Walt Disney received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.
1. Walt joined the Red Cross at just 16 years old and spent a year driving an ambulance overseas during World War I
His ambulance was reportedly decorated with drawings and cartoons inspired by his travels.
2. Walt's first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, went bankrupt less than a year after it was founded.
The studio filed for bankruptcy before practically any of the cartoons were released.
3. He left for Hollywood with only $40, a few drawing materials, and an animated and live-action film.
He moved from Kansas City to Hollywood with his brother, Roy.
4. Walt's first commercial success was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but he ended up losing ownership of Oswald completely.
Through a series of deals, Walt ended up losing not only Oswald, but also all of his animators to Universal Pictures. Disney ended up getting the rights to Oswald back in 2006.
5. He came up with the idea for Mickey Mouse on a train ride from New York City to Los Angeles.
The idea came to him just after he had lost Oswald and it appeared that he and Roy would be going bankrupt.
6. He voiced Mickey Mouse himself for almost two decades.
After 1929's Karnival Kid, where Mickey spoke for the first time, Walt provided the voice until Mickey and the Beanstalk in 1947.
7. During World War II, Walt and his team of animators helped produce close to 70 hours of instructional films for all branches of the armed forces.
They also crafted several propaganda films at the request of the US government.
8. Walt and his production team produced the first commercially released film using Technicolor's three-color process in 1932.
From 1932 to 1935 Walt and his team held the exclusive rights to use the superior three-color process, which meant other studios fell behind Disney Studios in terms of colored animation.
9. Walt and his production team made their first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for $1.5 million — an astounding amount at the time.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was produced during the height of the Great Depression. The film is still considered to be one of the greatest victories in the film industry.
10. Walt was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
At the ceremony, Walt was described as an "Artist and impresario. In the course of entertaining an age, he has created an American folklore.”
11. Walt purchased the nearly 27,000 acres for Disney World under numerous fake names in order to keep the project a secret.
For a while, people were referring to the land development as "Project X" and/or "The Florida Project."
12. Walt gave his longtime housekeeper and cook, Thelma Howard, so much Disney stock throughout the years that by the time she died, she had amassed nearly $9.5 million.
Walt often referred to her as the "real-life Mary Poppins."
13. Walt was named Chairman of the Pageantry Committee for the 1960 Winter Olympics.
He helped oversee the planning for the opening and closing ceremonies, the victory ceremonies for each event, and the Olympic torch relay
14. Before his death in 1966, Walt and Roy founded the California Institute of the Arts, a place where they hoped future artists could develop their craft.
Since its founding, CalArts has helped usher in the Disney Renaissance, Pixar Revolution, and the creation of SpongeBob Squarepants.
15. Disneyland and Disney World employees only have their first name on their name tags because Walt hated being called Mr. Disney. He believed last names were too formal.
16. Walt still holds the record for the most Academy Awards ever won. He won 26 over the course of his career and was nominated 59 times.
Most of his Oscar wins were in the Best Animated Short category.
17. When Walt died in 1965, among his possessions was a note on his desk that simply read "Kurt Russell" — most likely a casting idea he had for a new movie.
When he was younger, Kurt Russell starred in numerous Disney films, but hadn't gained critical acclaim before Walt passed away.
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