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Walt Disney

(1901—1966) American animator and film producer


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(1901–1966)

US film cartoonist and film producer, who created Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Born in Chicago, Disney began his career as a commercial artist and animator after attending the Kansas City Art Institute and serving in France as a Red Cross ambulance driver during World War I. With his colleague Ub Iwerks (1901–71) he made cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams, which they sold to theatres, but the venture proved unsuccessful.

Moving to Hollywood in 1923, Disney went into partnership with his brother Roy and together with Iwerks began making Alice in Cartoonland, an animated live-action series. The cartoons met with no success and the Disney family, which now included Walt's wife, the actress Lillian Bounds, lived in extreme poverty. Success, however, began with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (1927) and was established by Mortimer the Mouse, who became a household character with his new name, Mickey, in his first talkie (using Disney's own voice), Steamboat Willie (1928). Other characters followed, including Mickey's mate, Minnie, as well as Goofy, Pluto, and the lovable Donald Duck. Equally memorable were the Silly Symphonies of the 1930s, especially The Three Little Pigs (1933) and its hit song ‘Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’. Full-length cartoons came with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), followed by Fantasia (1940), which attempted, with mixed success, to bring classical music to the vast cinema audiences by means of cartoons. Other full-length cartoons include Pinocchio (1940), Bambi (1942), Lady and the Tramp (1955), and The Jungle Book (1967). Nature films, such as The Living Desert (1953), live action classics, including Treasure Island (1950) and Kidnapped (1960), westerns, and animal stories, such as The Incredible Journey (1963), were successfully added to the range. A wide variety of films have continued to be released under the Disney name since Disney's death. Disney received numerous Academy Awards for his shorts and many Special Awards for full-length features. Disneyland, an amusement park in California, was opened in 1955 and similar parks were established in Florida (1971), Tokyo (1983), and Paris (1992).


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