atlanta and gets good reaction.

"Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" is named best movie song of 1946 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, while James Baskett, who plays Uncle Remus, wins an Oscar.

The movie's production cost of $2.125 million causes only a $226,000 profit.

Walt considers making educational and commercial films, but decides that the company should be in the entertainment business. He decides that Alaska should be filmed, then takes a flying tour himself. The flight almost went bad due to heavy clouds and no radio contact to land. After circling for 2 hours, the plane lands safely. Walt, after reviewing the Alaska films, suggests a feature length film based on the life of seals. Due to it's short time, Walt books the film with a lengthy feature. The audience's reaction to the film is good. It eventually wins an Academy Award for best 2-reel documentary.

Walt assigns all of his top talent to make "Cinderella," which had been in development for several years, along with "Peter Pan" & "Alice in Wonderland."

Walt & Lillian had been looking for property to build a new house and Walt required the lot of land to be large enough to accommodate a train circling the home.

They found property and built the new home in Holmby Hills, CA. Walt designs a half mile run and called the train's engine the "Lilly Belle," named after Mrs. Lillian Disney. He called it the Carolwood-Pacific Railroad.

Walt began talking about letting people come to Hollywood and really "see" something. He started to formulate plans in August to build an amusement area to be named Mickey Mouse Park.

The Walt Disney Music Company is formed.

The Walt Disney Music Company is formed.

"Cinderella" debuts and is well accepted, the first hit for Disney Studios since "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

By November of 1950, Disney Studios debt is reduced to $1.7 million.

Walt schedules "Alice In Wonderland" to follow "Cinderella." "Alice In Wonderland" had been an idea since 1933, as Walt contemplated both a live-action film and putting Ginger Rogers in a cartoon Wonderland. Once the film was completed, Walt and crew were relieved. The film was a disappointment in both London and America, while losing $1 million.
"Peter Pan" was the next cartoon in production. Walt bought the rights to the play in 1939 and spent years trying to convert it into a cartoon.

Script production begins on "Lady and the Tramp," a script started in 1943 but dropped for almost a decade.

"The Sword and the Rose" and "Rob Roy" are produced, Walt contemplates "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," a Jules Verne classic adventure. The film ultimately costs $ 4.2 million to make. Walt works for a year to develop the script. The giant squid scene requires 8 days to film and added $250,000 to the film budget. It is worth it as this scene is the highlight of the film.

Due to the success of the True-Life Adventure films, Walt receives many film propositions from naturalists. "The Living Desert" was developed but the Disneys run into a problem with RKO, as it has incurred heavy liabilities and starts to decline. Roy is confident that RKO wouldn't have the energy or the know-how to sell the film. He establishes a small sales organization called Buena Vista, named after the street where the studio was located. The film is a huge success, earning $4.0 million. It becomes the Disney's biggest profit-maker, profiting $3.7 million.

Roy Disney states to Buena Vista's key salesmen that the Disney Company has 2 attractions with great promise ("20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" & "Lady and the Tramp") and wants to know if the salesmen would be able to go forward with Disney's own distribution company. The answer is yes and all Disney films thereafter are distributed by Buena Vista.

Walt's vision of an amusement park begins. He visits fairs, carnivals, circuses and parks to study the attractions and the people. He borrows on his life insurance and starts to assemble a staff to help plan the park. He decides that the name of the park would be called Disneyland.

May 28, 1953
Disney's first "Adventures in Music" animated film, "Melody" is released. The film was made in 3-D, the first such film to be released in the US.

July, 1953
Walt commisions the Stanford Research Institute to find the ideal location for Disneyland. Anaheim, California is selected as the place. Other amusement park owners don't believe that Walt should spend the money on the park and that too much of the park would not produce revenue. They felt that the park would not work.

Walt designed the park with one entrance gate, reasoning that people, when entering by different gates, become disoriented. Walt also designs the park to have "Main Street" with the idea of it being the hub, stating that it would lead to different areas of interest and not cause people to become tired from "museum feet."
Walt designs the park with "wienies", which are lures that draw people into different parts of the park. The lure of Main Street would be a castle.

"Davy Crockett" is the hit of the inaugural Disneyland season and "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" is #1 for 13 weeks, selling over 10 million records. More than 10 million Davy Crockett racoon skin hats are sold.
"Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" profits almost $2.5 million.
Ronald Miller works for Disney as a liason between WED and Disneyland before he is inducted for the draft.

Previous movie profits were not enough to cover the cost of building Disneyland. Roy Disney makes numerous visits to the Bank of America's headquarters to get more funding. The bank enlists the help of another bank in Bankers Trust Company of New York.

