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How Walt Disney Animation Revolutionized the Animation Industry

December 2, 2014 Video and Animation Production, General 0 Comments

With Walt Disney's birthday coming up on Dec. 5, now is a great time to look back on his achievements in animation. Walt Disney Animation Studios is known around the world for its iconic characters, especially Mickey Mouse, and is a great source of inspiration for aspiring animators.

How Walt Disney Animation Revolutionized the Animation IndustryThe Early Years

Disney was born in 1901 in Chicago, Illinois, as the fourth of five children. His first earnings from his art came when he was just a boy, when a neighbor paid him to draw his horse. Disney began attending Saturday classes at the Kansas City Art Institute when he was 10 years old. When he was in high school, he took night courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and became the cartoonist for his school newspaper.

Early Working Life

After a brief stint as an ambulance driver in France, Disney returned to the United States, where he got a temporary job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio through his brother, Roy. There, Disney met cartoonist Ub Iwerks, with whom he eventually started a commercial art company. Disney and Iwerks later found work at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where Disney became interested in animation.

Together, Disney and Iwerks created cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams, which they screened in Kansas City. The cartoons became extremely popular, and Disney opened his own studio called Laugh-O-Gram; financial issues later forced it to close.

Walt Heads West

According to, Disney went to California with $40 in his pocket to pursue his dreams. In 1923, Disney and his brother opened a Hollywood cartoon studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios, where Disney met his wife, Lillian Bounds. It was here that the Disney brothers created the Alice Comedies, the first one of which earned the pair $1,500.

After Disney lost the rights to a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, he created Mickey Mouse, based on an actual mouse he had as a pet at the Laugh-O-Gram studio. Iwerks refined Mickey to make him easier to animate, and Walt provided Mickey's voice and personality until 1947. Mickey Mouse eventually surpassed Felix the Cat to become the world's most popular cartoon character.

Hard Work Pays Off

Disney's first animated feature film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," drastically changed the animation industry. It was the most successful film of 1939, earning more than $8 million. Disney was given one full-size and seven miniature Academy Awards for the movie. "Snow White" began a period that was later referred to as "The Golden Age of Animation" for Disney's studio. In another first, Disney's film "Fantasia" was the first major film to have stereophonic sound. Disney's many innovations included such features as synchronizing sound with animated images and using storyboards, multiplane cameras and optical printers.

Above all, Disney challenged himself and his employees to innovate, improving storytelling through technology, color, character development and music. If you are interested in creating films through animation, consider exploring the field with an online animation course.

Photo credit: Flickr


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