Walt Disney’s New World of Mass Media

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ClubIt’s no doubt that creating a family oriented theme park based on popular, beloved cartoon characters and imagination was a good idea. From Cinderella’s castle to the famous Main Street, U. S. A, there’s something extraordinary lying around every corner. Walt Disney World, other wise known as “the happiest place on earth”, or the place “where dreams come true”, was founded by a man with a dream of creating a place where children and parents could spend time together while making amazing memories. However, this extravagant amusement park is only one of the major accomplishments of Walt Disney.

Walt Disney’s greatest achievement is the impact he made on America’s mass media industry. Disney took his talent for art and design to the next level, bringing about advances in almost every type of media imaginable. Through his creation of various films, cartoon animations and creative engineering, Walt Disney inspired astonishing changes throughout the entertainment industry. Walt Disney’s love for art started at a very young age. At seven, he began selling his drawings to his neighbors and painting the sides of his house (Harmon 94).

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In high school, Disney took multiple classes in drawing and photography, and was a cartoonist for his school newspaper (Harmon 94). After his regular school day Disney took art courses at the Chicago Art Institute, in hopes of becoming a better artist (Harmon 94). Walt Disney’s career plan at the time was to become a newspaper artist, which later guided him into animation (Harmon 94). Walt’s older brother, Roy Disney, was one of his main supporters. After Disney’s first short animated film fell through, Roy decided to step in financially (Harmon 94).

This allowed Disney to buy the resources he needed and set up a studio in his uncle’s garage (Bariscale). Disney built his own animation stand for his camera to put in the studio and a demo reel to hold his creations (Bariscale). This was useful for when he had to pitch ideas to theater owners. Thanks to the support from the Disney family Walt had the ability to get a start on his business. Soon after he began work, Disney’s short series “Alice Comedies” were contracted and Walt’s company became known as “The Disney Brothers Studio” (Harmon 94). This was just the beginning of Walt Disney’s animation success.

The most well known character created by Disney was born in 1928 (Telotte 133). Mickey Mouse made his debut on the short film, Plane Crazy (Telotte 134). This short film was all about Mickey attempting to get a kiss from his girlfriend, Minnie Mouse while the two were on a plane (Plane Crazy). However, Mickey didn’t actually become a hit with the audience until Steamboat Willie, which was shown at the Colony Theatre in New York City, six months after Plane Crazy (Telotte 134). Steamboat Willie was the first animation to use sound successfully (McLaughlin).

Perhaps the new introduction of synchronized sound is what peaked the interest of the public and attracted the attention of the press. Mickey’s sound debut brought in millions of new fans for Disney films. Shortly after, Disney introduced Mickey’s friends, Pluto, Goofy and Donald. The group made their first appearance in Disney’s short film, The Band Concert. The Band Concert features Mickey and all of his friends trying to pull a performance together during a crazy tornado. This Band Concert was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon Disney released in Technicolor (Telotte 134).

The colors used in the film marked the trademark looks of the characters, introducing the signature red of Mickey Mouse. Few other cartoons were produced in color at the time The Band Concert was released (Telotte 134). With the advantage of sound and color, Disney animation was at the head of the game. It’s safe to say that as Mickey’s character became more advanced the audience became more engaged. Another Disney first was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White was the earliest of Walt Disney’s famous feature-length, animated films (Aloff 239). The film produced almost 1. 5 million dollars, even during the depression (Aloff 239).

Although Snow White isn’t anything remarkable with today’s computer-generated graphics, the hand-drawn film was groundbreaking at the time. The high profit from Snow White inspired Disney to relocate and expand his studio in order to facilitate all of his animation needs (Wingert). This upcoming state-of-the-art studio would open up several new opportunities for the Disney Company. The new studio was located in Burbanks, California and consisted of several buildings, creating what came to be known as The Walt Disney Studios (Barrier 188). The studios were designed specifically for animated motion picture production (Watts 183).

