Walt Disney was one of the most successful movie producers in American history. He was also the founder of the Disney empire. Disney was born near Chicago in 1901. Before the age of ten, his family moved to Missouri and then Kansas. After serving in the Red Cross in World War I, Disney moved to Kansas City and started his first company—Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. Although his company failed, Disney began working on animations for a Kansas City film advertisement firm.
In 1923, after producing short cartoons based on fairy tales for his second company, Laugh-O-Grams, Disney moved to Hollywood, California. Disney immediately started a studio, which by 1928 was named Walt Disney Productions. Soon, Disney began creating memorable characters like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In 1929, Disney produced Steamboat Willie, a silent film which included the timeless Mickey Mouse. Mickey would soon become the most popular animated character on screen, and Disney productions produced the first animated movies in color. Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy were created after Disney received an Academy Award in 1935. Three years later, Disney produced the first full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, followed by Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi. After World War II, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan were made into animated movies. In 1955, Disney produced The Mickey Mouse Club, the company’s first regular TV show. On July 17, 1955, Disney opened Disneyland in California, which was followed by Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in 1971, eight years after his death. In 1982, Disney opened Epcot Center near Disney World in Orlando. Today, Disney is the world’s leading producer of family entertainment—a multibillion dollar empire that owns production studios, theme parks, scores of hotels, record labels, and cable television networks.