Walt Disney Timeline

Timeline of Walt Disney's Life

Arundel Elias Disney, Walt Disney’s great grandfather, is born in County Kikenny, Irelalnd

Kepple Disney, Walt’s grandfather, is born to Arundel and wife Maria in Ireland.

Arundel and brother Robert sail from Liverpool toward America.

Kepple with his sons Elias (Walt’s father) & Robert (Walt’s uncle) move to Ellis, Kansas.

Jan 1, 1888
Elias Disney marries Flora Call in Akron, Florida.

Dec 8, 1888
Herbert, the first (oldest) son, is born.

Elias, Flora & Herbert move to Chicago. Elias builds their new house.

December 30, 1890
Raymond Arnold Disney is born. The second brother.

June 24, 1893
Roy Oliver Disney is born. The third brother.

Elias & Preacher Walter Parr agree to name each expecting child’s name after each other. Both men had sons, Elias’ son, named Walt, and the Preachers, Elias.

December 5, 1901
Walter Elias Disney is born. The forth brother.

December 6, 1903
Ruth Flora Disney is born. The first daughter.

The Disney Family move to Marceline, Missouri.

Herbert & Raymond move to Chicago.

Elias sells their farm, they rents a home until 1910.

The Disney Family move to Kansas City.

Roy Disney leaves family to work for Uncle Will Disney in Kansas.

June 8, 1917
Walt graduates from Benton High School.

Walt works as a member of the American Ambulance Corps in France. Walt lied about his age to be accepted.

After driving an ambulance through Europe, Walt returns to the US, moves to Kansas City and gets job at the Posman-Rubin Commercial Art Studio for $50 a month.

Jan, 1920
Walt meets Ub Iwwerks, together form Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. The small group survives for a month.

Walt & Ub work for the Kansas City Slide Company.
Walt names the films “Laugh-O-grams.”

Elias & Flora Disney return to Kansas City, then move to Portland, OR.

Walt quits the Film Ad, then incorporates “Laugh-O-gram Films” with $15,000 from local investors. Walt persuades Ub Iwerks to leave the Film Ad.

July, 1923
Walt resigns himself to bankrupcy, moves to Hollywood planning to become a director. Roy (Walt’s brother) was already in California.

October 16, 1923
Walt & Roy sign a contract with M.J. Winkler, a New York cartoon distributor.

They rent a room at the back of a real estate office. Roy operates a secondhand camera while two girls were hired to ink & paint the celluloids. Walt does the animation.

Febuary, 1924
Walt hires the first animator, Rollin Hamilton and moves into a small store with a window bearing “Disney Bros. Studio.”

March, 1924
The first “Alice Comedies” reaches theaters.

June, 1924
Ub Iwerks moves to California to join Disney Productions. Walt wanted to concentrate on the scenarios of the film; his career as an animator is over.

Dec, 1924
Walt invites Hugh Harmen & Rudy Ising to work for him.

April, 1925
Roy marries Edna Francis. Walt meets Lillian Bounds, hired by the Studios as an inker. Walt recalled “I couldn’t afford to pay her, so I married her!”

July 13, 1925
Walt marries Lillian.

Feb, 1926
Walt renames the studio to the “Walt Disney Studio.”

Walt Disney Studios authorized to make “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” series. All rights were sold to Mintz distribution. When costs became to high, Walt wanted to end distribution. As a result, “Oswald” becomes Mintz’s own, and Mintz takes Walt’s best animator, Ub Iwerks.

Walt, on a train ride, develops Mickey Mouse and along with Ub Iwerks creates a new cartoon, “Plane Crazy.” Audiences were in love with the mouse. “Steamboat Willie,” the third cartoon is created. Walt pursues New York film companies to record the cartoon with sound. Walt urges Ub to go forward with the fourth Mickey Mouse Cartoon “The Barn Dance.”

November 18, 1928
“Steamboat Willie” opens at the Colon Theater in New York. Billed as “the first animated cartoon with sound,” it gets rave reviews.”

Film companies come calling for Walt to make a deal. All these distributors want the rights to Mickey Mouse, however Walt learned from his experience from Oswald the Rabbit.

