Most people know Walt Disney, the animation pioneer who introduced many new developments in the production of cartoons. We know about his movies, his theme parks, and his countless awards. But beyond the basics, how much do you really know about the man who brought us Mickey and co.? Here are a few interesting facts about Walt Disney that you might not know.
15 Interesting Facts About Walt Disney
1. Walt Disney Once Filed for Bankruptcy
Early in his career, his first attempt to found a studio was ultimately unsuccessful and he ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1920.
2. His Alternate Career Path Was to Become a Vacuum Cleaner Salesman
When the young aspiring artist first moved to the big city of L.A. in 1923 to join his brother, the older Disney almost hooked Walt up with a vacuum salesman gig. Thankfully, Walt Disney was offered an animation job before he had to sell any vacuums, and the rest is history.
3. Before Producing the Iconic Movie, Walt Disney Played Peter Pan in a School Play
For Walt Disney, the classic hit movie he would go on to release in 1953 would literally take him back to his childhood, when he had assumed the lead role for Peter Pan in a school play.
4. His First Studio Was Called “Laugh-O-Gram”
Disney incorporated this small Kansas City studio when he was only 20 years old, after being contracted out by them to do a job. Although the project was short lived, he managed to bring a group of talented animators together, many of whom would go on to become production pioneers in their own respect.
5. Mickey Mouse Almost Wasn’t Mickey
Walt had originally intended to name his famous character Mortimer Mouse, until his wife suggested he choose something less pompous. Disney would later dub Mickey’s lesser known rival Mortimer instead.
6. There Is a Planet Named After Him
When Lyudmila Karachkina, a Soviet astronomer, discovered a new planet in 1980, he dubbed it 4017-Disneya, in honor of Disney himself.
7. He Blamed Himself for His Mother’s Death
After he made his riches, Walt set his parents up in a new house. However, when an issue arose with the furnace in 1938, the repair team, dispatched by Walt himself, failed to address the issue. As a result, Walt’s mother, Flora Call Disney, succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning shortly thereafter, while his father barely survived. Walt would remain haunted by guilt for years to come.
8. He Worked as a Paperboy While He Was in School
Growing up in Kansas, Missouri, Walt’s first job was selling newspapers and candy on the side of the road.
9. Mickey Was Not Walt Disney’s First Animated Character
The rights to Disney’s first character, “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit,” were owned by Universal Studios so Walt had to leave him behind when he left Universal. Nonetheless, Mickey can be said to be a byproduct of Oswald, since when he left the studio he thought up Mickey on the train ride home.
10. He Stopped Animating Early in His Career
While Walt certainly invented Mickey Mouse and his cronies, he stopped animating in 1928 in order to focus on production. This means that almost all popular productions released by the studio were not drawn by Walt himself. However, he did continue to do voice acting, including the voice of Mickey, throughout the course of his career.
11. One of the Last Things Walt Disney Wrote Before He Died Was “Kurt Russell”
Very shortly before his death in 1966, Disney etched the words “Kurt Russell” onto a piece of paper and left it on his desk. Nobody, including Kurt Russell, knows why. Russell was a largely unknown child actor at the time, and him and Disney never spoke.
12. He Gifted His Housekeeper Shares in the Company
Every year for Christmas, Disney would give his long-time housekeeper Thelma Howard shares in the company. She died a multi-millionaire, but never cashed in her shares; she willed them to various charities instead.
13. Walt Disney Was a High School Dropout
Even though he was technically too young to join the forces, Walt Disney wanted to take part in World War I and dropped out of school to do so. He forged his documents to meet the minimum age requirements, but the war ended shortly after he enlisted in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps.
14. He Had a Big Thing for Trains
Disney had always been known to be fascinated with trains and would build elaborate models as a hobby. In 1948, he constructed a whole mini-railroad system in his backyard, built to an impressive 1/8th scale.
15. He Found the Time to Drive His Daughters to School
Despite having amassed a small fortune and a number of domestic servants at this point in his career, he often still found the time to drive his daughters to school.
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