Most people know the basics about Walt Disney. They know he created Mickey Mouse; produced the first animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and created Disneyland.
However, did you also know how truly humble Disney’s beginnings were? Or how many times he had to fail before he found the kind of success that led to him becoming the American icon we all know and love?
The truth is, there’s a lot about the legendary storyteller and producer that most people aren’t aware of. Some facts may surprise you, others may just strengthen your appreciation of his genius.
So, with KVibe’s feature film about Disney’s early life, Walt Before Mickey, less than a month from opening, we thought it’d be a perfect time to shed some light on some of the lesser-known facts about Walt Disney.
1. Walt dropped out of high school and forged a birth certificate to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps during WWI.
For more information on Walt’s early childhood, check out our recent post, Young Walt Disney – Walt Before Mickey, however, by the time the young Disney was in high school, WWI was well underway.
Wanting to do his part, he dropped out of school at 16 and, being that he was underage, had to forge a birth certificate to join the ambulance corps. He was sent to France and spent a year there after the armistice was signed, officially ending WWI.
2. Walt created the iconic character, Mortimer Mouse?
That’s right. Perhaps his most well-known creation, Mickey Mouse, was originally going to be named Mortimer.
The story goes that after Walt had a fallout with the producers of his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon and lost all rights to the character, he dreamt up his new mouse character on the train ride home, but not many know that it was his wife who told him to switch the name from Mortimer to Mickey simply because it sounded cuter. This part of Disney’s journey is covered in KVibe’s upcoming feature, Walt Before Mickey, so keep an eye out for it.
3. Walt’s last words were “Kurt Russell,” apparently.
While there is some contention over this fact, as many believe this was just one of a few things Walt was working on and writing about leading up to his death, there is no denying the fact that Disney did, in fact, jot down the then child actor’s name on a piece of paper soon before he died.
The actor himself was taken into Walt’s office after he died and shown the piece of paper with his name on it. Now why, exactly, he wrote that name down, specifically, before he died is unknown, although Russell had just signed a 10 year contract with the studio, so it was likely in reference to a future project.
4. Walt received the most Academy Awards and nominations in history.
Walt Disney was essentially the darling of the Academy Awards for a time, and no other artist has come close to receiving the kind of love the Academy showed him in his time.
Disney won 22 Academy Awards and was nominated a whopping 59 times between 1932 and 1969. The love didn’t stop there either, as three of his 22 awards were created specifically for Disney, one for Mickey, one for music in animation, and another for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
5. Walt’s dream project, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, almost never was.
When Walt first started telling people about his plans to make the story of Snow White into an animated feature film, most predicted utter failure, dubbing it “Disney’s folly.”
However, it there’s one thing we can all learn from Walt Disney it’s that dreams can come true, but that they don’t stand a chance of doing so if you listen to the naysayers and quit. So Walt pushed on, completed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the film was a huge success.
Our film about the legend, Walt Before Mickey, was similarly met with tremendous doubt during its development, but director and KVibe founder Khoa Le pushed on and completed the film. Walt would’ve been proud.
6. Walt almost created Disney… Mountain?
As if an empire of cartoons, films, merchandise, theme parks, etc., weren’t enough, Disney had another dream later in life: to build a ski resort.
He planned on developing the project near California’s Sequoia National Park and had already begun making moves to make it happen when he died in 1966. Rather than spread themselves too thin, his company decided to focus on the completion of Disney World instead of the ski resort and the project never came to fruition.
7. Walt was not frozen but cremated.
For a long time, many people thought that one of the most interesting facts about Walt Disney was that he was cryogenically frozen after his death. However, that is, in fact, false.
The first freezings of that kind took place a month or so after Disney’s death and he was, as per his wishes, cremated after his death.
What does all this tell us?
While some of these are just fun facts that would make great conversation starters at a party, these lesser known aspects of Walt’s life also tell us something about the icon. They reveal a bit about the man behind the legend and we can tell you, as longtime NJ / NY video production vets, that kind of information can be invaluable.
Even at an early age, when Walt set his mind on something, nothing could stop him, not even his own age. He was willing to listen to others to realize his dreams. He never gave up, always pushed on and took risks, and was awarded for his efforts, time and time again.
And while the whole cryogenically frozen thing is, in fact, just a big misunderstanding, it’s also a testament to Disney’s spirit.
Walt Disney was a genuinely intriguing character, much like the ones he spent a lifetime creating. He had an undeniable magic about him that led people to believe that he could, one day, return to create more unforgettable characters and stories.
We may now know that’s not true, but one can dream, right?
About Us: KVibe Productions is a full-service NY / NJ film & video production company. Whether you need a commercial video production, a corporate video production, or a feature film, KVibe Productions can take you every step of the way, from development through distribution, and at KVibe, we create to inspire.