Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois to Elias Disney, a local contractor, and the former Flora Call. He was of English, Irish and German heritage. He was born in a house his
father built himself and that his mother planned. Walt was named after his father and after his father's close friend, Walter Parr, the minister at St. Paul Congregational Church. He had three older brothers, Herbert Disney, Raymond Disney, and Roy O. Disney. Eventually, Ruth Disney joined the family in 1903
In 1906, fearing the growing rate of crime in Chicago, Elias moved his family to a farm near Marceline, Missouri. It was here that, according to Walt, he spent the best years of his life. Since Walt and his younger sister, Ruth, were
not of suitable age to help at the farm, they spent most of their days playing. They would swim in the pond, play with the
farm animals, and lounge around under the trees.
While in Marceline, Walt developed his love of drawing. One of their neighbours, a retired doctor named "Doc" Sherwood,
paid Walt to draw pictures of Sherwood's horse, Rupert. Walt also developed his love of trains in Marceline. He would put
his ear to the tracks in anticipation of the coming train. He would also look for his uncle, engineer Mike Martin, running
In 1909, Elias suddenly came down with typhoid fever and was unable to work the farm, even with his older sons helping him. Elias reluctantly sold the farm and lived in a rented
house until 1910, when they moved to Kansas City. Walt was incredibly devastated to leave his rustic paradise. He and his brother Roy even cried when the farm animals were
sold at a farm auction.
When the family got to Kansas City, Missouri, Elias purchased a newspaper route for the Kansas City Star. He had his two remaining sons help with the route, waking up at 3:00 in the morning every day (Herbert and Raymond had since
left). Elias never paid them, saying that room and board was payment enough. Walt later recalled that they would deliver the
papers in the heat of summer and during the dead of winter.
According to the Kansas City Public School District records, Disney began attending the Benton Grammar School in 1910,
and graduated on June 8, 1911, being held back a year so that Ruth could go with him. Disney later enrolled in classes at the Chicago Art Institute. Academically, Walt was not the best student. Because of his early-morning paper runs, he had trouble concentrating and fell
asleep in class often. He was also prone to daydreaming and doodling during class.
At fifteen, Walt took a summer job as a news butcher on the Santa Fe Railroad line. He sold soda pop, candy, and newspapers to passengers of the railroad. Walt was more facinated with the train than
selling his items. He would constantly leave his box of merchandise alone to go look out the window of the train. He would
return and find that most of his items had been taken. Roy loaned him the money to pay back his bosses and told him to call
During his high school years, Walt was the cartoonist for the school newspaper, The Village Voice. His cartoons were very patriotic and political, focusing on the Great War (World War I) in Europe. Roy had joined the Navy and was in the fight already. Walt felt he was more than ready to join him.
The Great War
Walt left school at the age of sixteen, itching to join the Army and head to Europe. However, the military would not admit
him because of his age. One of his schoolmates told Walt that the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps was looking for seventeen-year-olds. With his mother's permission, Walt forged his birth certificate to state
that he was born in 1900 instead of 1901, making him seventeen.
Despite his best efforts, Walt never saw combat. By the time Walt got out of training and headed for Europe, Germany had signed an armistice and the war was over. He spent the rest of his term in France as an ambulance driver, shuttling around important officers, being an errand boy. He pick to pass the time, eventually drawing all over his
ambulance. It was also in France that Walt developed a smoking habit, a habit he would keep for all his life.
In 1919, Walt had had enough of France and became "very lonely". He put in a request to be discharged and was sent back
to the U.S. With that experience under his belt, Walt now thought of himself as a grown man who had seen the world. Being
a man now, Walt also knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Animation & Laugh-O-Gram Films
When Walt returned to America, he told his father he wanted to be an artist. Elias was shocked and said that Walt would
not be able to make enough money to support himself. Walt was not faltered by his father's views and struck out on his own.
