It may not seem like it now, but back in 1923 when Walt Disney founded his now iconic company, it was a huge risk.
Disney had left his job to start the company, had no financial backing, and had brought on his brother to manage the business side so he could focus on his bread and butter at the time – “Laugh O-grams”.
Following a few tough years, which saw him lose the rights to his first successful cartoon “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit”, and nearly closing the business, it wasn’t until 1928 that he created “Steamboat Willie”, the first Micky Mouse film.
Steamboat Willie saved the business, and for the first time positioned him as a true visionary with Steamboat Willie as the first cartoon to include synchronised sound.
In 1937 he then went on to create the first full-length animated feature film. It was a huge success, and something many thought at the time was never possible because of the sheer effort that went into cartoons at the time.
To put it into perspective, in every second of an animation there are 24 frames. Snow White is an hour-and-a-half long and was completely hand-drawn.
But Disney’s journey could have turned out very differently, and his father — like many parents — was very aware of that.
Using the profits from Snow White, Disney built the Walt Disney studio lot in Burbank.
The Disney team building literally has the seven dwarfs holding up the building as a physical representation of what the movie meant to the business.
As Walt was building the Animation Studio, his father kept asking him: “But, what can it be used for?”
By this he meant: If he failed, how could we liquidate and resell the space?
“So it dawned on me what was bothering him,” Disney is quoted as saying. “And I said: ‘Oh, I see Dad. Well, this would make a perfect hospital.’
“‘Then, the rest of the tour, I didn’t talk about a studio. I talked about a hospital.”
Since then the building has often colloquially been referred to as “the hospital”.
*The author travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Disney.
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