In celebration of Walt Disney’s 119th birthday today, I thought it would be fun to take a look way back and share with you some fun facts about Walt before he became the Walt we know today. Now, for some of you, you probably will know a few of these if you’ve participated in my Disney Pub Trivia, but I’ll try to go a little more in depth on things here.
1.Walt was named after the family’s pastor.
Walt was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago. He was actually named after Rev. Walter Parr, pastor of the St. Paul Congregational Church in Chicago.
2. The Disney family lineage can be traced back to Hughes d’Isigny.
This knight from Isigny-sur-Mer on the coast of Normandy, France, fought in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, then settled in Ireland. The name d’Isigny as you can see became Anglicized to Disney. This town is known for its dairy. It is said the cows here produce the best butter and cheese. Also the Dupont d’Isigny confectionary company is well known for its signature caramels. So, a perfect touch of sweetness comes from the land where the d’Isigny (Disney) family began!
3. Walt grew up on a 45 acre farm in Marceline, Missouri.
This barn was the setting for Walt’s first act as a showman. Walt announced a “Disney Circus” and dressed up his farm animals in costumes. He charged 10 cents for the neighborhood kids. The show was not much of a success and didn’t go over well with the children. In fact, his mom made him refund their 10 cent admission fees! A valuable lesson for a young Walt, huh?
4. Walt was inspired early in his life by Electric Park in Kansas City.
Nine year old Walt in 1911 and his younger sister Ruth would make frequent visits to Electric Park. The park was created by the Heim Brewing Company as a way to lure customers in to visit their brewery. It turned out to be the city’s greatest amusement park for two decades, and only 15 blocks from Walt’s home in Kansas City. 100,000 lights illuminated a railway, carousel, rollercoaster, and more, filled with meticulously designed landscaping. It’s easy to see how this park made such an impact on a young Walt and how he eventually incorporated much of what he saw as a kid into the creation of Disneyland.
5. Walt was inspired to create Peter Pan at a very young age.
One of Walt’s earliest childhood memories was seeing a stage performance of Peter Pan. It was in the form of a traveling show, and this stuck with him. Walt then went on to play Peter Pan in a school play! It was always his dream to bring Peter Pan to the screen and it was between Peter Pan and Snow White as to which would be the first to be made. Walt felt the animation technology was not ready for his vision of Peter Pan, and ultimately it took nearly 15 years for the team to finally bring to life the vision that Walt had for Peter in 1953. Well worth the wait, wouldn’t you say?
I hope you enjoyed reading these little facts of Walt’s early life. It shows how the influences in our lives as children (and even before we’re born) shape us in our lives years later. It’s fascinating to think about a young Walt looking at Electric Park in Kansas City and saying to himself “I’m going to build something like this one day, but the world has no idea just how magical it will be!” Some imagination, huh? Happy Birthday Walt.