14 Interesting Facts About Walt Disney

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An innovator and pioneer, and the possessor of the most fertile imagination, Walt Disney needs no introduction. While we are all familiar with the works of the iconic Imagineer, there are still hidden facts in the Disney vault. From a business setback that empowered him to create Mickey Mouse to his fascination with trains – discover the most interesting facts about Walt Disney.

Fascinating facts about Walt Disney

Artist and entrepreneur, Walt Disney was born in 1901. So, more than a century later, it is natural for the new generation to not know the real person. In honor of the extraordinary man, here are the most interesting facts about Walt Disney.

1. Walt Disney did not have rich parents

Born on 5 December 1901, in Chicago, Walt Disney had a humble beginning. He had four siblings and he spent his initial years on a farm in Missouri’s Marceline.

His father struggled to make ends meet and the family had to relocate to Kansas City. For six years, Disney assisted his father in delivering newspapers.

Even as an adult, Disney had to do several odd jobs before he became a television mogul. For instance, in 1923, he was a door-to-door salesman who sold vacuum cleaners. He did this along with his brother Roy who later fulfilled several of Walt’s unfulfilled dreams.

However, fate had other plans for Disney and soon a New York-based cartoon distributor gave employment to Disney.

2. Disney played Peter Pan in a play

Peter Pan is a well-known fictional character invented by J.M. Barrie, a Scottish playwright and novelist.

Peter is a mischievous boy who can fly and his life is all about his adventures. So, children find this character admirable and the story had a place in Disney’s heart as well.

He was thrilled when he got the chance to perform his beloved character in a school play.

Can you guess who was in charge of holding the rope that assisted Disney in flying? Who else could it be than his brother with whom Disney had several creative collaborations!

3. Walt Disney was a school dropout

As a student, Walt Disney was not good in academics. According to his teachers, he always remained lost in his thoughts and loved to draw.

So, at 16, he chose to quit school and participate in World War I. He became a part of the Red Cross Ambulance Corps after forging the date of birth on his birth certificate.

They sent him to France and his job was to drive Red Cross officials. All these adventures and the experience of living in different places shaped him as the gifted Walt Disney.

4. Disney’s propaganda moves during World War II

It is not all fun and games when we think of Walt Disney. Well, did he make cartoons that are eternally imprinted in our lives? Yes! But did he also use art as propaganda and make political moves? Also, yes!

Few people know that Disney worked on educational films to contribute to federal agencies. One such example was ‘The New Spirit’ to push people to pay taxes as and when due. The initiative was led by the Treasury Department and Walt Disney lent his artistry.

Some movies he made focused on American military. The man was reluctant to take such stances initially, but he also became patriotic during the second World War.

It might surprise you to know that he used Der Fuehrer’s Face for creating Donald Duck.

5. Walt Disney dubbed as Mickey Mouse

They say that every first in your business always has a touch of you. No matter how much funds you bring in, you add a little bit of you in every aspect. Walt Disney did not just create Mickey, he also lent him his voice. But the journey to that was long.

He moved to Kansas City to work as a newspaper cartoonist after finishing his role at the Red Cross. But the road till creating Mickey was long.

At first, he created ads for magazines and movie theaters. He then opened a film studio that run out of business as it could make no money.

The brothers Walt and Roy then ventured into Disney Brothers Studios and created several cartoon sketches. Oswald was their first but it didn’t get much popularity and soon they needed a role model. That’s how our favorite rodent came to life and our lives changed forever. Mickey Mouse was his name and the cartoon first featured in the short film, Steamboat Willie.

At first, the character was voiceless, but in 1929 Mickey spoke through film The Karnival Kid. Walt initially had the character dubbed by someone else but when he heard the output he scratched that out and dubbed it himself.

The first words Mickey spoke were “Hot dog, hot dog”.

6. Disney was a pioneer in television programming

Disney deserves credit for being a pioneer in the realm of television programming. In 1954, he commenced production and was one of the first individuals who tried presenting full-color programming.

The Wonderful World of Color was his notable contribution in 1961. In the 1950s, Zorro and The Mickey Mouse Club were other popular favorites.

7. Disney and his unending love for trains

Disney had a hard childhood as his family wasn’t financial stable. His earliest income was through selling snacks and newspaper on trains and that is how he fell in love with the mode of transport.

Interestingly, he came up with Mickey’s character on a train while going to LA from NY City. He used to create model trains growing up and that hobby stayed through his recreation of trains in his stories as well.

During the 40s, Disney built a one-eight-scale steam locomotive. His fascination made his lay down railway tracks around his LA home while living in the Holmby Hills. Sometimes, he used to wear clothes like that of a train engineer and march through Carolwood Pacific Railroad. You can surely compare his fascination to that of Sheldon Cooper from BBT.

