The Walt Disney Story
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The Successful Years

Several years after the success of Mickey Mouse cartoons, Walt had a concept for his "Silly Symphoney" series. It was tough to sell it to the distribution houses, but Walt did. In 1931, Walt saw a demo film done by a company called Technicolor. They offered the Disney Group a 2 year exclusive to incorporate Technicolor into animation. The first one they tried it with was the "Flowers and Trees; Silly Symphoney".

Walt Disney received an Academy Award for "Flowers and Trees", and then again, the same night for the creation of Mickey Mouse. By this time, Walt had a hundred employees creating "Silly Symphonies" and Mickey Mouse.

Donald Duck made his debut in The Wise Little Hen and then Walt put him in a second cartoon called The Orphan's Benefit. The man behind the voice of Donald was Clarence Nash.

In 1932, Walt's health became a problem. His doctor told him that he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and needed to take a long rest. He and Lilly packed their bags and set out across the country on a vacation. Walt realized that his work-a-holic ways were not in the best interests of his health and that the professionals he hired should be running the day to day workings of the studio.

In 1933, Walt and Lillian Disney had their first child, a girl they named Diane. Three years later, they had another daughter, Sharon.

In 1934, Disney Studios took on their greatest challenge yet... a full length feature film entitled Snow White. In preparing for the filming of Snow White, studio technicians had been working on a new camera that would give more dimension to the drawings. The new Disney camera was called the multiplane camera. During the creation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Disney studio ran severely over budget. Roy approached many financial institutions and finally one gave the Disney brothers a loan to complete the project. The cost of the project ran over $1.5M and Hollywood people began calling it "Disney's Folly". The film premiered in December 1937 at one of the largest theaters in Hollywood. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a national sensation!

Premiere of Snow White

Two years after the success of Snow White, the Disney Studio went from prosperity to severed indebtedness. Walt made Pinocchio(at a cost of $2.6M), followed by Bambi and then Fantasia. None of the last 3 were as successful as Snow White. At a meeting of the Board of Directors, Roy explained the poor financial state of the company. Due to World War II, they didn't foresee times getting better and suggested that share of stock of Disney Studios be sold to the public to raise capital.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and that same day, the army moved into the Disney Studio in order to house the anti-aircraft companies. The Navy Department phone Walt and asked if the Disney Studios would make a film to help gunners determine whether airplanes belonged to friend or foe. This was Walt's only instructions. Walt and his staff made the training film and then went on to make a short with Donald Duck for the Treasury Department, which encouraged Americans to pay their taxes. The US government sought the help of Disney Studios on other propaganda drives during the war. After the war, they needed to rebuild the studio and get back to their own work. The two brothers had very different ideas of the direction they should go. Roy was afraid of financial ruins, but Walt persevered and the next feature film was created, Cinderella. It was an immediate hit!

In 1948, Walt felt they had gone as far as they could with animation and wanted to try something new. He began making live-action films. The first was Treasure Island, followed by The Sword and the Roseand Rob Roy.

Walt began to feel the stress of the Studio creeping into his health again and knew he needed to find a hobby for relaxation. In 1949, Lillian and Walt were planning to build a new house. Walt was inspired by t he Chicago Train Fair he had attended, together with his childhood memories of trains, and suggested to his wife and daughters that he build a working train around their new home. And so it was. Walt’s train, the Carolwood Pacific Railway, was a steam-driven locomotive painted back with gold and red trim. On the weekends, Walt gave rides on his train to guests. As Walt rode his train, he began to dream of a larger railroad that would circle another Disney property – the most spectacular pleasure park in the world!

As his daughters were growing up, Walt would take them to an amusement park on Sundays. Walt became very aware that there was a lack of quality and quality in the existing amusement parks and began putting together his ideas.