Wednesday 8 May 2013

A Young Artist's Strength in Adversity

While Walt Disney is seen today as a successful entrepreneur, life was not always smooth sailing for him.  He had economic setbacks.  He had creative setbacks:  he lost the rights to Oswald the Rabbit and had to go right back to the drawing board.  He suffered from bouts of depression.  He lived through an artists' strike at his Burbank Studios.  

However, in response to every stumbling block, Walt dug his heels in and worked even harder.  The result was often better than expected.  Here are ten setbacks that Walt overcame in his lifetime.

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1.  At 13, Walt wished for a pair of boots for his birthday, but he never got them.  At Christmas, however, his mother gave him the boots he had been dreaming about.  He wore them downtown to show them off and by accident got his foot stuck in some ice.  A horse shoe nail pierced his boot and embedded in his foot.  For two weeks he was laid up while his foot healed during which he started sketching.  He had once dreamed of being a doctor or lawyer, but once the two weeks was up, he decided he wanted to be a professional cartoonist.

2.  Walt tried to get a job as a Kansas City newspaper cartoonist but one editor told him he "lacked ideas and had not imagination".  Later he was hired by another newspaper who recognized his raw talent.

Walt Disney at Laugh-O-Grams Desk

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3.  Walt Disney formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921.  However, he struggled so much he couldn't even pay the rent.  He survived on dog food at one point.  The company folded shortly thereafter.

4.  Walt created Oswald the Rabbit, a mildly successful character who was stolen from him by Universal.  The studio also hired his artists right from under his nose.  However, it was on a train ride home from New York City that Disney sketched a new character, Mickey Mouse (see "Disney's Doodle on a Train Ride" dated November 18, 2012.)

5.  MGM studios rejected young Walt's Mickey Mouse saying that women would be terrified of a giant mouse on the big screen.  Later , Steamboat Willie was well received in theaters.

Walt Disney Drawing Mickey Mouse

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6.  The Three Little Pigs was rejected at first since it had only four characters.  Later, it had such a long run at one theatre that someone sketched beards on the poster of the pigs.

7.  Walt lost a million dollars on the release of Pinocchio after he poured thousands of dollars into its special effects.  However, upon its re-release after World War II, Pinocchio did start to make money at the box office.  Also, it received Academy Awards for Best Musical Score and Best Song.

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8.  Walt never lived to see the success of Fantasia.  Movie goers thought it lacked a plot and children were scared off by the final scene of the devil damning the souls of the dead.  However, as of 2012, the movie has grossed over $76 million in domestic revenue.

9.  Bambi, first released in 1942, was not well received as people in the midst of a war did not want to watch a movie about a deer's love life.  Walt Disney's daughter Diane complained about Bambi's mother dying.  However, upon its re-release in 1947, it started to make money.

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10.  When Disneyland opened in 1955, 4000 printed invitations had been given out.  However, thousands more showed up with counterfeit tickets.  With the thermometre rising, the fountains broke down.  Many other mishaps took place.  However, within months, the amusement park was a resounding success.


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