1901 was an eventful year by any measure. Queen Victoria died, President McKinley was assassinated, and Guglielmo Marconi received the first successful telegraph transmissions. The world was at the cusp a new century, and belief in progress was riding high.
And on December 5 of that year, one more world-changing event occurred. In Chicago, a baby was born and named after his family pastor. Although no one guessed it at the time, little Walter Elias Disney was going to spend a lifetime pushing the boundaries of magic and imagination. Now it's almost impossible to imagine the past century or so without his contributions. No Walt Disney World? No "Mary Poppins"? No Mickey Mouse!?
Today Disney.com has prepared a special tribute to Walt for the anniversary of his birth (just visit the Disney.com home page and see what you find!), and we thought it would be fun to look at just a few of the ways Walt changed our world.
Before Disney, there were cartoons -- short, funny snippets of animation that ran in movie theaters to fill time before the main attraction. When Walt decided to attempt a full-length movie, entirely created in animation, people (including some in his own company) thought the idea was crazy. No one would sit through a cartoon that lasted well over an hour! But Walt's vision won through and in 1937, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" truly revolutionized the art of moviemaking. A critical and commercial smash, the movie proved that animation could be used to tell a complex and emotionally moving story. The animated films that have followed, from "Pinocchio" to Disney-Pixar's "Up," were all made possible by one man's vision.
Once upon a time, amusement parks were little more than beer gardens -- a little dirty, a little rowdy, and no place to take small children. Walt Disney wanted a park where he could take his own little girls, and dreamed up Disneyland Park. It's hard now to realize just how revolutionary Disneyland was -- scrupulously clean, beautifully landscaped, with every detail created to delight children (and the child in us all). It was never just a collection of "rides," but a series of lands that Guests could enter, virtual dreams come true. This "theming" has shaped the Disney Parks around the world and transformed Guests' expectations for what a theme park should be.
The idea of robotics didn't originate with Walt, of course -- but his innovations in "Audio-Animatronics," the startlingly lifelike Characters we see in Disney Theme Parks and parades, have helped spark the imagination of generations of Guests who've encountered them, and raise public interest in the possibilities of such technology in the future. Who knows how many future scientists have been inspired by a youthful viewing of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln?
The Mickey Mouse Club
The '50s were almost defined by Walt's pioneering show mixing real kids, music, and fun. As one of the first programs intended for older children, it bridged the gap between "little kid" shows and adult entertainment.
Walt's animated hero quickly became, and remains, one of the most recognizable personalities in the world, and a symbol for friendship, pluck, and fun who has brought happiness to millions.
A world without Walt would truly have been a less inspiring and exciting place. We all have a lot to celebrate today!
*From The Disney Insider