When you hear the name Disney, what comes to your mind? If you are like most people, you think of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney used a cartoon mouse to build an entertainment empire.
Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago on December 5, 1901. While he was still small, his family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. Walt's childhood there was happy until his father almost died from typhoid fever. He never fully recovered, and so the family moved to Kansas City in 1911.
With the help of his two sons, Walt's father bought a very successful newspaper route. In school Walt loved to act, but his best talent was drawing. In high school, he longed to help with World War I. In the summer of 1918, he lied about his age and signed up with the Red Cross to be an ambulance driver. He spent a year in France.
When he returned, he got a job as a commercial artist, but he was soon laid off. Walt formed a partnership with Ubbe Iwerks, another young artist who was laid off at the same time. They formed their own commercial art company. They remained lifelong friends. It was at this time that Walt fell in love with animation. He sold a series of short, funny movies called Laugh-O-Grams. He didn't make any money on them, but he was learning the business. Unfortunately, his company went bankrupt, and so he moved to California.
He set up a tiny studio in his Uncle Robert's garage. He sold his Alice's Wonderland cartoons and found himself back in business. He got his brother Roy to take over the finances. Together they launched Disney Brothers Studio in 1923. One of the young assistants he hired was Lillian Bounds. He married her a year later.