Walt is concerned about meeting the deadline he set for the opening of Disneyland. Walt buys 244 acres of land near Anaheim, California, as the site for his theme park.

April 2, 1954
Plans for Disneyland park and tv show are announced. Walt states that the tv series would begin in October, 1954 and the park would open in July, 1955. The tv show would be paterned after the different "lands" of Disneyland.

October 27, 1954
The television series opens with "The Disneyland Story" describing coming attractions of the park and tv show. The Television shows are introduced by Walt himself.

June 16, 1955
The Walt Disney Production animated feature film, "Lady and the Tramp" is released in the US by Buena Vista. It is the first cartoon feature filmed in CinemaScope and processed in Technicolor.

July 13, 1955
The Disney's, celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, send out invitations to 300 people, friends & co-workers for the opening of Disneyland.

From JustDisney.com

The Origins

The Man

Walt Disney came from humble beginnings in the country of Illinois. He always loved drawing growing up and had true talent for performance. One of the greatest things about Walt Disney, though, was that he wasn't afraid to take risks. He failed many times in his life after risking it all. The first film he produced, The Alice Comedies, was unsuccessful. But with encouragement from his brother Roy he perservered to continue trying at being a film director. Slowly, he gained small success.

The Mouse

It wasn't until 1928 when he developed Micky Mouse over a train ride did Walt Disney Studios really start taking off. This is why one of his famous quotes is:


"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."

Micky Mouse has always been the defining feature of Walt Disney Studios:

"The life and ventures of Mickey Mouse have been closely bound up with my own personal and professional life. It is understandable that I should have sentimental attachment for the little personage who played so big a part in the course of Disney Productions and has been so happily accepted as an amusing friend wherever films are shown around the world. He still speaks for me and I still speak for him."

Walt Disney's History:

Walt Disney's first feature film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1936. This was seen in Los Angeles, Radio City Music Hall, and some New York theaters. It won an academy award and allowed for the Disney's to pay off all of their bank loans. After this, they really began to expand their business. By 1940, the Disney staff had an additional 850 or so workers. Films, such as Pinocchio and Fantasia, which ended up being disappointments were redeemed later on by Disney's second hit Cinderella. Following this, Walt Disney Studios (slowing) started to become a profitable company.

Walt Disney's Hollywood career spanned 43 years and has forever changed history:

"Walt Disney is a legend; a folk hero of the 20th century. His worldwide popularity was based upon the ideals which his name represents: imagination, optimism, creation, and self-made success in the American tradition. Walt Disney did more to touch the hearts, minds, and emotions of millions of Americans than any other person in the past century. Through his work he brought joy, happiness, and a universal means of communication to the people of every nation. He brought us closer to the future, while telling us of the past, it is certain, that there will never be such as great a man, as Walt Disney." -JustDisney.com

Whether or not agree that he is the finest man in history, you cannot deny the inspiration he provides to achieve your dreams. His films are a constant reminder of this as well an opportunity to reconnect with your childhood.

Life After Walt Disney

Up until 1955, film was all the Walt Disney Company's only focus of Disney's career. However, as the business got increasing successful he started to make other ventures. In 1955, Disneyland was finally opened and was meant to be something the tourists to Hollywood could really experience. From there on out The Walt Disney Company continued on with other entertainment ventures.

Following Walt Disney's death in 1966, Roy Disney came out of retirement to continue on with the company. During this time there was lots of focus on Disney World. Even as Walt was gone, Roy continually looked back to vision that Walt had. After both Roy and Walt were gone the company struggled for a while to gain their own vision. They kept looking back to Walt, but lacked their own direction.

Team Disney

In the 1980s the company began to internally struggle and eventually emerged with new management called "Team Disney" which included Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenburg, and Frank Wells. Team Disney was a strong at first and the 1990s proved to be a booming decade with films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. However, Eisner seemed to have the lead to company in less than desirable position. The films were lacking in both quality and performance. Likewise, he made negotiations with Pixar, which was in Disney's best interest, extremely valuable. By the end of 2005, Eisner eventually stepped down.

Moving Forward

Robert Iger became the new CEO. He has began to move the company in a more fast and more appealing direction with films like Pirates of the Caribbean. When of the key things that Iger was able to do was Pixar in early 2006. This is a large change to traditional approach that Disney has had toward animation. There has began to be an increasing emphasis on quality of films - Disney has stopped releasing as many films per in order to make sure each feature was as well done as possible. Iger is still the current CEO.

Walt Disney's Logo History (1978-Present)

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