There were separate buildings for animation, cutting, inking and painting, and cameras. Separating the different stages of filmmaking allowed the professionals in each area to have their own common workplace. (Watts 183) Soon enough, major motion pictures such as Bambi, Peter Pan and Cinderella were produced in the studios (Barrier 188). Animation however was just the beginning for Disney. He also had a love for engineering. Disney combined his love for engineering and imagination, and decided to call himself an “imagineer” (Dehrer 37). This unique combination of artistic and developmental skills was what made Disney’s works so successful.

Soon enough, Walt Disney’s “Imagineering” skills allowed him to create one of the most visited theme parks in America. The inspiration to build a Disneyland theme park came from Disney’s terrible experiences at zoos and amusement parks with his daughters. Disney’s family-friendly instinct led him to construct a unique amusement park suitable for children and families (Miller 81). Determined to build Disneyland, Disney went as far as to borrow the money out of his life insurance, despite his brother Roy’s disapproval (Miller 81). Once Disney had all of his resources and plans collected he was ready to start constructing his dream theme park.

In order to create Disneyland, Disney founded WED (Walter Elias Disney) Enterprises, or better known as the Walt Disney Imagineers (Dehrer 37). The group was in charge of creating and constructing the Disneyland Theme Park. The first group consisted of almost 200 members with various job titles including graphic designers, architects, lighting designers, engineers, show writers and illustrators (Dehrer 38). These individuals worked together to plan and create the park’s media, such as live shows and park maps (Dehrer 38). Disneyland opened in June 1955 to a very eager and large crowd ready to explore the new land of Disney magic (Neuman 83).

The park is located in Anaheim, California and consists of five different areas throughout the park: Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Adventureland. Each area includes different rides and attractions. Just through the entrance of Disneyland is Main Street USA, which leads to the center of the park where you will find Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Along the way there are multiple shops, restaurants and venders. After exploring Sleeping Beauty’s castle, visitors may chose to experience Tomorrowland, which features rides and attractions that take them into Walt Disney’s version of the future.

From there, guest can make their way to Frontierland, which offers rides and attractions with an old western theme. Next, sightseers can visit Fantasyland to meet and greet with some of Disney’s most famous characters. Finally as the day comes to an end, guests can adventure on into Adventureland and explore nature and wildlife. It’s no wonder the Disney dream park took off quickly and gained thousands of visitors each day (Fischer). From day one, Disneyland seemed to attract quite a bit of attention. Among Disney’s accomplishments is the premiere of the Disneyland television show on ABC.

The show had a special airing, which covered the opening of the Disneyland theme park (Fischer). The new show featured some of Walt Disney’s older animations, and Disney himself originally hosted the program (Wingert). The Disneyland show sparked the Davy Crockett fad during the 1950’s (Wingert). The special coverage featured several special guests, including Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney himself (Wingert). The Disneyland show was only the beginning of Disney television programming. Shortly thereafter, other Disney shows began to appear all over television networks. A year later, the Mickey Mouse Club appeared on ABC (Polsson).

The show was created by Walt Disney and produced by Walt Disney Productions (Polsson). The Mickey Mouse Club was completely different then the Disneyland show, made up of pre-teen performers, and of course, Mickey Mouse. This show targeted the younger viewers and soon became one of the top watched programs on television (Polsson). The television publicity didn’t stop Disney from moving on to new ideas. Soon, Disney was ready to invent a brand new theme park to add to his long list of accomplishments. After the creation of Disneyland in California, Walt Disney decided to take his dream theme park to the next level.

Disney’s idea was to open a new, more magical resort in Florida (Bennett). This park was going to be bigger than Disneyland with many more attractions. The new plan included building resorts and water parks as well as the four separate theme parks that would make up Walt Disney World (Bennett). Unfortunately, Walt Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1966 and died before Disney World was complete (Harmon 98). Upon his brother’s death Roy Disney stepped in to finish out the plans for the new theme park (Harmon 98). Between Roy and the Imagineers the park came together somewhat quickly (Griffiths 1).

The Disney World theme park is commonly known as Disney’s greatest accomplishment. Disney World opened on October 1st, 1971 with an estimated 200,000 guests (Griffiths). Disney World’s four different theme parks include: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios (known today as Hollywood studios) and EPCOT. Disney World has resorts and waterparks as well as the theme parks. Although Disney World was and still is a huge success, all of Disney’s ideas didn’t turn out as he had originally planned. A prime example is Disney’s EPCOT (Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow).

