Walt’s father had experienced small success and failiures in his life and had been known as a critical and sometimes a rude person. He demanded his children to work even though the work itself was worthless. Walt, who was 9 years old, was first involved in his father’s long journey. He remembered he had to wake up at 3.30 in a freezing winter morning and stopped playing with toys that was left behind during their journey.
His father’s persistence was one of the most important factors that changed his life. Walt attended drawing class every Saturday in Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, which his father considered as “an education”. Walt soon made use of his talent to earn some money. At the end of World War I, Walt quitted high school to join the ambulance driver troops and managed to earn a huge success in drawing and caricature for the U.S Troops. Supported by his self confidence, he went home to join the Kansas City Star as an intern in cartoon section. Because of his lack education and no connections, he was rejected.
On the other hand, Walt used his sketch during the war to get a job in a company called Kansas City Film Ad Company, which produced short animation commercial for local cinemas. From the technique that he learned from the job, Walt who was an entrepreneur established his own business called Laugh-O-Gram, by using his own drawings for comedic news, animation tales, and even film about dental health. Feeling optimistic with the future of the industry, he added $15.000 from investors and sold his cartoon series to Kansas City cinema.
As Walt’s staffs were getting ready to work on the series, the company itself was struggling to survive. Walt sold his apartment, stayed in his office and relied on his kind neighbor who was a restaurant owner to give him free food. When his only client got bankrupt six months later and only one movie from the series completed, Walt was also bankrupt.
Walt said, “It was good to experience huge failures when you were young.” And according to his words, he did not experience it again. He left Kansas City with only $40-that he earned from selling his Laugh-O-Gram camera-and joined his brother Roy in California by hoping that he could revive Laugh-O-Gram series in Hollywood. He aired his short comedic news at a cinema in Los Angeles and sold an idea for a film-a tale about Alice in Wonderland which was a story of an adventure of a young girl with cartoon characters-to a New York film distributor called Charles Mintz. He received $1.500 per film, this was his great debut.
Walt and Roy built their business together; they returned to Kansas City to ask Walt’s old friend to do some illustrations and train some interns. After their contract was extend twice, Mintz and his cousin, George Winkler, felt that Alice was out of date and asked for something new.
Walt returned with a series about a naughty rabbit named Oswald, the first animal character before any other animals appeared in a comic. The series was a huge hit, and soon replaced Alice. Disney’s success was finally here. With $2.250 per movie roll, the two relatives got married, bought their first house in an elite area, and renovated the front section of the shop to become a studio.
Since their contract with Mintz was running so well, the two brothers was curious because his other partner, Winkler, insisted on travelling to California every month to deliver their check and pick up new installments. On his next opportunity, when Walt was in New York, he finally realized the reason for Winkler’s visits to the west. Walt went to Mintz’s office to ask for a raise; apparently his proposal was only a demand to reduce his payment and to work together with Mintz. If he refused to do that, Walt would lose all his staff members, which had been persuaded by Winkler during his visits by promising them a huge raise in salaries and an artistic freedom. Worse, whether or not Walt agreed to it, he would lose his right over his most important asset: Oswald the Rabbit, which had been given license under Mintz.
Walt who grew older and wiser said that, “You might not realize it when it happens, however your worst experience would be the best thing that happened to you.” And so young and naïve Walt left, losing his staff and his job because of one meeting. His business and artistic creation were gone, leaving him like the first time he arrived in Hollywood with small amount of money and an idea. Now that he had some assets left, the thing he needed most was another great idea-something better that Oswald the Rabbit, something that could revive him.
Like any other great ideas, Walt’s idea was also in progress. Walt thought about the sound of a train on his way back to California that whispered, “Chug, chug, mouse, chug, chug, mouse.” Other source the story about a mouse that Walt kept in his studio in Kansas City; he fed and trained it, until he released it to “the best possible place that I could find” when he went to California.
Wherever that mouse was coming from, it was wearing a red velvet pants with big white buttons and it was named Mortimer. Mrs. Disney felt that the name was not good enough and suggested a name which was more suitable with Walt’s home in Midwestern: Mickey.
When Walt returned to the studio, he quickly prepared a production for a new film for “Mickey” prototype which was designed to make the drawing process easier “therefore those pictures could be drawn exactly the same, even if it turned its head” and simplified its hand by placing only four fingers. After the premiere of The Jazz Singer, the first audible Hollywood movie, Walt saw the opportunity to take advantage of the phenomena and deliberately worked on a new feature, Steamboat Willie. Using metronome to arrange the sound for the movie, he added sounds using slides, pot and pan, cow bell, and New Year trumpet, and his own voice for Mickey.
Walt felt his first “spoken” animation movie would become a sensation. The film was bought by the manager of Colony Theatre in New York who considered the movie as “special attraction”, and gave review. When the film was first shown on September 19th, 1928, distributors came to see Walt, begged so that they could buy Steamboat Willie and upcoming Disney’s movies to be shown throughout the country. Walt began building his studio from the money he received from Mickey and began to develop more Mickey adventures-such as Donald, Daisy, Pluto, Goofy, and otherDisney animals.
Walt took a lesson from Oswald the Rabbit and the result was he made the most important business decision when he sold his first Mickey series: he insisted to maintain control over his artistic work and ownership of his characters. At first it was a bitter experience, but in the end it became the most valuable lesson, because it taught him to secure his company. Now, the company not only has gained control over the animation industry, but also the media; beyond Walt’s wildest dream.