Walt Wednesday

July 2, 2014 ,

We have decided that Wednesday’s are now going to be known as “Walt Wednesdays” here at TMSM.  Walt is a big inspiration for so many of us and his thumbprint that he put on society as a whole is amazing.  Everyone knows stories of Walt, truth and rumor.  Even if all someone knows is that he created Mickey Mouse or Disneyland or that he is cryogenically frozen and under the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland….  Everyone knows who Walt is.  Through these weekly blogs we hope to educate those who are not as familiar with Walt and also tell about his life and things you may not know he was involved in.

We know that many of the stories or things we plan to share will be known to many of the people in the Disney community.  We know that everyone is at different levels in what they know and don’t when it comes to Walt.  We just ask that everyone be respectful of the information we share and that you enjoy the articles to come.

So where do we start a series like this? Well I can’t think of any better place than the beginning of Walt’s life… where he was raised, what he liked to do, and I’m sure you will see where a lot of his inspirations for things down the road were started.

Walter Elias Disney, was born on December 05, 1901 in Chicago.  He was born to Elias and Flora Disney.  At the time of his birth, Walt had 3 brothers.  Their names were Herbert Arthur born on December 8, 1888, Raymond Arnold born on December 30, 1890, and Roy Oliver born on June 24, 1893.  Almost two ears to his birth, Walt’s baby sister Ruth Flora was born on December 6, 1903.

Walter Elias Disney

When Walt was 4 years old, his family moved to Marceline, Missouri.  It’s Marceline that Walt will use as his model for Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland.  It was also here that Walt started school in 1909 with his sister Ruth.  To that point in his life, he had no formal schooling.  The family would reside in Marceline for 4 years, but that town would stay with Walt forever.

The family relocated to Kansas City, as Walt’s father purchased a paper delivery route for The Kansas City Star. Roy and Walt were put to work delivering the newspapers. The Disneys delivered the morning newspaper Kansas City Times to about 700 customers and the evening and Sunday Star to more than 600. The number of customers they had increased with time. Walt woke up at 4:30 AM and worked delivering newspapers until the school bell rang. He resumed working the paper trail at 4:00 PM and continued to supper time. He found the work exhausting and often dozed in his desk. His grades suffered as a result. He continued working this schedule for more than six years.

While in Kansas City, Walt met Walter Pfeiffer, who came from a family of theater aficionados and introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. Before long, Walt was spending more time at the Pfeiffers’ than at home, as well as attending Saturday courses at the Kansas City Art Institute.  It was in Kansas City, Walt often took Ruth to Electric Park, which Disney would later acknowledge as a major influence of his design of Disneyland.  Unlike many of its contemporaries, the Electric Park’s grounds were meticulously maintained with landscaping designed to accentuate the park’s rides and other attractions, a trait that Disney insisted to be maintained in Disneyland. Electric Park’s “Living Statuary’s electric procession featured young women emerging from a fountain onto a platform while bathed in various colored lights. Disney’s entrances featured structures similar in design and structure to that of Electric Park’s Monkey Cage Gazebo. In fact, most of the attractions that graced Disney’s childhood park had similar counterparts in the California park that he opened three decades later.

Electric Park in Kansas City, Missouri
Electric Park in Kansas City, Missouri

In 1917, Walt’s father Elias acquired shares in the O-Zell jelly factory in Chicago and moved his family back to the city. In the fall Disney began his freshman year at McKinley High School and took night courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of artist and educator Louis Grell. He became the cartoonist for the school newspaper, drawing patriotic topics on World War I. With a hope to join the army, Disney dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen, but was rejected for being underage.

After his rejection by the army, Disney and a friend decided to join the Red Cross. He was soon sent to France for a year, where he drove an ambulance, but only after the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Something unique about Walt’s ambulance, it was entirely covered in his cartoon drawings.

walt ambulance

Hoping to find work outside the Chicago O-Zell factory, Walt moved back to Kansas City in 1919 to begin his artistic career. He considered a career as an actor but decided he wanted to draw political caricatures or comic strips for a newspaper. When nobody wanted to hire him as either an artist or as an ambulance driver, his brother Roy, then working in a local bank, got Walt a temporary job through a bank colleague at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he created advertisements for newspapers, magazines, and movie theaters. At Pesmen-Rubin he met cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks and, when their time at the studio expired, they decided to start their own commercial company together.

I hope you enjoyed this first blog for our Walt Wednesdays.  Next week we will continue on where we left off and start to see how the Walt Disney Company was created.


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