Walt moved into Kansas City to begin his artistic career. Walt's brother Roy worked at a bank in the area and got a job for Walt through a friend at
the Pesemen-Rubin Art Studio. At Pesmen-Rubin, Walt made ads for newspapers, magazines, and movie theatres. It was also there
that he met a shy cartoonist named Ubbe Iwwerks. Walt and Ubbe respected each other's work so much, they became fast friends and decided to start their own art business.
Walt and Ubbe (who now shortened his name to Ub Iwerks) formed a company called "Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists" in January, 1920 (It was originally called Disney-Iwerks, but
the two thought they would be confused with a shop that made eyeglasses). Unfortunately, few clients would hire the new guys
on the scene. Iwerks left Walt temporarily to earn money at the Kansas City Slide Company (which changed their name to Kansas
City Film Ad). Walt joined Ub after the business venture went nowhere and collapsed.
At Kansas City Film Ad, Walt and Ub worked on primitive animated advertisements for local movie houses. Walt was fascinated by the possibilities inherent in animation. He spent many days at the Kansas City Public Library reading over books on anatomy and mechanics. He also read a book by Edweard Muybridge about animation. He used his time at Film Ad wisely and experimented with animation and film techniques. Walt even borrowed
one of the film cameras and experimented at home.
After two years' experience at Film Ad, Walt felt he had enough experience to start another business venture. In 1922,
Disney started Laugh-O-Gram Films, Inc., which produced short cartoons based on popular fairy tales and children's stories with a modern/contemorary spin. (See Laugh-O-Gram Studios) Among his employees were Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Rudolph Ising, Carmen Maxwell, and Friz Freleng. The shorts were popular in the local Kansas City area, but their costs exceeded their returns.
After creating one last short, the live-action/animation Alice's Wonderland, the studio declared bankruptcy in July 1923. Walt then decided that he needed to go to the blossoming center of the
entertainment industry: Hollywood, California. Disney sold his movie camera, earning enough money for a one-way train ticket to California. He left his friends and former staff behind, but took the unfinished reel of Alice's Wonderland with him.
When Walt arrived in Los Angeles, he had forty dollars in his pocket and an unfinished cartoon in his suitcase. Interestingly, he first wanted to break away
from animation, thinking he could not compete with the studios in New York City. Disney said that his first ambition was to be a film director. He went to every studio in town looking for directing work;
They all promptly turned him down.
Because of the lack of success in live-action film, Walt turned back to animation. His first Hollywood cartoon studio was
a garage at his uncle Robert Disney's house. Walt sent an unfinished print to New York distributor Margaret Winkler, who promptly wrote him back. She wanted a distribution deal with Disney for more live-action/animated shorts based upon
Walt looked up Roy, who was recovering from tuberculosis in a Los Angeles veteran's hospital. Disney pleaded with his brother to help him with his fledgeling studio, saying that
he could not keep his finances straight without him. Roy agreed and left the hospital with his brother. He never went back
and never had a recurrence of tuberculosis. Virginia Davis, the live-action star of Alice’s Wonderland, and her family were relocated at Walt's request from Kansas City
to Hollywood, as were Ub Iwerks and his family. This was the beginning of the Disney Brothers' Studio.
Walt had been living with his brother in an apartment across the street from their uncle Robert. The two frequently squabbled
about things around the house. Roy recalled that after a particular fight (Walt made a bad comment about Roy's cooking), Roy
wired his girlfriend in Kansas City, Edna Francis, and proposed to her. She accepted and they were married on April 12, 1925.
