Disney Studios: The Early Days
Disneyland® Park has been a beloved theme park vacation spot since 1955, but the Walt Disney Company has roots as far back at 1923. Having started in the back of a Los Angeles Realtors office, brothers Walt and Roy Disney started their empire with a short-lived series called Alice Comedies. The first theatrical release was Alice’s Wonderland, produced under the company’s original name, Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio—a name that only lasted three years when the brothers officially changed the name to The Walt Disney Studio in 1926.
The Birth of Mickey Mouse
In that same year, the company moved into a new studio on Hyperion Avenue. It was there that both Roy and Walt came up with the concept of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Mickey Mouse made his debut in a little-known cartoon called Plane Crazy—a silent film released in 1928 that had a test screening but failed to pick up a distributor. That same year, The Walt Disney Studio released their first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, to rave reviews.
Dippy Dawg Makes His Debut
In 1932, The Walt Disney Studio—now known as Walt Disney Productions, Ltd.—released Mickey’s Revue. The cartoon featured Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, and Clarabelle Cow putting on a song and dance show. This was the first appearance of a character called Dippy Dawg, who is watching the show. Dippy Dawg annoys other audience members by laughing too loudly and noisily eating a bag of peanuts—until a couple of showgoers knock him out with a pair of mallets, that is. Dippy Dawg quickly became an audience favorite and Disney staple.
Later that year, Dippy Dawg was renamed Goofy. He received his first feature that same year, called The Whoopee Party.
The Making of an Empire
The 1930s were a busy time for the Disney Company. The year 1933 saw the release of Three Little Pigs, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In 1934, Disney introduced Donald Duck in a cartoon called The Wise Little Hen. The studio won another Academy Award for The Tortoise and the Hare.
However, 1937 was the year that solidified the Disney brothers as the kings of animation with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Snow White premiered to a limited audience on December 21st, 1937, followed by a wide release in February of the following year. It was an instant and massive success pulling in an astounding $8 million during its initial release, which, at the time, gave it the honor of being the highest-grossing sound film of all time. When adjusted for inflation, that calculates to over $133 million today, effectively solidifying Snow White as a top-ten performer at the North American box office.
The Glorious 1940s
The 1940s were a groundbreaking time for Disney with the release of classics like Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, and Saludos Amigos. The studio had a minor stall in 1944 when money started to run short. Thankfully, a theatrical re-release of Snow White took care of the bills. Disney then went on to produce The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and began work on its very first all-live-action feature film, Treasure Island.
The Opening of Disneyland® Park
Starting in 1950, the Disney Company enjoyed incredible success, producing Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan in a short span. The year 1955 saw the opening of Disneyland® Park to the delight of children the world over. The park’s grand opening was so anticipated that 28,000 people showed up. Unfortunately, only half of those were invited guests. The rest held counterfeit tickets, and some even snuck over the fence to get in.
Overall, the opening of Disneyland® Park was a technical disaster. Traffic was at a standstill, famous figures—who were scheduled to make appearances one after the other, every two hours—all showed up at the same time. The temperature soared to 101° F, and because of a plumbers’ strike, Disneyland® Park had no working water fountains for its guests. Later, Walt Disney would refer to the opening day as “Black Sunday.”
But the kinks were quickly worked out, and Disneyland® Park became a bucket-list family vacation destination.
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