1. Disneyland is in his hand. Walt Disney came up with the idea for a new kind of amusement park when he was sitting on a bench and watched his children ride on a merry-go-round in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, wishing there was a place children and adults could enjoy equally, together. That park bench is currently now on display at Disneyland’s Opera House.
2. Mickey Mouse was named after Disney’s wife. Walt originally named the first cartoon character Mortimer Mouse, but his wife Lily said that name was “pompous” and she suggested the cuter name “Mickey.”
Oswald was the first choice of him. Walt’s first big hit was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but it was sold to Universal in 1927. 79 years later, NBC (which is owned by Universal) wanted to hire sportscaster Al Michaels for their newly acquired Sunday Night Football. Michaels, though, was under contract with ESPN, which is owned by– Disney. Luckily, the two were able to come to a fair trade: a sportscaster for a rabbit.
3. Disneyland’s Main Street. He would like to spend the night and days above the firehouse. The apartment still exists just as it was saved for some replaced furniture complete with Walt’s papers as he left them on his desk.
4. Women were not allowed to be animators. Not that this was an unusual practice in 1938, but as was stated in no uncertain terms to a woman applying for a spot in the animation training school “women do not do creative work.”
5.Hotdogs were his distance measurement. He was notorious for his attention to detail. Fact: Trash cans at Disney World have placed 25 steps away from hot dog stands since that was how long it took him to eat a hot dog. Mickey’ Mouse’s first words were in The Karnival Kid in 1929. In fact, those were the first words ever to be spoken by an animated character. Those words? “Hot dog!”
6. Walt Disney had no facial hair policy. Employees couldn’t grow facial hair until 2012 and even now it must keep shorter than 1/4 inch, but the policy used to extend even to guests. Until 1970, beards, mustaches, and long hair on men (and halter tops on women) would get them kicked out of the park. In fact, Jim McGuinn, future founder of the band The Byrds was refused entry simply for having a Beatles-style mop top. What makes this especially odd is that Walt himself had a mustache from the age of 25 on.
7. He got extra Oscars. In 1938, for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he was presented one regular (honorary) Academy Award and seven miniature statues
8. He was the inspiration for Wall-E. Well, at least in the name. The robot’s moniker in a reference to Walter Elias Disney.
9. In fact, most of Disney’s California Adventure is an homage to the man himself. The park’s Buena Vista street (sort of the DCA equivalent of Disneyland’s Main Street) is modeled after Los Angeles in 1923, the year Walt arrived in the city.
10. He did what no one else could. Legally speaking. For a few years in the 1930s, Walt Disney held the exclusive contract for Technicolor, making him the only animator allowed to make color films. He changed the lives of so many people. Though maybe none more than his own housekeeper. His live-in housekeeper, Thelma Howard, served his family for 30 years, and he would give her Disney shares as holiday bonuses. When she died in 1994, her estate was found to be worth more than $9 million. Half of that went to her son, and the rest, having herself grown up in extreme poverty, went to help homeless and disadvantaged children.
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