Disney World is often referred to as the “happiest place on earth” and the character Mickey Mouse is long ingrained in our collective memory. The Walt Disney Company is one of the largest and most valuable companies in the world. But behind all of that was one ambitious small-town farm boy who failed as often as he succeeded, and finally found worldwide fame – thanks to a cartoon mouse.
Throughout the rise of Walt Disney, LIFE magazine was there, covering everything from the first Mickey merchandising to the launch of Walt Disney World in 1971, and now in this all-new special edition, LIFE revisits both the man and the magic in LIFE Walt Disney: From Mickey to the Magic Kingdom. Very few people know that as a young entrepreneur, he struggled with bankruptcy, borrowing money until he had a hit with the Mickey Mouse cartoons in the late 1920s. Beloved movies of today – Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi – bombed when first released, and it wasn't until the astronomical success of Disneyland in 1951 that finally put his company into the black.
From early days to troubled times, and successes and failures too numerous to count that bring us all to the World of Disney that we all know and love today, LIFE Walt Disney is a fitting tribute to a creative force that has and will continue to influence countless generations for years to come.