How Disney Built America Recap for Dawn of the Animated Blockbuster

How Disney Built America Recap for The Birth of Mickey

How Disney Built America Recap for The Birth of Mickey

-How Disney Built America tells the story of how Mickey Mouse became one of the most iconic characters in history and how the company became one of the most recognized in the world.

-In 1927, Walt Disney was desperately trying to land a contract for his company. He began drawing a character….a rabbit.

-In the 1920s, cinema was becoming a huge part of entertainment. It allowed people to get the experience of theatre without having to travel into the big city.

-Animation was a huge part of the cinema world…starting as silent films as an opening before the real shows began.

-During this time Walt decided to marry his loves of film and drawing to make his own business. He struggled in the beginning, even living in his office before pitching his rabbit drawing to a big industry player. He wanted the rabbit to be relatable and before long, he and his brother Roy were given an offer to make shorts featuring the rabbit. Roy was unsure, especially when the rabbit was already named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt decided to go for it.

-Together with Ub Iwerks, they made Oswald come to life. However, there was a lot of tension between the men on how he should be featured.

-In September 1927, Oswald made his film debut. It set the stage for what Walt Disney would become today and also gave Universal its first animated star.

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-Money was pouring in for the Disney brothers, but there was tension when Walt began spending money on things like cars. Roy worried about this and told him to slow down.

-Things hit a snag when Walt felt Charles Mintz was taking advantage of him by lowballing him. Walts wants quit and take Oswald with him, but this goes against his contract. He can have the rights to Oswald or the studio, but not both. He opts to keep the studio.

-Walt knew he needed to come up with a new character. While on the train home with his wife Lillian, he began brainstorming ideas for a new character. It wasn’t until he got back home that Mortimer Mouse was born. He kept the design simple, using coins to draw the face and ears.

-Lillian suggested making him relatable, like Charles Lindbergh. Walt quickly changed the name to Mickey, who became the biggest icon in the world. Before long, he was creating shorts starring Mickey, but he needed a distributor.

-Walt and Roy struggle to get a distributor, mostly because Oswald was such a big hit. Roy wants to give up, but Walt decides to see The Jazz Singer again, which gave him the idea to give Mickey a voice….and add sound to the animation.

-His staff loves this idea and everyone gets to work on launching the first sound cartoon. It is a struggle, but Walt decides to risk it all on new technology…..and fails. They are out of money and Roy advises Walt to give it up. However, Walt is stubborn and decides to give it one last chance.

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-After selling everything, Walt gets the money to give it one last chance….using a bouncing ball to work in time with the recording. This gives them a two-week run in the Colony Theatre. Steamboat Willie would become the first cartoon to debut with sound.

-The short is a hit and before long, it is trying to be replicated by others, including Universal. Knowing he is going to have competition, Walt comes up with more ideas, including adding dialogue and other features….which would put him on the map.

-Despite the growing success, there was tension between Ub and Walt, with the latter trying to take credit for most of the work.

-The two men have a falling out, with Ub wanting to start his own business. However, the Great Depression puts a damper on this plans. Ironically. Walt thrives, due to his cartoons giving the country hope.

-Competition begins to rise with the advent of Betty Boop and Popeye, leaving Walt and his team trying to find more ideas for Mickey.

-After a few meetings, Donald Duck was born, putting Walt back on the map. Donald was a feisty character, giving the nation someone to relate to on a different level.

-Before long, more characters are born…..with Mickey becoming the face of the company and Disney becoming one of the most valuable companies in the world.


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Author: Sammi Turano
Sammi has been a journalist for over a decade, specializing in entertainment, lifestyle, sports and celebrity news. She is the owner of TVGrapevine and Football in High Heels and the Host of Grapevine in High Heels With Sammi.