Meanwhile, Walt hired a young woman to ink and paint celuloid named Lillian Bounds. He was immediately taken with her. She then pulled double duty as Walt's secretary a few months later. Walt then began to
court Lilly and take her out on dates, their first being the broadway show, No, No, Nanette. He would also take Lilly out on drives in the hills of Los Angeles. On one drive, Walt asked Lilly if he should buy a new car or a ring for her finger. They were married on July 15, 1925. Lilly later jokingly commented that Walt was disappointed that she did not tell him to buy the car. They honeymooned at
The "Alice Comedies", as the new series was called, were reasonably successful, and featured both Dawn O'Day and Margie Gay as Alice after Virginia Davis’ parents pulled her out of the series because of a pay cut. Lois Hardwick also briefly assumed the role. By the time the series ended in 1927, the focus was more on the animated characters, in particular a cat named Julius who recalled Felix the Cat, rather than the live-action Alice.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
By 1927, Charles B. Mintz had married Margaret Winkler and assumed control of her business, and ordered a new all-animated series to be put into production
for distribution through Universal Pictures. The new series, "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit", was an almost instant success, and the Oswald character, first drawn and created by Ub Iwerks, became a popular property.
The Disney studio expanded, and Walt hired back Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng from Kansas City.
In February 1928, Disney went to New York to negotiate a higher fee per short from Mintz, but was shocked when Mintz announced
that not only did he want to reduce the fee he paid Disney per short, but that he had most of his main animators, including
Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng (notably excepting Ub Iwerks) under contract and would start his own studio if Disney
did not accept the reduced production budgets. Universal, not Disney, owned the Oswald trademark, and could make the films
Walt declined Mintz's offer and lost most of his animation staff. The defectors became the nucleus of the Winkler Studio, run by Mintz and his brother-in-law George Winkler. When that studio went under after Universal assigned production of the
Oswald shorts to an in-house division run by Walter Lantz, Mintz focused his attentions on the studio making the "Krazy Kat" shorts, which later became Screen Gems, and Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng marketed an Oswald-like character named Bosko to Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros., and began work on the first entries in the Looney Tunes series.
As it turned out, it took Disney's company seventy-eight years to get back the rights to the Oswald character. In a move
that sent sports broadcaster Al Michaels to NBC Sports for their Sunday night NFL coverage, The Walt Disney Company reacquired the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from
NBC Universal in 2006.
After having lost the rights to Oswald, Disney had to develop a new "star". Most Disney biographies state that Walt came
up with a mouse character on his trip back from New York. It is debated whether it was he, or Ub Iwerks who actually designed
the mouse (which basically looked like Oswald, but with round instead of long ears). The first films were animated by Iwerks,
his name was prominently featured on the title cards. The mouse was originally named "Mortimer", but later christened "Mickey Mouse" by Lillian Disney.
Mickey's first animated short produced was Plane Crazy, which was, like all of Disney's previous works, a silent film. After failing to find distributor interest in Plane Crazy or its follow-up, The Gallopin' Gaucho, Disney created a Mickey cartoon with sound called Steamboat Willie. A businessman named Pat Powers provided Disney with both distribution and Cinephone, a sound-synchronization process. Steamboat Willie became a success, and Plane Crazy, The Galloping Gaucho, and all future Mickey
cartoons were released with soundtracks. Disney himself provided the vocal effects for the earliest cartoons and performed
as the voice of Mickey Mouse until 1947.
Joining the Mickey Mouse series in 1929 were a series of musical shorts called Silly Symphonies. The first of these was entitled The Skeleton Dance and was entirely drawn and animated by Ub Iwerks. As a matter of fact, Ub Iwerks was responsible for drawing the majority
of cartoons released by Disney in the years 1928 and 1929. Although both series were successful, the Disney studio was not
seeing its rightful share of profits from Pat Powers, and in 1930, Disney signed a new distribution deal with Columbia Pictures.
Ub Iwerks, who was growing tired of the temperamental Disney, especially as he was doing the majority of the work, was
lured by Powers into opening his own studio with an exclusive contract. Needless to say, Disney was devastated and desperately
searched for someone who could replace Iwerks as he was not able to draw as well, or especially as quickly, himself - Iwerks
was reported to have drawn up to 700 drawings a day for the first Mickey shorts.
