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Walter Elias “Walt” Disney (1901–1966)
Back to Full Inductee List
Founder of Walt Disney Company
Walt Disney showed promise as an artist and creative force from a young age. As a young adult, he attended the Kansas City Art Institute for one year. In 1918, he joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps and, although he arrived in Europe just as World War I was ending, the time he spent in France made a lasting impression on him. Following his discharge, Disney settled in Kansas City, where he worked in a commercial art studio and later for a film ad company.

Unable to find satisfactory work in the film business, he and brother Roy moved to Hollywood in 1923, forming Laugh-O-Gram Films, which made animated commercials shown in local movie theaters. They began making cartoon shorts in a relative's garage. By 1927, the brothers had formed the Disney Brothers' Cartoon Studio. The following year the studio released "Steamboat Willie," starring Mickey Mouse in the first synchronized sound cartoon. And so began the life of the world's best-loved and most well-known character. With Mickey, Disney also had arrived.

The World War II years were difficult for the studio. It wasn't until the 1955 debut of TV shows "Disneyland" and "The Mickey Mouse Club," and the July 1955 opening of the Disneyland Theme Park, that Walt Disney Enterprises became financially successful. At that time, nobody, especially the Disney Board of Directors, thought that the theme park would succeed.

During Disney's lifetime he received 39 Oscars, four Emmy Awards, and more than 800 other awards. Disney paved the way in his industry by being the first to create the first full-color cartoon ("Flowers & Trees"), the first animated feature ("Snow White"), the first television series created by a major movie producer, and the first theme park.

Before Disney's untimely death in 1966 from lung cancer, he purchased land in Orlando, Florida, for Walt Disney World. While he did not live to see the completion of the park, he was instrumental in its planning. Walt Disney World quickly became one of the world's premier tourist vacation destinations. The various Disney theme parks set standards globally for theme parks and resort development with a variety of entertainment venues, hotels, restaurants, golf courses, campgrounds and shopping villages.

At the time of Disney's induction into the Hall of Honor, the Walt Disney Company had grown into a multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar empire that included not only theme parks, motion picture and television studios, but also a television network, cable and radio stations, newspaper and book publishing companies, record companies, travel divisions, a cruise line, retail stores, special effects and engineering firms, new media companies, and much more.
Disney saw himself as an entertainer and a man with a creative vision. He was involved in every step of his studio's creative processes, and he was always willing to risk his personal fortune on the success of a project. His unique contributions to the world, a stable of family entertainment standards, and a vision of the possibilities of the future, remain synonymous with his name.

1998 Inductee
Walter Elias “Walt” Disney