Sure, you know old Walt from Mickey Mouse, Disneyland, and basically any animated film that didn’t go straight to video, but how much do you really know about this American genius? In honour of his birth anniversaryon December 5, here is a fact list about the visionary.
Animals (he had a poodle, which he fed steak), flying (he used his twin-engine planes to fly over Disneyland), and Republicans. He also loved tomato juice so much that he served it to everyone who came to his office, and got angry if they didn’t accept it.
Wrinkles (he had them airbrushed off his promotional pics), criticism (he once threw an Oscar at his brother’s head when he doubted him), and unions (he thought they were part of a Communist plot against him).
Disney tried to take up golf when his doctor recommended he learn to relax, but he became consumed with perfecting his game. He’d get up at 4:30 am to play a round before work every day, which ended up adding to his stress.
Though he always had trouble drawing Mickey (he used to take lessons from his animators), Disney once said, “I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I’ve ever known.” He had a tiny apartment built for himself in Disneyland above the Main Street fire station so he could be close to his creation even in his sleep.
Love vs practicality
According to legend, the young Disney married his secretary, Lillian Bounds, because he couldn’t afford to pay her $15-a-week salary.
The dark side
Disney was a racist—he thought hiring African Americans would “have spoiled the illusion at Disneyland”. In the 1940s and 1950s, many of the movies made by Disney pandered to racial stereotypes, be it a buck-toothed, squinty-eyed Chinese cook or tar babies.
Making matters worse, there is some evidence that he was also anti-Semitic. Take his membership in an executive organisation that was famously hostile to Jews, and the fact that in 1938, a month after Kristallnacht, Disney personally welcomed Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl to his studios.