11 Fascinating Facts About Walt Disney
There's an ever-present curiosity about the man behind Mickey Mouse. It seems there's so much we don't know about the larger-than-life entrepreneur and creative genius. If you're hoping to learn unexpected details from Walt's life, the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco is a good place to start. They shared 11 facts about Walt Disney you might not know — including some sweet stories about his relationship with his wife, Lillian. Check them out now!
Walt's favorite hat has a very romantic (and funny) story behind it.
An amazing part of Walt's story is his role as a family man: a dad, a brother, a son, an uncle, and a husband. One really special object the Walt Disney Family Museum has on display is Walt's favorite hat. After wearing it for quite some time, his hat turned quite old and ratty, and his wife, Lillian, wasn't too fond of it. One day, she managed to get rid of it (by throwing it into a bull ring at the end of an event), and she thought she would never see it again. Little did she know, Walt had managed to retrieve his hat back, kept it a secret from her, then ended up shaping it into a heart, bronzing it, putting her favorite flowers back into, and gifting her with it on Valentine's Day (also her birthday, which was Feb. 15).
A park bench led to the inspiration for Disneyland.
On Sundays, Walt would take his daughters, Diane and Sharon, to Griffith Park. While they rode the carousel, he would sit on a nearby bench, which is where he initially came up with the ideas to create a family-friendly theme park (not hard to guess what this idea actually turned into!).
Walt gave his wife a truly one-of-a-kind charm bracelet.
For every Academy Award won, Walt purchased a small charm Oscar statuette replica, each engraved with what he had won it for. He created a beautiful charm necklace and gave it to his wife, Lillian, who then converted it into a charm bracelet. This bracelet was rumored to have been stolen, but resurfaced at auction many years later.
Mickey Mouse would be Mortimer Mouse if Walt's wife, Lillian, hadn't convinced him to change it.
On aged, yellowed paper, there are a few pencil sketches of a rodent-looking character, complete in suspenders and shoes. It was on a train ride home from one of life's bumps that Walt created this character, first named Mortimer . . . and now known the world over as Mickey Mouse. These are the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse.
Walt was a huge fan of miniatures.
He bought, collected, and even hand-made some of them. The Walt Disney Family Museum has about 1,400 miniatures in its collection (and about 450 on display in one of its galleries). His idea for the miniatures was to create little vignettes of America ("lands," if you will), place them on a train, and have the train tour around America. This project, which he called "Disneylandia," would be shelved and the idea would later be used on something bigger. Any guesses as to what it might be? (Answer: Disneyland!)
Walt received a very unique honorary Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Walt received a custom-made Oscar statuette for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Honorary Award consisted of one standard Oscar statuette, standing above seven other miniature ones — representing each of the dwarfs — placed on a stepped, 20-inch-long base. Shirley Temple presented this second Honorary Award (he won a total of four Honorary Awards in his lifetime) — but this by far is the most distinctive one in Academy history.
Walt's toiletry bag contained mascara.
After Walt had passed away, this toiletry bag — which was in his office at the studios — was given back to the family from the company. Walt's Dopp Kit shaving kit bag contained quite a few personal items and toiletries, including his reading glasses, reading glass case, two combs, a money clip, throat discs, Johnson and Johnson dental floss, Ivory soap, eyebrow pencil, Remington shaver cover, Max Factor mascara (used for his mustache between takes on the set of his TV shoots), and a key.
The first completed application of Audio Animatronics was used for the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland in 1963.
One of the Walt Disney Family Museum's newest additions is an Audio Animatronic Barker Bird, one of the birds that sat outside of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, helping bring guests into the attraction. The bird is showcased, along with a joystick, and teaches guests, step by step, how Audio Animatronics (the robotic technology that you see throughout Disney Parks and Resorts) worked.
Famous people, including Salvador Dali, rode Walt's train, the Lilly Belle.
Named after his wife, Lillian, the Lilly Belle is a one-eighth-scale model of an actual steam engine train was built by Walt and ran around a half-mile track around his Holmby Hills, CA, home. Many animators, friends, and notable people have ridden this train — including artist Salvador Dali.
Walt's favorite artist was Mary Blair.
Known to be Walt's favorite artist, Mary Blair really came into her own and developed a unique artistic style during the Good Neighbor Tour, which Walt and his animators went on during World War II. Mary Blair is known for her vivid watercolors and worked on such projects as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and most recognizably the Disneyland ride It's a Small World.
One of the characters from It's a Small World at Disneyland.
The Disneyland of Walt's imagination looks a little different from the real Disneyland.
Created by Kerner Optical specifically for The Walt Disney Family Museum, this 12 foot in diameter model is "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination." It is not the park as it first was when it opened in 1955, nor is it the park how it is present day — this model represents the Disneyland that Walt had always wanted. Going off of interviews, early sketches/maps, and detailed plans, all attractions in this model never existed at ONE period in time . . . but have all existed — separately — at some point or another!
How the teacups looked originally at Disneyland.
Another intricate scene from the model.
Fantasyland in "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination."
Another scene from "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination."
The model of "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination."
The Haunted Mansion in the model.