Meanwhile, Ub Iwerks launched his successful Flip the Frog series with the first sound cartoon in color, which was entitled "Fiddlesticks". Ub Iwerks also created two other series
of cartoons, namely, the Willie Whopper and the Comicolor cartoon series. Ub Iwerks closed his studio in 1936, the Ub Iwerks Studio, to work on various projects dealing with animation technology. Iwerks would return to Disney in 1940 and, in the studio's research and development department, he pioneered a number of film processes and specialized animation
Disney was able to eventually find a number of people to replace the work that had previously been done solely by Iwerks.
By 1932, Mickey Mouse had become quite a popular cartoon character. The Van Beuren cartoon studio attempted to cash in on this success by creating a process, making them the first commercial films presented
in this new process. Ub Iwerks had previously released the first color sound cartoon in 1930, which was a Flip the Frog cartoon entitled "Fiddlesticks" and which had been filmed in two strip Technicolor. The first color Symphony was
Flowers and Trees, which won the first Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons in 1932. The same year, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse, whose series was moved
into color in 1935 and soon launched spin-off series for supporting characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.
The family grows
As Mickey's co-creator and producer, Disney was almost as famous as his mouse cartoon character, but remained a largely
private individual. His greatest hope was to be a father to many children. Sadly, Walt and Lilly's first attempts at pregnancy
ended up in miscarriage. This, coupled with the pressures at the studio, led to Walt having "a hell of a breakdown", as he called it. His doctors
said that Disney had to get away for a while. So, he and Lilly went on a Caribbean cruise, and then traveled to Washington, D.C.
When Lilly told Walt she was pregnant again, Walt told his sister in a letter that he did not care what the sex it was,
just as long as they were not disappointed again. Lilly finally gave birth to a daughter, Diane Marie Disney, on December 18, 1933. Walt was excited to finally have a child.
A few years later, Walt told Lilly he wanted more children. But, when the next pregnancy ended in another miscarriage,
Lilly's doctors felt that she should not try to have anymore children.Still wanting a child, Walt and Lilly adopted a second
daughter, Sharon Mae Disney, who was born December 21, 1936.
1937-1941: The golden age
"Disney's Folly": Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Although his studio produced the two most successful cartoon series in the industry, the returns were still dissatisfying
to Disney, and he began plans for a full-length feature in 1934. When the rest of the film industry learned of Disney's plans to produce an animated feature-length version of Snow White, they dubbed the project "Disney's Folly" and were certain that the project would destroy the Disney studio. Both Lillian
and Roy tried to talk Disney out of the project, but he continued plans for the feature. He employed Chouinard Art Institute professor Don Graham to start a training operation for the studio staff, and used the Silly Symphonies as a platform for experiments in
realistic human animation, distinctive character animation, special effects, and the use of specialized processes and apparatus
such as the multiplane camera.
All of this development and training was used to elevate the quality of the studio so that it would be able to give the
feature the quality Disney desired. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as the feature was named, was in full production from 1935 until mid-1937, when the studio ran out of money. To acquire the funding to complete Snow White, Disney had to show a rough cut of
the motion picture to loan officers at the Bank of America, who gave the studio the money to finish the picture. The finished film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937; at the conclusion of the film the audience gave Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a standing ovation. The first animated
feature in English and Technicolor, Snow White was released in February 1938 under a new distribution deal with RKO Radio Pictures. The film became the most successful motion picture of 1938 and earned over $8 million (today $98 million) in its original
theatrical release, all the more amazing because children were only charged a dime to see it. The success of Snow White
allowed Disney to build a new campus for the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, which opened for business on December 24, 1939. The feature animation staff, having just completed Pinocchio, continued work on Fantasia and Bambi, while the shorts staff continued work on the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto
cartoon series, ending the Silly Symphonies at this time.
Pinocchio and Fantasia followed Snow White and the Seven Dwarves into movie theatres in 1940, but both were financial disappointments. The inexpensive Dumbo was planned as an income generator, but during production of the new film, most of the animation staff went on strike, permanently straining the relationship between Disney and his artists.
