Saturday, December 08, 2007

Walt Disney: Emperor of Dreams

Who has never heard of Walt Disney? This world-famous cartoon director and businessman was born on 5 December 1901 in Chicago, IL. He is an icon in American culture, as will be shown in this blog entry.

Walt Elias Disney started his career as an advertising illustrator, but failing to meet the success he desired, he left his hometown to go to Hollywood. He founded a cartoon production company (known today as the Walt Disney Company), and a couple of years later, his Steamboat Willie made him famous, with its introduction of the character of Mickey Mouse. This film was the first in an endless series of worldwide-successful cartoons such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland – among many others.

But Disney’s interest lay not only in cartoons, but also in live-action movies: he most notably produced Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews. Disney also invested his money and his time in the creation of an amusement park in California, Disleyland. This theme park was designed in such a way that all American families could walk in a fantasy world that would remind everybody of his cartoons, for instance by getting lost in Alice in Wonderland’s labyrinth. As a philanthropist, he decided to create a new university, CalArts (short for California Institute of Arts), in order to promote the creativity of talented people who would probably become prominent in the arts.

Walt Disney died of lung cancer on 15 December 1966 — he was a heavy smoker. An urban legend says that Walt Disney was cryonically frozen, but he was actually cremated. Despite his death, his work was carried on by others, through the Walt Disney Company, which is now owned by his offspring. For example, several other theme parks were built in Florida, Tokyo and Paris. Even a Disney Cruise Line was opened in the Caribbean.

As far as the movie legacy is concerned, the Walt Disney Company went on to make not only many other successful cartoons such as The Beauty and the Beast, but also live-action films among which Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and hybrid forms mixing traditional animation with live action, e.g. Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The latter is the only film featuring characters from Disney and from Warner Bros. in the same frame.

For almost a dozen years, the Walt Disney Company has invested more and more money in computer-animated films, which notably resulted in the two Toy Story films. These were made by the Pixar Animation Studios, which are now owned by Disney. Their most recent released film is Ratatouille.

In conclusion, Walt Disney is considered as an important character in the American, but also world culture, which makes him a legend. His future-oriented empire is one of the most powerful, and it still has many wonderful stories to tell, making us wander in the utmost fantastic universe.

Simon Labate and Quentin Poncelet

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