Walter Elias Disney was an American animator, film producer and entrepreneur. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of cartoons. As a film producer, he holds the record for most Academy Awards earned and nominations by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. He was presented with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award, among other honors.
Born in Chicago in 1901, Disney developed an early interest in drawing. He took art classes as a boy and got a job as a commercial illustrator at the age of 18. He moved to California in the early 1920s and set up the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928, his first highly popular success; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years.
As the studio grew, he became more aventurous, introducing synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, feature-length cartoons and technical developments in cameras. The results, seen in features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio, Fantasia (both 1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942).
New animated and live-action films followed after World War II, including Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards.
In the 1950s, Disney expanded into the amusement park industry, and in July 1955 he opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California. To fund the project he diversified into television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World.
Disney was a shy person in private but adopted a warm and outgoing public persona. He remains an important figure in the history of animation and in the cultural history of the United States, where he is considered a national cultural icon. His film work continues to be shown and adapted and the Disney theme parks have grown in size and number to attract visitors in several countries.