Shortly after Dumbo was released in October 1941 and became a successful moneymaker, the United States entered World War II. The U.S. Army contracted for most of the Disney studio's facilities and had the staff create training and instructional films for the military, as well as home-front morale such as Der Fuehrer's Face and the feature film Victory Through Air Power in 1943. The military films did not generate income, however, and Bambi underperformed when it was released in
April 1942. Disney successfully re-issued Snow White in 1944, establishing the seven-year re-release tradition for
Inexpensive package films, containing collections of cartoon shorts, were created and issued to theaters during this period
as well. The most notable and successful of these were Saludos Amigos (1942), its sequel The Three Caballeros (1945), Song of the South (the first Disney feature to feature dramatic actors), (1946), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). The latter had only two sections: the first based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and the second based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
By the late 1940s, the studio had recovered enough to continue production on the full-length features Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, which had been shelved during the war years and began work on Cinderella. The studio also began a series of live-action nature films, entitled True-Life Adventures, in 1948 with On Seal Island.
Testimony before Congress
In 1947, during the early years of the Cold War, Walt Disney testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he named a union organizer as a communist. Some historians believe that the animosity from the 1941 strike of Disney Studio employees caused him to bear a grudge.
His dislike and distrust of labor unions may have also led to his testimony, although like many in Hollywood who "named names", Disney may have been motivated by
simple fear of Communist power in Hollywood.
1955-1966: Theme Parks and beyond
Walt Disney showing the concepts of Disneyland
Carolwood Pacific Railroad
- Main article: Carolwood Pacific Railroad
During 1949, when Disney and his family moved to a new home on large piece of property in the Holmby Hills district of
Los Angeles, California, with the help of his friends Ward and Betty Kimball, owners of their own backyard railroad, Disney developed the blueprints and immediately set to work creating his own miniature Live steam railroad in his backyard. The name of the railroad, Carolwood Pacific Railroad, originated from the address of his home that was located on Carolwood Drive. The railroad's half-mile long layout included
a 46-foot-long trestle, loops, overpasses, gradients, an elevated dirt berm, and a 90-foot tunnel underneath Mrs. Disney's flowerbed. He named the miniature working steam locomotive built by Roger E. Broggie of the Disney Studios Lilly Belle in his wife's honor. He had his attorney draw up right-of-way papers giving the railroad a permanent,
legal easement through the garden areas, which his wife dutifully signed; however, there is no evidence the documents were
ever recorded as a restriction on the property's title.
On a business trip to Chicago in the late 1940s, Disney drew sketches of his ideas for an amusement park where he envisioned his employees spending time with their children. He got his idea for a children's theme park after visiting
Children's Fairyland in Oakland, California. This plan was originally for a lot south of the Studio, just across the street.
However, the city of Burbank declined building permission. The ideas developed into a concept for a larger enterprise that was to become Disneyland. Disney spent five years of his life developing Disneyland and created a new subsidiary of his company, called WED Enterprises to carry out the planning and production of the park. A small group of Disney studio employees joined the Disneyland development
project as engineers and planners, and were dubbed Imagineers.
When conceiving one of his earliest plan to Herb Ryman (who created the first aerial drawing of Disneyland to present to the Bank of America for funds), Disney said, "Herbie, I just want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a
train." Entertaining his daughters and their friends in his backyard and taking them for rides on his Carolwood Pacific Railroad had inspired Disney to include a railroad in the plans for Disneyland.
Expanding into new areas
As Walt Disney Productions began work on Disneyland, it also began expanding its other entertainment operations. 1950's
Treasure Island became the studio's first all-live-action feature, and was soon followed by such successes as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (in CinemaScope, 1954), The Shaggy Dog (1959), and The Parent Trap (1960). The Walt Disney Studio was one of the first to take full advantage of the then-new medium of television, producing
its first TV special, One Hour in Wonderland, in 1950. Walt Disney began hosting a weekly anthology series on ABC named Disneyland after the park, where he showed clips of past Disney productions, gave tours of his studio, and familiarized the public with
Disneyland as it was being constructed in Anaheim, California. In 1955, he debuted the studio's first daily television show, the popular Mickey Mouse Club, which would continue in many various incarnations into the 1990s.