8. Disney was a doting father

The world remembers Walt Disney as a genius entrepreneur, animator, and film producer. You will be amazed to learn that the creator of adorable characters like Mickey Mouse was a family man.

He loved his wife and daughters dearly and took great pleasure in pampering them. His wife, Lillian Bounds, was one of his employees, and his two daughters are Diane and Sharon.

Despite being a rich man with extravagant vehicles, a housekeeper, and drivers, Disney took his daughters to school daily. It proves that the stern upbringing provided by his father did not make him a hard-hearted man. On the contrary, he shared a deep bond with his darling girls and always made time for them.

9. Disney banned his employees from wearing a mustache

One of the weirdest facts about Walter Elias Disney is that he restricted his staff from wearing a mustache.

In 1957, he gave strict instructions that none of the male employees could grow facial hair. This is funny because he himself always maintained a classic mustache look.

The Disney Company dropped this rule in the year 2000.

10. Disney’s housekeeper was a wealthy lady

For more than 30 years, Thelma Howard was the live-in cook and housekeeper of the Disney family. They hired her in 1951 and she quickly became an inseparable part of the happy family.

When it came to looking after Disney and his kids, she was the epitome of perfection. For instance, Walt Disney liked to savor cold hot dogs after returning home from work. So, she made sure that there were always hot dogs in the fridge.

Every year, the Disney’s gave Thelma her stock in their company as her Christmas present. As long as she lived, she did not do anything with the shares. So, when the woman passed away in 1994, she was a multimillionaire.

Her only disabled son inherited around $4.5 million from her. The remaining $4.5 million (approx.) was donated to disabled and poor children.

11. Disney blamed himself for his mom’s death

After becoming successful, Walt Disney purchased a lavish mansion for his parents. As his parents were old, they relied on him for maintaining the house.

Whenever there was a problem, they informed Disney and he sent handymen to fix the issue. On one such occasion, his mother complained that the furnace wasn’t working properly.

The year was 1938 and Disney appointed a team to resolve the issue. Tragically, they failed to improve the functioning of the furnace.

Disney had no idea that it was slowly poisoning his mother until it was too late. She breathed her last at the age of 70 and the reason behind her demise was carbon monoxide poisoning.

His father too got severely sick after the gas leak, but he managed to survive the blow. According to Sharon, Walter’s younger daughter, Disney could not move on from the unfortunate incident. He considered himself accountable for the accident and could never speak about it.

12. Disney abhorred golf

Disney began to play golf as he had to give up polo for health issues. When he took up this sport, he got up at 4:30 am to play golf every morning at the behest of his doctor. He tried hard to fall in love with it but failed.

Golf is a popular sport that a lot of people find relaxing. However, Walt Disney confessed that it frustrated him immensely and he had to quit. Lawn bowling became his new hobby and he found it extremely refreshing.

13. Disneyland was supposed to be a small park

One of the most interesting facts about Walt Disney is that he had a wild imagination. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland, he did not imagine it would be among the world’s largest theme parks. His idea was to build a small park close to his Burbank Studio. When his plans grew ambitious, he changed his mind and wanted to build a large-scale amusement park.

Disney hired a reputed research firm to look for the best location in Southern California. After analyzing factors like weather patterns, population growth, transportation options, etc., the firm chose a site. The 160-acre land consisted of orange trees and the construction commenced in July 1954.

Interesting Facts About Walt Disney

14. Disney won the Oscar 22 times

The number of Academic Awards Disney won proves that he was a revolutionary in the field of entertainment. He has set the bar too high after being nominated 59 times and winning Oscar 22 times. In 1932, the fifth Academy Awards ceremony took place in which he took home the award for the first time.

In total, Disney has received at least 950 citations and honors from different parts of the world. Additionally, Disney received several honorary awards, one of which was handed out in the year 1932 for Mickey Mouse. He also got an honorary award for ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. In his lifetime, he got 7 Emmys and 48 Academy Awards.

Wrapping Up

Walt Disney is a folk hero and a legend of the 20th century. His worldwide popularity is based upon ideas represented by his name: optimism, self-made success, and imagination. He has touched the hearts and triggered the imaginations of millions of people.

Even several decades after his demise, Disney’s work continues to give joy to people around the globe. Certainly, the above-mentioned interesting facts about Walt Disney will make you admire him and his works even more.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What was Walt Disney’s last words?

There have been many stories about the last words uttered by Walt Disney before he breathed his last. While his last words are unknown, his last written words were ‘Kurt Russell’. He was writing something on his notepad the day he was hospitalized and there were the words.

2. What are some interesting facts about Walt Disney as a child?

Since childhood, Disney liked to draw and the boy was smart enough to sell his sketches to his neighbors. He was only seven years old at that time and he also used to sell newspapers on trains.

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