Celebrating 120 years of influential Walt Disney

Where would we be without our cinematic oval-eared overlords at Disney? The modern landscape of cinema is decorated with its impact at every turn, from Marvel’s behemoth superhero franchise to Star Wars’ empire teetering at the iconic animation studio that continues to produce pop culture classics and countless merchandise. However, the modern Disney dynasty took many years to flourish, battling many years of hardship as it grew from humble beginnings to a simple animation studio.

Although Disney’s very first feature film is considered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in fact, animator Walt Disney’s debut was the short titled Alice’s Wonderland a partially animated film starring young actor Virginia Davis. After his own studio behind the project, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, went bankrupt in 1923, Disney moved to Hollywood to join his brother Roy who quickly formed Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and made a name for himself creating d other animated adventures of Alice.

Changing its name to the now iconic Walt Disney Studio, the company struggled to take off as it suffered financial loss with its next business Oswald the lucky rabbit, before creating the mouse character Mortimer on a train trip to California. Under the revised character name Mickey Mouse, Disney released their first sound film featuring the new character in 1928, Steamship Willie.

Immediate cinematic feel thanks to the synchronization of sound and animation unprecedented in cinema, the Disney brothers started the Stupid symphony series in 1929 which saw the popularization of the character of Mickey Mouse alongside the introduction of a comic book of the character. In December 1929, the company was recognized as a corporation with a merchandising division, record label and more. The popularity of the Mickey Mouse series enabled the company to plan its first animated feature film in 1937 after experiencing years of successful animation under a new Technicolor palette.

Soon Disney released their very first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, becoming the highest grossing film of the era in 1939. As pioneers of this art form, the impact of the film’s release would not really be realized for a generation to come as Disney launched itself. in a flurry of movie releases, including Pinocchio, Fancy, Dumbo and Bambi which would cement their impact on a 20th century cinematic landscape.

Such success continued after World War II, as Disney proved that audiences’ appetites were still whetted by a thirst for animation, releasing Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan in the 1950s. This led to the creation of Disneyland on July 18, 1955, a relatively new concept that began to develop rapidly and attract visitors from around the world soon after it officially opened. While the quality of Walt Disney films may fluctuate from decade to decade, Disneyland is the one brand constant acting as an everlasting totem pole of brand power and importance and cinematic empire.

As the company continued to grow and expand its empire, Disney morphed into a media conglomerate that eclipsed the initial expectations of the fraternal duo. Died on December 15, 1966, the cinematic legacy that Walt Disney left upon his death is truly unprecedented, with his name still having a great influence on House of Mice fans around the world.

A humble and valued person, Walt Disney insisted on standing in line like all the guests at his park when he visited Disneyland, a token of his honesty and respect for those who helped him achieve his dreams. One wonders what the same man would do with the media empire into which his small animation company has mutated, especially with its contemporary stranglehold on modern industry.

While the modern landscape of the Disney nightmare may be unsavory, there is no doubt that the early works of the pioneering master of animation, Walt Disney, helped create a whole new form of film art.

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