A deal with Pat Powers, who wants to promote Cinephone, is struck. Walt returns to California with a contract and $2500.

Walt plans to release “Skeleton Dance” as the 1st of a new series of cartoons called Silly Symphonies. This new film was also released in Technicolor, a brand new color technique, that Walt Disney held right to for two years.

Walt hires a lawyer for legal assistance in regards to the deal with Pat Powers. Ub Iwerks signs a contract with Powers, stunning Walt. The lawyer negotiates an agreement to dissolve Iwerks’ contract with Disney and is paid $2,920 for 1/5 interest.
Mickey Mouse turns into a national craze and Mickey Mouse Clubs spring up all over the country.

Walt breaks off negotiations with Pat Powers, suspecting him of being crooked. Disney could not afford a lawsuit, so they walk away and start anew.

Columbia Pictures signs with Disney, as Walt breaks all ties with Powers with a payment for relinquish of the 21 Disney cartoons.
Roy Disney signs the first contract for merchandising.
Walt assigns Ub Iwerks to devise a comic strip.
Syndication comes from King Features and Mickey Mouse makes his first comic strip on January 13, 1930.

Pluto makes 1st appearance in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, “The Chain Gang.”

The Mickey Mouse Clubs reach a million members.

Mickey Mouse is now known in every civilized country.

Walt suffers a nervous breakdown, caused by pushing himself and animators on the job. Walt takes a vacation on doctor’s orders. On return, exercise and work balancing is required.

Goofy makes 1st appearance in “Mickey’s Revue.”

Herman Kamen, a Kansas City advertising man, signs a contract to represent the Walt Disney Studios. He licenses Lionel Corporation for merchandising Mickey and Minnie toy trains. Lionel is hit hard by the Depression and files for bankrupcy. 253,000 toys were sold in 4 months, beginning the return of the Lionel Corporation. The association with Disney is credited for the return of Lionel.

Disney asks Columbia to increase advance on each cartoon to $15,000; Columbia declines.

Walt agrees to United Artists’ proposal, a $15,000 advance on each cartoon.

Walt is determined to add color to animation.
United Artists agrees to grant Disney 2 years exclusive use of 3-color Technicolor.

July, 1932
“Flowers and Trees” appears at the Hollywood Chinese Theater.

November, 1932
The first class of the Disney Art School is held at the Chouinard Art Institue. Nelbert Chouinard agrees to help the Studio

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awards “Flowers and Trees” to Walt Disney.

“Three Little Pigs,” the 36th Silly Symphony, is produced. Audiences everywhere love it and relate it to the people vs. the Depression. “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” becomes a national rally cry. Roy convinces Walt to produce 3 more “Pig” movies, “The Big Bad Wolf,”, “Three Little Wolves” and “The Practical Pig.” None were as successful as the first one.

Walt & Lillian move into a new home in Los Feliz.

December 18, 1933
Lillian gives birth to Diane Marie Disney. Their first child.

1934, 1935, 1936
Donald Duck debut’s in a Silly Symphony film, “The Wise Little Hen.”

Walt’s staff grows to 187 employees.

Walt announces that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” will be the 1st feature film. Work on “Snow White” is the center of attention.

Disneys disassociate themselves with United Artists.
Disneys sign a releasing agreement for shorts and for “Snow White” with RKO.

December 21, 1936
Lillian and Walt adopt Sharon Mae Disney.

Donald Duck gets his own series of short films.

December 21, 1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is seen by the public in Los Angeles. It makes a 3 week run at Radio City Music Hall, then some New York theaters.”Snow White” grosses $8 million and wins an Academy Award.

Within 6 months, the Disneys pay off all bank loans.

The Disney Studios are expanded and they put deposit down on property in Burbank, CA.

Walt & Roy move their parents to Southern California.

Work begins on a second feature, “Pinocchio.”

November 26, 1938
Flora Disney dies of asphyxiation due to a defective furnace. Walt & Roy blame themselves because it occured in the house they purchased.

Walt decides that Mickey Mouse should star in a feature of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Leopold Stokwski volunteers to conduct the music. Stokowski tells Disney to create a single Feature. Fantasia.

