Celebrating a Century of Magic: Disney’s 100th Anniversary

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Walt Disney Company on October 16th, 1923 by Walt and Roy Disney, we will unravel the story of the Walt Disney Company, a tale of humble beginnings and unwavering commitment that allowed a man to follow his dreams and create a world that would entertain generations for years to come.

The Early Years

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5th, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois to parents Elias and Flora Disney. From a young age, Disney was interested in drawing, and took numerous art classes at local schools during his young life. In 1919, Disney began to work at art studios and local papers, where he met his fellow colleague and friend Ub Iwerks. Disney and Iwerks would go on to establish Laugh-O-Gram Studio, where they began to animate a series called Alice’s Wonderland. After the bankruptcy of Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Disney moved to Los Angeles, where he sold the short film Alice’s Wonderland produced by Laugh-O-Gram Studio to Margaret J. Winkler. Winkler was a prominent producer of animated films and bought the rights to Alice’s Wonderland with an option for six more episodes. With this new found success, Walt Disney and his brother Roy Disney established The Walt Disney Company. Iwerks would later join Disney in Los Angeles to continue his work on the Alice series. After the end of the Alice series, Disney would created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was owned and distributed by Universal Pictures. After being denied a wage increase for himself and his animators, Disney had to release the rights of Oswald to Universal Pictures.

The Man and the Mouse

To recover from losing the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney developed a new animated character named “Mortimer Mouse.” Disney’s wife, Lillian, felt that Mortimer was not an attractive name, and suggested the name Mickey. With some revisions to Disney’s original sketches made by Iwerks to make the cartoon easier to animate, the iconic character of Mickey Mouse was created. Inspired by the 1927 hit, The Jazz Singer, Disney used synchronized sound to create the first sound cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse called Steamboat Willie. At this time, Disney was distancing himself from animation, and ultimately provided the voice of Mickey in his cartoons until 1947. Disney and Iwerks would later go on to create such beloved characters as Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck. In 1933, Disney’s cartoon The Three Little Pigs won an Oscar in the Short Subject (Cartoon) category, solidifying Disney’s place in animation and entertainment history.

100 Years Later: A Lasting Legacy

The legacy of Walt Disney and his work can be seen clearly today through the continual success of The Walt Disney Company. The films produced by Disney continue to win high accolades almost annually, with their latest success lying in Black Panther: Wakanda Foever and Avatar: The Way of Water, both films winning Oscar Awards at the 2023 ceremony. Not only does Disney’s legacy lie in his films, but they also can be seen in the Disney Theme Parks that have continued to expand since their initial development. Disneyland, established by Disney himself in 1955 in Anaheim California, now boasts two separate parks as well as resort hotels on the property. Established in 1971, Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida, has become one of most popular theme parks in the world, attracting over 58 million visitors annually. While we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of a foundational element in our culture, I feel that only Walt Disney himself can accurately describe the reasons for the great success of the Walt Disney Company: “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”


A&E Television Networks. (n.d.). Walt Disney Company is founded | October 16, 1923. History.com. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/walt-disney-company-founded

Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, October 16). Walt Disney. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney


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