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All About Walt Disney and His Projects

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Walt Disney’s full name is Walter Elias Disney. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5th, 1901 and he died in Los Angles, California on December 15th, 1966. He died due to lung cancer. He had three older brothers and one younger sister. His dad Elias Disney was a carpenter, farmer and a building contractor and his mom Flora Call was a public school teacher. Walt Disney moved to Marceline, Missouri in 1906. Marceline was a typical small midwestern town that became Walts’s inspiration and model for Main Street USA in Disneyland. Walt Disney moved again in 1911 to Kansas City, Missouri. This is where Walt’s dad bought a newspaper route and Walt helped him deliver the paper. Walt said that many of the habits and compulsions of his adult life stemmed from the disciplines and discomforts of helping his dad with the paper route. During this time Walt also discovered his love for drawing and started to take classes at the Kansas City Art Institute. Walt also attended the Benton School. After this Walt and his family moved back to Chicago in 1917. While in Chicago Walt drew pictures for the McKinley High School newspaper and attended evening classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Walt Disney’s dream job at the time was to become a newspaper cartoonist. 

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While still living in Chicago Walt dropped out of school at the young age of 16 because he wanted to join the army but he was rejected for being underage. So Walt instead joined the Red Cross and was sent to France in the fall of 1918. While in France he spends a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red Cross officials. His ambulance was covered fully with drawings and cartoons. He was discharged from the Red Cross in 1919 and returned home to America that October. 

After the war, Walt returned to Kansas City to pursue a career as a newspaper artist but instead, he began his career as an advertising cartoonist. Starting out His brother Roy got him a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he met cartoonist, Ub Iwerks. They both worked at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio for a short period of time before moving to Kansas City Film Ad Company. During this time Walt began experimenting with a camera doing hand-drawn cel animation. Walt also made commercials based on cutout animation. Walt Disney then decided to open up his own animation business. He partnered with Fred Harman and they made a deal with a local Kansas City theater to screen their cartoons that they called Laugh-O-Grams. These cartoons were a huge hit and so Walt was able to get his own studio. Walt’s studio was called Laugh-O-Gram and they hired lots of employees including Ub Iwerks and Fred Harmans brother Hugh. Laugh-O-Gram then did a series of seven-minute fairy tales that combined both live-action and animation, which they called Alice in Cartoonland. But all good things come to an end and by 1923, however, the studio had become burdened with debt, and Disney was forced to declare bankruptcy. 

After that in August of 1923, Walt Disney left Kansas City for the bright lights of Hollywood. Now Walts’s brother Roy was already in California so they teamed up to began the Disney Brothers’ Cartoon Studio. They then land a contract for the “Alice Comedies,” a series in which a young girl filmed in live-action interacts with animated characters. Then Ub Iwerks joins the gang in 1924 and the company changes its name to Walt Disney Studios. The Alice Comedies were pretty successful but by 1927 Walt Disney was over it and wanted to make something that is just animated. The new star for this new project was not allowed to be a cat because there were too many cats in movies at the moment is what Walt Disney’s distributor Charles Mintz said. So Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks invented a new character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and they create a new series of animated films based on him. So this new series success and Walt wants a larger budged but when he asks Mintz for it Mintz’s says no and tries to use his trademark rights to take over Walt Disney Studios. That fails but Walt does abandon the character to Mintz. 

Then in 1928 Mortimer Mouse more commonly known as Mickey Mouse was created. Walt Disney says that the inspiration for him came from a mouse that Walt found and Kept as a pet at his first studio in Kansas City. Mickey was going to debut in a silent cartoon called Plane Crazy but then sound came out on the big screen. So Mickey made his screen debut in Steamboat Willie, the world’s first fully synchronized sound cartoon, which premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York on November 18, 1928. 

Walt Disney’s next passion projects were his animated films. His first full-length animated film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which produced 1.499 million even with the Great Depression and won eight Oscars. Due to this success, Walt Disney Studios completed another string of full-length animated films like Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi. There was a big strike by Disney animators in 1941 which caused a big setback for the company because a lot of the top animators resigned. In the mid-1940s Walt produced some packaged features which were a group of shorts strung together to run at feature length. But by 1950 Disney was back on full-length animation with films such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and 101 Dalmatians. The last success that Walt produced himself was Mary Poppins which came out in 1964 two years before he passed away. 

Walt Disney also wanted to build a family-centered amusement park near Los Angles and in 1954 he bought 244 acres of land in Anaheim, California to become Disneyland. In order to pay for this, he teamed up with ABC television to produce a one-hour television program in exchange for a $500,000 investment by ABC in Disneyland. Walt also had a plan for a second Disney Park located near Orlando, Florida. So in 1965, Walt Disney Studios purchased land in Orlando for EPCOT which stood for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Now, this park was under construction when Walt passed away so his brother Roy carried out the plans to finish the amusement park and opened it on October 1st, 1971 with the name Walt Disney World. 

Walt Disney had four main principles that he used in his leadership approach. The first was to believe in yourself. The second was don’t lose sight of what you are. The third was to chase your dream. The fourth and final principle was to go big or go home. He lived by these principles and you can tell this by his work. He built this empire from scratch and became one of the most famous names around the world. He was a very driven and charismatic leader who was an inspiration to his employees. But as he and the company grew it became more like a factory to mass-produce things and employees complained that this was destroying their motivation and ruining their way of life. Walt Disney was an autocratic leader and you could see that from his workers. He was known for firing people on the spot if they did not agree with him and was seen as ruthless in spite of the magical brand that he displayed to the world. 

Like I said earlier Walt Disney’s leadership style is authoritarian, which is characterized by sole control over all decisions and little input from employees. The leader is the one making choices based on their own judgments and ideas, and would rarely accept advice from his followers. Now, this gave Walt both some strengths and weaknesses. Some strengths are that this leadership style is very helpful when there needs to be a decision made quickly without getting other input. Authoritarian leaders also take charge and assign what to do and who should do it. They also can deal with situations that are stressful. Some weaknesses are that if you abuse this leadership style then you can seem controlling bossy and dictatorial which as we see here with Walt leads to resentment among those under him. These types of leaders also make decisions without getting others input which the employees of the leader would be disappointed because they could not contribute their ideas to the project.  

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