“Bambi” is started at the same time but is last to be released due to the time it took to draw the animals. The studio resembled a zoo at times with many animals on hand to be drawn. Video was captured and photos were donated for the film.

Burbank Studio construction continues, making it a workers paradise.

The start of World War II causes business of “Pinocchio” to fall short of what is expected.

Febuary, 1940
Fantasia” opens at New York’s Broadway Theater (formally called “The Colony”), the same place that Mickey Mouse made his debut. Walt was forced to cut “Fantasia” into a short version, cutting from his 3+ hours’ version. “Fantasia” loses even more than “Pinocchio.”

April, 1940
Due to losses of “Pinocchio,””Fantasia” and “Bambi,” along with the cost of the new studio being built, Disney is forced to offer public stock, something Walt & Roy did not want to do. 600,000 shares of common stock sold at $5 a piece. Stock offering sold out quickly and temporarily filled the hole of debt.

Disney employees grow to 1,000 workers.

“Dumbo” is produced and finished in 1 year. Walt originally planned it as a 30 minute film but expanded it into a feature film of 64 minutes. It makes an $850,000 profit.

Ub Iwerks returns to the Walt Disney Studios.

Movie studios unionize and 2 unions sought to organize the Disney cartoonists. One union leader, Herb Sorrell, threatens to strike Disney by stating publicly Walt’s business affairs.

May 29, 1941
A picket line forms in front of the Walt Disney Studios, directed by Herb Sorrell.

August 17, 1941
Walt makes a film making & goodwill tour of South America.

Elias Disney passes away while Walt is away, never really recovering from the loss of Flora. When Walt returns, the strike has ended but takes away Disney employees due to production slow down.

Walt arrives in time for the premiere of “Dumbo.”

“Saludos Amigos” and “The Three Caballeros” are the result of the the South America trip. Both films are successfull in North & South America.
High demand for war films occurs.
The draft takes 1/3 of Walt’s artists. The army moves into the Disney Studios.

August, 1942
“Bambi” is released but has disappointing numbers at the box office in both the U.S. and foreign cities.

The company’s debt rises to $4.3 million.

“Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “Bambi” & “Dumbo” are playing in Europe, but no revenue is coming in due to the damaged economy.

Roy urges Walt to cut expenses & staff; Walt refuses.

“Make Mine Music,” a short cartoon, is released and produces a small profit. Walt really is not pleased with the film.

The work on “Mickey And The Beanstalk,” interrupted due to the war, is resumed. It is combined with another cartoon and released as “Fun and Fancy Free.” It is the last time the voice of Mickey Mouse is portrayed by Walt. A sound effects worker becomes the voice of Mickey Mouse.

“Song of the South” is produced. It is 30% cartoon and 70% live action. It premieres in Atlanta and gets good reaction.

“Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is named best movie song of 1946 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, while James Baskett, who plays Uncle Remus, wins an Oscar.

The movie’s production cost of $2.125 million causes only a $226,000 profit.

Walt considers making educational and commercial films, but decides that the company should be in the entertainment business. He decides that Alaska should be filmed, then takes a flying tour himself. The flight almost went bad due to heavy clouds and no radio contact to land. After circling for 2 hours, the plane lands safely. Walt, after reviewing the Alaska films, suggests a feature length film based on the life of seals. Due to it’s short time, Walt books the film with a lengthy feature. The audience’s reaction to the film is good. It eventually wins an Academy Award for best 2-reel documentary.

Walt assigns all of his top talent to make “Cinderella,” which had been in development for several years, along with “Peter Pan” & “Alice in Wonderland.”

Walt & Lillian had been looking for property to build a new house and Walt required the lot of land to be large enough to accommodate a train circling the home.

They found property and built the new home in Holmby Hills, CA. Walt designs a half mile run and called the train’s engine the “Lilly Belle,” named after Mrs. Lillian Disney. He called it the Carolwood-Pacific Railroad.

Walt began talking about letting people come to Hollywood and really “see” something. He started to formulate plans in August to build an amusement area to be named Mickey Mouse Park.

The Walt Disney Music Company is formed.

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