Believe It or Not, Walt Disney Began in a Tiny Office in L.A.

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Walt Disney
The Walt Disney Company in the 1920s in front of their studio. Walt Disney is the sixth from the right (source: New York Film Academy)

Back in 1923 in a tiny shared office with Holly-Vermont Realty in Los Angeles, Walt Disney started something big. 

This is where the iconic trademark name “Disney” began.

In that office, which cost just $10 a month, Disney and his brother Roy made a series of live-action and animated short films called “Alice Comedies”. After just four months, what would become known as The Walt Disney Company moved out of the small office space into a larger space next door.  

They didn’t slow down either. Just a year after that in 1925, the company built their own studio in L.A. and from there, many famous characters were created: Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and many more.

“Mickey Mouse popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner,” Disney said.

Disney and his chief animator, Ub Iwerks, designed Mickey Mouse, giving him a lovable personality. Iwerks animated two Mickey Mouse cartoons, but no one bought them because they were silent films — sound had started changing the landscape of the film industry.

So they had only one choice — make a cartoon with sound. And that’s what they did. Steamboat Willie came out November 18, 1928 at a theater in New York. That’s when Mickey found his stardom. It was an instant hit, and the Mickey Mouse films started pouring forth.

Walt Disney has changed the world with his innovative movies. His first full-length animation, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, was a smashing success. It was so successful that they had to make their studio bigger! And the profit from SWATSD was so large that he could afford to make renovations and additions, including 51 acres of land in Burbank. That is where he built a state-of-the-art studio designed specifically to make animated movies.

What movies did they make in that studio? Oh, only Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.

Then came World War II. In 1940, Disney released Pinocchio and Fantasia, two films considered masterpieces today. In the end these two projects proved too expensive for the company. Because of the war, Disney lost a lot of its foreign markets. A year later in 1941 came the release of Dumbo and Bambi in 1942 — both films cost a pretty penny.

So Disney made war propaganda for the U.S. State Department and a couple films that didn’t do too well.

But the message here is that Disney and his crew stuck to it.

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them,” Disney said once.

He sure was a dreamer. He also said, “If you can dream it, you can do it,” “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” and “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

He sure did a lot of doing.

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