EPCOT is known for it’s futuristic design and theme of a new tomorrow. Attractions, shops and restaurants inside the park all are based around Disney’s visions of the upcoming centuries. However, Disney’s real idea was to make the park a place for a selected group of people to live and try new experiments to help shape the future (Barthe 1). However, WED enterprises decided to change EPCOT because of the high expenses to a more guest-appealing park with attractions and thrill rides (Barthe 1). If EPCOT had been left in Disney’s original plans the park could have either been a major success or a total flop.

Although visitors will never know what EPCOT might have been like, the thousands of guests who visit the park daily suggests that EPCOT is a great addition to Disney World. Unlike Epcot, the other theme parks of Disney World stuck mainly to Walt Disney’s original plans. The theme park most commonly associated with Disney World is the Magic Kingdom, which is somewhat a replica of Disneyland in California. Like Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom has the five different areas (Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Adventureland). The Magic Kingdom is home to Cinderella’s castle rather than Sleeping Beauty’s castle n Disneyland (Walt Disney World Resort in Florida). Nevertheless, the three other theme parks possess little similarities to Disneyland. Animal Kingdom can be thought of as the Disney Zoo, housing over 1,700 animals (Walt Disney World Resort in Florida). However, the main attraction in Animal Kingdom is the “Tree of Life”. This is the symbol of the theme park, similar to that of the EPCOT geodesic dome (Walt Disney World Resort in Florida). In Animal Kingdom, guests can take a ride on a safari or a dinosaur chasing roller coaster. This theme park is perfect for the animal lovers of the family.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or formally known as MGM Studios, displays the glamour of Hollywood and features attractions based on Walt Disney’s life and his career in cinematography (Walt Disney World Resort in Florida). This Disney theme park includes a rock’n’roll roller coasterand a live action stunt show. In my opinion, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the most thrilling theme park that Disney World has to offer. In spite of Walt Disney’s death, his legacy continued to grow. The Disney name began to appear everywhere, especially on television. Disney debuted its own network television station in spring 1983 (Baltes 1).

The Disney Channel aired The All New Mickey Mouse Club, which differed from the original because of the new cast of future stars such as, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera (Baltes 1). The channel became a huge hit for children, offering a variety of shows for each age group from toddlers to teens (Baltes 1). The Disney Channel recently became so widely popular that it Disney Junior became a new channel all on its own, replacing SOAPnet on cable television (Baltes 1). If you flip through the channels on your television right now, it’s likely you may find several channels that relates back to Disney.

While The Mickey Mouse Club isn’t around anymore, the Disney Channel offers similar shows related to musical tweens such as Hannah Montana and Shake it Up. Mickey Mouse himself even stars in his own educational show for toddlers, The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. This show teaches basic skills and values to children, which brings back Disney’s original ideas of creating family-friendly animations. Later, In 2006 Disney decided to expand their animation company even further by purchasing Pixar Animations Studios. (Fried 1) The collaboration combined the different techniques of the two studios.

The digital art of Pixar and the pen and ink approach promoted by Walt Disney brought a whole new approach to creating animated films. (Fried 1) Together, Disney-Pixar produced hit movies such as Cars, Up and Brave. (Fried 1) The combined companies are still working together today, creating many upcoming films for year 2013. Although there was strong controversy in the beginning, the success of Disney-Pixar proves the studios made the best decision. Whether you’re out shopping, watching television, or surfing the Internet looking for your next vacation spot, there’s something Disney around every corner.

Walt Disney’s company took off after his first animation and is still expanding. Disney changed the mass media industry entirely. Without Walt Disney the advancements in print cartoons, soundtracks, movies and television may have never came about. As Disney once said “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” Works Cited King, Margaret J. “Walt Disney: Conversations By Kathy Merlock Jackson, Editor. ” Journal Of American Culture 30. 2 (2007): 266-268. Academic Search Premier.

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