When Did Walt Disney Die?

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Walt Disney is perhaps one of the most famous individuals in American cinema history. However, the majority of individuals do not know that much about him, or about his life. This master of animation died of a tumor which was found while preparing for a medical procedure.

Walt Disney's Death

In 1966, Walt was supposed to have neck surgery. This neck surgery was going to fix an old polo injury that he had developed. During the pre-surgery X-rays, it was discovered that Disney had a huge tumor on his lung. He died on December 15, 1966.

Disney's Early Years

Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901. His parents were Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney. When Disney was young, his family moved to a small farm in Missouri. It was here that Disney began to draw, and developed his passion for drawing.

One of the Disney family neighbors paid Walt for some of his pictures, and paid him to draw pictures of his horse. In 1911, the Disney family moved to Kansas City. Here, Walt attended Benton Grammar School.

He made an important friendship with Walter Pfeiffer. Through Walter, he was introduced to motion pictures and vaudeville. He began to attend courses at the Kansas City Art Institute when he was still a child.

Beginnings of Disney's Career

Walt’s dad moved the family back to Chicago in 1917, and Walt started high school and took night courses at the Chicago Art Institute. He dropped out of high school to join the army, but he was rejected because of his age. In 1919, Walt moved back to Kansas City to begin his career as an artist.

He found a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, and he created ads for magazines, newspapers, and movie theaters. He met another cartoonist named Ubbe Iwerks, and the two decided to begin a commercial company. The two started the “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists” company, but it didn’t last for long.

Disney then discovered an interest in animation, and he decided to pursue this rather than cartooning. He decided to open his own animation company, and opened it with another employee that he knew at the ad company, Fred Harman. They titled their cartoons “Laugh-O-Grams” and they secured a theatre with Frank Newman to play their cartoons.

Early Disney Cartoons

Soon, these cartoons were extremely popular throughout Kansas City. The success of these cartoons allowed Disney to begin his own studio, which he called “Laugh-O-Gram.” Under this studio, he hired a number of animators, including Ubbe Iwerks. Disney, however, was too ambitious in the amount of individuals that he hired, and the studio was soon bankrupt. Disney decided to establish a studio out west, in Hollywood.

Disney and his brother collected their remaining money, and set up a studio in Hollywood. Disney had written the “Alice Comedies” and he was searching for a distributor for this comedies.

While the comedies were never distributed, Disney found an individual who was looking to make an animated movie based on Alice’s Wonderland. This began the Disney Brother’s Studio. The live action star of Alice’s Wonderland, Virginia Davis, as well as Ubbe Iwerks, were relocated to Hollywood.

Creation of Mickey Mouse

After losing the rights to one of his characters, Disney wanted to create a character that could replace him. He decided to base the character on a pet that he had while he was in Kansas City. This pet was a mouse.

Although the sketches were reworked by Ubbe Iwerks, the voice and the personality of this character were created by Walt. The character was originally named “Mortimer,” however this name was changed to “Mickey.” You may recognize the name “Mortimer” because this character became Mickey’s rival in later cartoons. With the development of Mickey Mouse, the studio became an instant success.