As the studio expanded and diversified into other media, Disney devoted less of his attention to the animation department,
entrusting most of its operations to his key animators, whom he dubbed the Nine Old Men. During Disney's life time, the animation department created the successful Lady and the Tramp (in CinemaScope, 1955) and One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) and the financially disappointing Sleeping Beauty (in Super Technirama 70mm, 1959) and The Sword in the Stone (1963).
Production on the short cartoons had kept pace until 1956, when Disney shut down the shorts division. Special shorts projects
would continue to be made for the rest of the studio's duration on an irregular basis.
These productions were all distributed by Disney's new subsidiary Buena Vista Distribution, which had assumed all distribution duties for Disney films from RKO by 1955. Disneyland, one of the world's first theme parks, finally opened on July 17, 1955, and was immediately successful. Visitors from around the world came to visit Disneyland, which contained attractions based
upon a number of successful Disney properties and films. After 1955, the Disneyland TV show became known as Walt Disney
Presents, went from black-and-white to color in 1961--changing its name to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color--and
eventually evolved into what is today known as The Wonderful World of Disney, which continues to air on ABC as of 2005.
During the mid-1950s, Disney produced a number of educational films on the space program in collaboration with NASA rocket designer Wernher von Braun: Man in Space and Man and the Moon in 1955, and Mars and Beyond in 1957. The films attracted the attention
of not only the general public, but also the Soviet space program.
The TV series and book Our Friend the Atom (1956, together with Heinz Haber) were produced in an effort of the Eisenhower administration to enhance the image of nuclear energy.
Early 1960s successes
By the early 1960s, the Disney empire was a major success, and Walt Disney Productions had established itself as the world's
leading producer of family entertainment. After decades of trying, Disney finally procured the rights to P.L. Travers' books about a magical nanny. Mary Poppins, released in 1964, was the most successful Disney film of the 1960s and featured a memorible song score by Disney favorites:
The Sherman Brothers. Many hailed the live-action/animation combination feature as Disney's greatest achievement. The same year, Disney debuted
a number of exhibits at the 1964 New York World's Fair, including Audio-Animatronic figures, all of which later were integrated into attractions at Disneyland and a new theme park project, to be established
on the east coast, which Disney had been planning since Disneyland opened. And he also did this as well.
Walt Disney first showed interest in ski resorts with his investment in Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in the 1930s. However, his interest was brought to a new level in the 1960s when he commissioned plans for Disney's Mineral King Ski Resort. Official plans for the resort were announced just months before Walt's death. The project was eventually canceled due to
heavy protest from many environmental organizations, most notably the Sierra Club. The 1970s saw yet another set of Disney plans for a ski resort, in Independence Lake near San Francisco. Like the Mineral King plans, the Independence Lake project was scrapped for many of the same reasons. There are plans for
2 more new ski resorts to open in 2008.
In 1964, Walt Disney Productions began quietly purchasing land in central Florida west of Orlando in a largely rural area of marginal orange groves for Disney's "Florida Project." The company acquired over 27,000 acres
(109 kmē) of land, and arranged favorable state legislation which would provide unprecedented quasi-governmental control
over the area to be developed in 1966, founding the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney and his brother Roy then announced plans for what they called "Disney World."
Plans for Disney World and EPCOT
Disney World was to include a larger, more elaborate version of Disneyland to be called the Magic Kingdom, and would also
feature a number of golf courses and resort hotels. The heart of Disney World, however, was to be the Experimental Prototype
City (or Community) of Tomorrow, or EPCOT for short. EPCOT was designed to be an operational city where residents would live, work, and interact using advanced and
experimental technology, while scientists would develop and test new technologies to improve human life and health.
Death of Walt Disney
Walt Disney's grave site.
