Walt Disney was born on 5th December, 1901, in Chicago. His father was Irish – Canadian, and his mother was German – American. Disney attended McKinley High School in Chicago, and left at the age of 17 to become an ambulance driver in the First World War. In 1919 he moved to Kansas City and became a commercial artist. Then he went to Hollywood in 1923 to become an animator, working on cartoon films. He produced his first (black and white) Mickey Mouse cartoon in 1928. It was an instant hit with both children and adults. More cartoons followed, including ‘Flowers and Trees’ (1933), the first animated film in Technicolor. Then, three years later, Disney created his second cartoon superstar – Donald Duck. By this time he had his own studio and a large team of cartoonists or “animators”. These were the people who helped to draw. “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” (1937) is his first full-length feature film.
A magical mixture of fantasy, comedy, music and colour, “Snow White” was a landmark in cartoon history. It was also a huge hit with international audiences, who demanded more full-length cartoons. Disney responded with a series of classics, including: “Pinocchio” (1939), “Fantasia” (1940), “Dumbo” (1941), “Bambi” (1943), “Cinderella” (1950), “Alice in Wonderland” (1951), “Peter Pan” (1953), “The Lady and The Tramp” (1953), “The Sleeping Beauty” (1959), “101 Dalmatians” (1961), “The Sword In The Stone” (1963) and “The Jungle Book” (1967).
Disney died on December 15th, 1966 in Burbank, California, at the age of 65, just before “The Jungle Book” was released. The Disney Organisation is still very much alive, though. Today, as well as films, it’s also responsible for two of America’s top tourist attractions – Disneyland (in California) and Disneyworld (in Florida). These “fantasy parks” receive millions of visitors every year. And why do they come? Because over sixty years after the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Disney” is still the best-loved name in children’s entertainment.
Disney’s films are still shown regularly at the cinema, and because of their timeless quality, will continue to be shown for years to come.
Disney World, Florida, is the biggest amusement resort in the world. It covers 24.4 thousand acres, and is twice the size of Manhattan. It was opened on October 1, 1971, five years after Walt Disney’s death, and it is a larger, slightly more ambitious version of Disneyland near Los Angeles. Foreigners tend to associate Walt Disney with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and with his other famous cartoon characters, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto, or with his nature films. It attracts people of most tastes and most income groups, and people of all ages, from toddlers to grandpas.
There are two expensive hotels, a golf court, and forest trails for horseback riding and rivers for canoeing. But the central attraction of the resort is the Magic Kingdom. Between the huge parking lots and the Magic Kingdom lies a broad artificial lake. In the distance rise the towers of Cinderella’s Castle. Every other building in the Kingdom is built of solid materials. Even getting to the Magic Kingdom is quite an adventure.
You have a choice of transportation. You can either cross the lake on a replica of a Mississippi paddle wheeler, or you can glide around the shore in a streamlined monorail train. When you reach the terminal, you walk straight into a little square that faces the Main Street. Main street is late 19th century. There are modern shops inside the buildings, but all the facades are of the period. There are hanging baskets full of red and white flowers, and there is no traffic except a horse – drawn streetcar and an ancient double – decker bus.
The magic Kingdom provides more than amusement. It instructs as well. Almost everywhere you go, there are models of people and animals. There is, for example, the Hall of Fame, which displays models of all American Presidents since George Washington. A feature of Disney World is that the models move and talk most realistically. The presidents talk, using the actual words they once used as living Presidents. Then there’s the Carousel of Progress, in which you follow the life of an American family through four generations, starting in the 1890s and finishing in 1970s.
There is much else to see: Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Fantasyland. You need two days to explore the Magic Kingdom property. But it is worth it – and it is very inexpensive.