Writer and recording artist Don McLean wrote the song American Pie, released in 1971, in which he mourned "the day the music died," referring to Buddy Holly's death in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959. Using the same metaphor, I suppose that tomorrow, Dec. 15, might be known as the 45th anniversary of "the day the magic died," or perhaps, "the day the laughter died," or yet again, "the day the fantasy died."
Call it what you will, on Dec. 15, 1966, Walter Elias Disney died of lung cancer at the much-too-young age of 65.
Walt Disney was an American icon who went from hardscrabble days of his childhood to heading one of the greatest entertainment empires of all time. His films, cartoons, documentaries and short subjects carried positive messages to audiences of all ages. But his greatest accomplishment was to put fairy dust into the minds of millions of children all over the world.
Walt was born on Dec. 5, 1901, in Chicago, one of five children of Elias and Flora Disney. Elias moved the family to Marceline, Mo., when Walt was about 5 years old. That north-central Missouri farming community was Walt's haven until the family moved to Kansas City in 1910. In later years he wrote: "Everything connected with Marceline was a thrill to us. ... To tell the truth, more things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have ever happened since -- or are likely to in the future."
By the time he entered high school, Walt's family was back in Chicago, and he was already honing his natural talent as an artist in night classes at the Chicago Art Institute.
Disney dropped out of school, intending to join the Army and serve in World War I, but at the age of only 16, he was too young. After his mother forged a change in his birth certificate to say he was born in 1900, Walt was accepted into the Red Cross. For the next year, he drove a Red Cross ambulance in France and adorned its canvas walls with Disney characters.
After the war, Walt and a friend opened a commercial art business in Kansas City, but it quickly failed. Walt moved to Hollywood with $40 in his wallet and an unfinished cartoon in his suitcase. Enlisting his brother Roy, who lived in Los Angeles, as moral support and financial backer, the two formed Disney Studios.
After several successes and failures, Walt conceived the idea of a new character -- a mouse named Mickey. After two silent cartoons featuring the whimsical rodent, Mickey Mouse was featured in the first animated talkie, Steamboat Willie, which debuted on Nov. 18, 1928.
Along with the growing success of Disney Studios, there was another change in Walt's life: On July 13, 1925, he married Lillian Bounds, one of the studio's first employees. Walt and Lillian had a daughter, Diane, born in 1933. They then adopted a second daughter, Sharon, a year later.
Walt was known as the consummate father and family man. He wasn't a Hollywood socialite, preferring dinner at home with his wife and daughters to cocktail parties. His daughter Diane once said about him: "Daddy never missed a father's function no matter how I discounted it. I'd say, 'Oh, Daddy, you don't need to come. It's just some stupid thing.' But he'd always be there, on time."
Perhaps Walt's biggest gamble was when the studio spent nearly $1.5 million in the depths of the Great Depression to produce the world's first full-length animated musical movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When the feature premiered on Dec. 21, 1937, it was hailed as one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of motion pictures. The film brought in over $8 million -- the equivalent of more than $100 million today.
The success of Snow White birthed other animated full-length features like Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi and Dumbo, not to mention cartoon/short characters like Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto, but it also brought about one of the great tragedies of Walt's life. Buoyed by the movie's income, Walt and Roy bought their parents a new home close to the studios in 1938. Less than a month later, their mother, Flora Disney, died from asphyxiation caused by a faulty furnace. Flora had been one of Walt's chief cheerleaders during the tough years. In Walt's mind, his success had become a contributing factor to her death, and the guilt stayed with him for the rest of his life.
In 1950, Walt ventured into television with his first special, One Hour in Wonderland. In 1954, a weekly TV program, Disneyland, premiered on ABC. Walt used the new medium to familiarize the public with his new venture, a theme park in Anaheim, Calif., by the same name. Disneyland, the first of what would become a growing empire of amusement parks around the world, opened in 1955. That same year, the studio debuted The Mickey Mouse Club, a daily children's show that became wildly popular with baby boomers. (I used to rush home from school every day to see this show, followed by another vey popular show of the time, The Shirley Temple Hour)
The television show carried many names over the years. It became Walt Disney Presents in 1958. It later became Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color in 1961 after the advent of color TV technology. Its final name, The Wonderful World of Disney was actually the second time it carried that moniker. The first was from 1969 to 1979; the last was from 1997 until its final show in 2008.
I would not have room here to list all the great films created by Disney Studios. Where would I draw the line? Mary Poppins, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lady and the Tramp, The Parent Trap, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier -- these are just a few of my long list of favorite Disney movies.
I will never forget the day that Walt Disney died. It was like I had lost an old friend. But, more than that, I wondered who would bring the magic, the laughter, the fantasy and the fairy dust to the children of the next generations. Yes, I know that Disney Studios continues to grind out entertainment for today's youngsters, but nobody does it as good as Walt once did.
That revelation seems more evident to me now more than ever 45 years after his death.
Here are some helpful links if you would like to read more about Walt Disney:
Walt Disney, Biography
Walt Disney - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article was sent to me today and I thought it was very good so wanted to share it. Have no idea who wrote it however I beleive it came from the subscription of articles called - The Good Old Days. Hope you enjoy this although it isn't exactly what one would expect given it's topic. Personally I can understand the premis of The Day The Magic Died, Disney Productions has never been the same IMHO since the man himself passed away and this coming from a baby boomer who has seen both era's of the productions. Personally I think that whle most Disney things are still great, they seem to have lost thier sence of magic and wonder.