However, Disney's involvement in Disney World ended in late 1966, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in his left lung, after a life-long habit of chain smoking. He was checked into the St. Joseph's Hospital across the street from the Disney Studio lot and his health eventually deteriorated causing him to suffer a cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at 3 AM PST on December 15, 1966, having just celebrated his 65th birthday ten days earlier. He was cremated on December 17, 1966 at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Roy Disney carried out the Florida project, insisting that the name become Walt Disney World in honor of his brother. Roy O. Disney died three months after the Magic Kingdom opened for business in 1971.
Continuing Walt's vision
Roy O. Disney returned from retirement to take full control of Walt Disney Productions and WED Enterprises. Motivated by
the thought of making sure Walt's vision came true, Roy still refused to talk about Walt, and his grief for his brother, though
rarely shown to other people, lasted until his death in 1971. In October of that year, Roy and Walt's families met in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom to officially open the Walt Disney World Resort. After an orchestra made up of over sixty-six countries performed a medley
of Disney music, Roy stepped up to the podium.
After giving his dedication for Walt Disney World (as the collective theme park and three resort hotels were known then),
Roy then asked Lillian to join him. As the orchestra played "When You Wish Upon A Star", Lillian stepped up to the podium
accompanied by Mickey Mouse - Roy said, "Lilly, you knew all of Walt's ideas and hopes as well as anybody; what would Walt
think of [Walt Disney World] it?". "I think," Lilly replied, "Walt would have approved." Roy passed away due to a cerebral
hemorrage in December, the day he was due to open the Disneyland Christmas parade.
When the second phase of the Walt Disney World theme park was built, EPCOT was translated by Walt Disney's successors into EPCOT Center (now simply called Epcot), which opened in 1982. As it currently
exists, Epcot is essentially a living world's fair, a far cry from the actual functional city that Disney had envisioned. In 1992 Walt Disney Imagineering took the step closer to Walt's vision and dedicated Celebration, Florida, a town built by the Walt Disney Company adjacent to Walt Disney World, that harkens back to the spirit of EPCOT.
The Disney entertainment empire
Today, Walt Disney's animation/motion picture studios and theme park have developed into a multi-billion dollar television,
motion picture, vacation destination and media corporation that carries his name. The Walt Disney Company today owns, among other assets, five vacation resorts, eleven theme parks, two water parks, thirty-nine hotels, eight motion picture studios, six record labels, eleven cable television networks, and one terrestrial television network.
Disney Animation today
Traditional hand-drawn animation, with which Walt Disney built the success of his company, no longer continues at the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio. After a stream of financially unsuccessful traditionally-animated features in the late-1990s and early 2000s, the
two satellite studios in Paris and Orlando were closed, and the main studio in Burbank was converted to a computer animation production facility. In 2004, Disney released their final traditionally animated feature
film for the foreseeable future, Home on the Range. The DisneyToons studio in Australia, which produced lower-budget traditionally animated films, at first appeared to survive the purge, but its closing was announced
in July 2005.
Only recently, with the Disney purchase of Pixar Animation, has there been talk of reviving the traditional style of animation Disney has been famous for. New head of Disney
animation John Lasseter commissioned veteran Disney animator James Baxter to produce an animated test sequence for Disney chief Robert Iger in February of 2006. If approved, the film will be released in 2007.
Disney devoted substantial time in his later years funding The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which was formed in 1961 through a merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute, which had helped in the training of the animation staff during the 1930s. When he died, one fourth of his estate went towards
CalArts, which greatly helped the building of its campus. Walt also donated 38 acres (154,000 mē) of the Golden Oaks
ranch in Valencia for the school to be built on. CalArts moved onto the Valencia campus in 1971.
Lillian Disney devoted a lot of her time after Walt died to pursuing CalArts and organized hundreds of fund raising events for the university
in her late husband's honor (as well as funding the Walt Disney Symphony Hall). After Lillian's passing, the legacy continued
with daughter Diane and husband Ron continuing the tradition. CalArts is one of the largest independent universities in California
today, mostly because of the contributions of the Disneys.