On this day in 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy found the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood, California. The studio, now known as the Walt Disney Company, has had an oversized impact on the entertainment industry and is now one of the largest media companies in the world.
A talented artist from a young age, Walt Disney drew cartoons for various publications and became interested in cel animation while working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company. After his Laugh-O-Gram Studio went bankrupt in 1923, Walt moved to Los Angeles, where Roy was recovering from tuberculosis. While there, he finally sold a short film produced by Laugh-O-Gram, Alice’s Wonderland, and signed a contract to make six more such films. In order to produce the series, the brothers founded their company and persuaded both Virginia Davis, who played Alice, and their collaborator Ub Iwerks to join them in Hollywood.
After the success of the Alice Comedies and a series based on a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney began work on his most famous creation. With the 1929 release of Steamboat Willie, the world was introduced to Mickey Mouse. The character would go on to become one of, if not the most recognizable cartoons in history.
The popularity of the Mickey Mouse shorts convinced Disney his studio could produce a feature film, which he began to do in 1934. The project, which some dubbed “Disney’s Folly,” went 400 percent over budget and required over 300 animators, artists, and assistants, but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a smash hit when it debuted just before Christmas 1937.
Since then, the Walt Disney Company has produced dozens of groundbreaking and acclaimed films. It has evolved into a holding company for all manner of media and entertainment properties, opening theme parks across the world beginning in 1955 and acquiring dozens of companies in the '90s and 2000s. Disney now owns and operates ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm.
What began with a handful of animators producing short children’s cartoons is today one of the most iconic companies in the world. Disney original cartoons and feature films constitute some of the most popular and enduring entries in the American canon.
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