The roots of Disney animation studios stem from one character: Mickey Mouse. Walt’s creation in 1928 changed the trajectory of animation and motion pictures forever.

The Man Behind the Mouse

Walt Disney had a very turbulent childhood. His family was poor, and his father was extremely strict. So art quickly became an escape for Walt while growing up.

He would walk into the woods on their 48-acre farm with his art materials, sit at the base of a tall tree, and sketch for hours. He called it his Dreaming Tree. Walt would draw all the animals and insects that passed by as he sat in the tall grass. Then, when he returned home, he would show his sister the drawings and makeup stories to go along with them. 

His love for art led him toward a career in animation. 

via thedweebletter

Heartbreak before Mickey

At the start of Walt’s journey, he worked for Universal Pictures. With his brother and a group of other animators, they created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Unfortunately, the contract for Oswald did not give Walt Disney the rights to the character. Although the character was having a lot of success, Walt was devastated when he discovered that his team was being hired away from him behind his back. This eventually pushed Walt out of the picture completely.

During an interview in the documentary, Walt is defined as a true “hope from despair” story. His journey inspired many to pick themselves back up by their bootstraps and persist, no matter what life had in store.

A global icon

Despite losing everything, Walt’s inner spark never faded. Mickey Mouse jumped out of Walt’s mind and onto paper during a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood. At the time, he and his brother were under a lot of stress due to financial troubles. But Walt felt good about Mickey and wanted to start working on the first animation immediately. So they did just that and launched Mickey’s first short in Walt’s garage in Los Feliz, California.

When I learned this while watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but smile. It seems as though many successful artists, innovators, and designers launched their ‘big idea’ in their garages. 

It shows that it isn’t just about talent, but it’s about heart. Having the passion and courage to take a chance on yourself and your idea.

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Animated to send a message

One of Walt’s finest creations, Mickey Mouse, served as a beacon to thousands of adults and children during the Great Depression and World War II. His playful and friendly demeanor gave everyone something to look forward to. Parents would send their children to the theater once a week just to see Mickey. He returned people to a sense of perseverance during difficult times.

As the second World War unfolded, Walt wanted to support the government and military in their endeavors. He and his team of animators created Army and Navy instructional films and advertisements for war bond sales and encouraged people to have a sense of community. They even made some characters and content specifically for propaganda purposes. Yet, Walt held his chin high and felt pride in being a patriot. Mickey Mouse was on all fronts supporting and encouraging the American people.

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A pioneer in the animation industry

Walt Disney continued to chase his dreams well after the war. His team of animators grew and created groundbreaking films year after year. Walt even did the unthinkable and created a place where families could meet the mouse himself in a place called Disneyland. 

As a kid who grew up watching Mickey, Donald Duck, and Chip and Dale shorts, I was pleased to learn a lot from this documentary. I didn’t expect to be so touched by the impact of Mickey Mouse and the story of Walt Disney.

This production gave viewers a glimpse into Mickey’s origins and how he became a staple in the world of animation. 

I loved how the documentary oscillated between interviews, timeless animations, and audio clips from the past. I would never have guessed Walt would make a short with Hitler in it!

Overall, the producers did a great job with this tribute to Walt and his mouse. I would highly recommend this documentary to any Disney lover.

via giphy