On Monday morning, Bob Iger wasted no time being among the first to mention Walt Disney’s birthday online.
Monday marked a special day, as December 5 is the birthday of the man who started it all–but asked others to never lose sight that a certain mouse started it all. Were he alive today, Walter Elias Disney would be celebrating with 121 candles atop his birthday cake!
Walt Disney was born in 1901 on December 5, in the Hermosa section of Chicago, Illinois, but he spent the majority of his childhood in the small town of Marceline, Missouri. It was in Marceline that Walt developed a love for drawing and painting. And it was also in Marceline that Walt began selling pictures to neighbors and family friends. He also spent many of his early years in Kansas City, Missouri, and during that time, Walt discovered his love for trains.
At the age of 16, Walt dropped out of school to join the United States Army, but because he wasn’t 18, he was rejected. But he was able to join the Red Cross and drive an ambulance during World War I in France. He moved back to the U.S. in 1919, and according to Biography, Walt’s work as an animator began shortly thereafter, leading him to meet his lifetime animation partner, start a business, and go bankrupt:
In 1919, Disney moved to Kansas City to pursue a career as a newspaper artist. His brother Roy got him a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he met cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwwerks, better known as Ub Iwerks. From there, Disney worked at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animation. Around this time, Disney began experimenting with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation. He decided to open his own animation business. From the ad company, he recruited Fred Harman as his first employee.
Disney and Harman made a deal with a local Kansas City theater to screen their cartoons, which they called Laugh-O-Grams. The cartoons were hugely popular, and Disney was able to acquire his own studio, upon which he bestowed the same name. Laugh-O-Gram hired a number of employees, including Iwerks and Harman’s brother Hugh. They did a series of seven-minute fairy tales that combined both live-action and animation, which they called “Alice in Cartoonland.” By 1923, however, the studio had become burdened with debt, and Disney was forced to declare bankruptcy.
By the late 1920s, however, Walt’s fortune had changed. Though he went through bankruptcy, though he lost his prized creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, in a contract loophole, and though he lost most of his animators, Walt pressed on, creating Mickey Mouse, going on to produce Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and then moving into plans for a wonderful theme park where families could experience a day of fun together.
Disney’s newly-reinstated CEO Bob Iger wasted no time mentioning Walt’s birthday on Twitter with a tweet about the world’s good fortune in having Walt’s legacy touch our lives.
“Walt Disney would have turned 121 years old today!” Iger tweeted. “How lucky we are for the life he lived and the legacy he left. Happy birthday, Walt!”
Walt Disney would have turned 121 years old today! How lucky we are for the life he lived and the legacy he left. Happy birthday, Walt! pic.twitter.com/KGEDzfC0gt
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) December 5, 2022
To the man who started it all–the one who made it from the ground up, thanks to hard work, determination, and a dedication to never giving up–happy birthday, indeed!