Disney, Walt

Walt Disney (Walter Elias Disney) (dĬz´nē), 1901–66, American movie producer and pioneer in animated cartoons, b. Chicago. He grew up in Missouri, in the small town of Marceline and in Kansas City. He moved to Chicago in 1917, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and began (1920) his career as a cartoonist making animated film advertisements. In 1928 Disney created the character Mickey Mouse in the silent film Plane Crazy. That same year Mickey also appeared in Steamboat Willie, a short that initiated the concept of making a separate cartoon for each animated movement. Instantly famous, the film was also Disney's first attempt to use sound (his own voice for Mickey), and it was followed by many other shorts starring Mickey and his animal sidekicks. An international success, by 1935 Mickey Mouse cartoons had been viewed by some 500 million moviegoers. Disney also experimented with the use of music (The Skeleton Dance), the portrayal of speed (The Tortoise and the Hare), three-dimensional effects (The Old Mill), and the use of color (one of the earliest color shorts was 1933's Three Little Pigs).

Disney produced the first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), which took three years to complete. Additional features included Pinocchio (1939), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). In Song of the South (1946), he merged live actors and animated figures. During World War II, Disney's studio produced cartoons for the armed services as training tools and morale builders.

Beginning with Treasure Island in 1951, Disney added live-action movies to his output, while still producing such animated classics as Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953). Thereafter, his studio produced several animal stories (e.g., Greyfriars Bobby, 1960), musical fantasies (e.g., Mary Poppins, 1964), and television programs, beginning in the early 1950s with the weekly Disneyland and its famous Mouseketeers. Disney and his productions received numerous Academy and other awards during his lifetime. After his death, the Disney studios remained active, diversified, and ultimately became enormously successful. In the early 1980s, they began producing films for adults.

Disneyland, a huge theme park in Anaheim, Calif., which in part celebrates America's hometowns and small-town values, was opened by Disney in 1955. Disney's California Adventure, a second, smaller theme park in Anaheim, opened adjacent to Disneyland in 2001. An even bigger park, Walt Disney World, opened near Orlando, Fla., in 1971 as a theme park and resort, and Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom have since been added there. Disneyland parks have also opened near Tokyo (1983), in Marne-la-Vallée, near Paris (1992), in Hong Kong (2005), and in Shanghai (2016).

See biographies by D. D. Miller and P. Martin (1956), B. Thomas (1958), S. Watts (1998), and N. Gabler (2006); R. Schickel, The Disney Version (1968); C. Finch, The Art of Walt Disney (1973); M. Eliot, Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince (1993); R. Merritt and J. B. Kaufman, Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney (1994); H. A. Giroux, The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (1999); D. Smith and S. Clark, Disney: The First 100 Years (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Disney: Selected full-text books and articles

The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney By Michael Barrier University of California Press, 2007
"With a Smile and a Song . . ." Walt Disney and the Birth of the American Fairy Tale By Mollet, Tracey Marvels & Tales, Vol. 27, No. 1, January 1, 2013
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Disney Fetish By Seán Harrington John Libbey, 2014
Power and Paradise in Walt Disney's World By Cher Krause Knight University Press of Florida, 2014
Disney and His Worlds By Alan Bryman Routledge, 1995
Seeing White: Children of Color and the Disney Fairy Tale Princess By Hurley, Dorothy L The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 74, No. 3, Summer 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles By Eric Avila University of California Press, 2004
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Walt Disney begins on p. 119
The Cute and the Cool: Wondrous Innocence and Modern American Children's Culture By Gary Cross Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Disney theme parks begins on p. 111 "Disney Defines Innocence"
Kidworld: Childhood Studies, Global Perspectives, and Education By Gaile S. Cannella; Joe L. Kincheloe Peter Lang, 2002
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Constructing Childhood in a Corporate World: Cultural Studies, Childhood, and Disney"
Inventing the Child: Culture, Ideology, and the Story of Childhood By Joseph L. Zornado Garland, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Walt Disney, Ideological Transposition, and the Child"
Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson By Tom Sito University Press of Kentucky, 2006
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "The Great Disney Studio Strike: The Civil War of Animation"
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