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April 11

April 11, 1925 – Roy O. Disney Marries Edna Francis


On April 11, 1925, Roy O. Disney, brother of Walt Disney, married Edna Francis in Disney’s uncle’s house on Kingswell Avenue in Hollywood, California. The two had originally met as children in Kansas City, and were introduced by Francis’ younger brother, who was working with Roy as a bank teller. Their romance prevailed through Roy’s service in the Navy during World War I, as well as his recuperation period over the southwest of the country. After they got married, Francis helped the fledgling Disney Brothers Studio, doing office work, as well as helping ink and paint animation cels. Francis continued to support her husband and his brother through their animation venture throughout her life.

February 17

February 17, 2017 – The Nighttime Show Rivers of Light Premieres in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

“Embrace the magic of nature during a nighttime scene awash with captivating special effects, music and animal folklore.”

On February 17, 2017, the new nighttime show Rivers of Light premiered in Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Discovery River. The show was part of an overall evolution of the park, turning it to a day-to-night park, and features several floating sets, live performances, and water effects, celebrating the beauty and wonder of nature. The show also features scenes from the Disneynature series of films, as well as technology never-before-seen in a Disney nighttime show.

May 10

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May 10, 1959 – Sharon Mae Disney Marries Robert Borgfeldt Brown

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“Well, she’s your problem now, Bob.”

On May 10, 1959, Sharon Mae Disney, Walt’s youngest daughter, married Robert “Bob” Borgfeldt Brown in a small ceremony in Pacific Palisades. Sharon and Bob, a designer at architectural firm Charles Luckman, began dating after being set up on a blind date by mutual friends, and were engaged after a year and a half of dating. After the pair were married, Walt carried on the tradition of convincing his sons-in-law to join the company, and Brown did in 1963, becoming a planner in WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering).

May 9

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May 9, 1954 – Diane Disney Marries Ron Miller

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“You know, Di, we like this fellow Ron.”

On May 9, 1954, the eldest daughter of Walt Disney, Diane, married Ronald Miller in a small Episcopal ceremony. Although Diane and Ron had favored an intimate ceremony with few close friends and family, Walt wanted a church ceremony for his first-born. According to biographies, Walt teared up during the ceremony, but was able to regain his composure for the reception, which was held at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel. Diane and Ron met on a blind date, which Ron’s roommate had arranged. Ron was a football player for the University of Southern California, and the two dated on the University campus. The two were twenty when they married, and they remained married for 59 years, until her death in 2013. The couple had seven children.

May 12

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May 12, 1993 – Walt Disney is Posthumously Inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians

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“Walter Elias Disney was a film and animation pioneer and innovator whose achievements sparked the imagination of people throughout the world.”

On May 12, 1993, Walt Disney was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, located in the Missouri House of Representative. This award honors those from the state of Missouri who have made an impact on the world. Although born in Chicago, Illinois, Disney always considered Missouri, his home; Marceline was where Disney discovered his loves of drawing and trains, and Kansas City’s Electric Park was an inspiration for the look of Disneyland. Disney joins the likes of Scott Joplin, Harry Truman, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Disney is honored by a bronze bust, sculpted by William J. Williams.

December 18

December 18, 1933 – Diane Disney Miller, Daughter of Walt Disney, is Born

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“[Diane Disney Miller] is remembered by Disney fans around the world as the beloved daughter of Walt Disney, and one who graciously shared her family history and personal memories of her father.”

On December 18, 1933, Diane Marie Disney Miller was born in Los Angeles, California. Walt Disney was accepting an award from The Parents Magazine for “distinguished service to children,” when he was given the news that his wife Lillian was in labor; he murmured his thanks to the guests assembled and ran out the door to join his wife and welcome his daughter. Diane was the first daughter of the Disney family; sister Sharon was adopted by the family in 1936. At age 20, Diane met Ron Miller on a blind date in San Francisco; the two married on May 9, 1954. After serving in the Army and playing professional football, Miller would work at the Walt Disney Company, eventually serving as CEO. In 1984, Miller left the entertainment industry, and he and Diane opened the Silverado Vineyards Winery in Napa, California.

After dedicating her life to raising her family, Diane became a fierce advocate of her father and his legacy. She helped document the history of Walt and the company, especially with the creation of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in 2009. Diane was also instrumental in the development and opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2004. Known for her fierce protection of her father’s legacy, she was honored for her efforts to preserve the history of Walt Disney and the company for nearly two decades. She continued to fight against inaccurate biographies and rumors circulating her father, and in 2001, she assisted the Walt Disney Family Foundation in creating a documentary film entitled The Man Behind the Myth.

On November 19, 2013, Diane passed away after sustaining injuries in a fall. She is survived by her husband, seven children, 13 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

 

January 19

January 19, 2011 – The Disney Dream is Christened in Port Canaveral, Florida

The Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line's newest ship, arrives Jan. 4. 2011 for the first time to her home port of Port Canaveral, Fla.

“Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the entire Walt Disney Company, welcome to Port Canaveral, and the christening of the Disney Dream!”

On January 19, 2011, the new Disney cruise ship, Disney Dream, was christened in Port Canaveral, Florida. At the ceremony, CEO Bob Iger introduced Jennifer Hudson as the “godmother” of the ship; Hudson had performed on the Disney Wonder as an entertainer before reaching fame on reality show American Idol. Disney Dream is the tenth largest, and the third longest cruise ship in the world, with a max capacity of 4,000 passengers. On January 26, the ship took its maiden voyage to Nassau, the Bahamas, and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.

December 21

December 21, 1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Premieres at the Carthay Circle Theater

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“Walt Disney, who created these lovable characters, brings to motion pictures a new medium for a greater art. And it looks like a ‘Snow White’ Christmas for all!”

On December 21, 1937, after beginning production in 1934, Walt Disney’s first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, California. Many of those who attended had called the film “Walt’s Folly;” many celebrities also attended the premiere, including Shirley Temple, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and Charlie Chaplin. There were even actors in dwarf costumes, and a special appearance by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Donald Duck. Life size replicas of the dwarfs’ cottage were created for the event. The film received a standing ovation, and grossed more than $8 million, which was quite a feat at the time, since a movie ticket cost about 10 cents. Snow White was the highest grossing film of all time, until it was surpassed by Gone With the Wind. The film was generally released on February 4th, 1938.

December 16

December 16, 1952 – WED Enterprises is Founded

“Well, WED is, you might call it my backyard laboratory, my workshop away from work. It served a purpose in that some of the things I was planning, like Disneyland for example…it’s pretty hard for banking minds to go with it…so I had to go ahead on my own and develop it to a point where they could begin to comprehend what I had on my mind.” – Walt Disney

On December 16, 1952, the design and development organization WED Enterprises was founded by Walt Disney (with WED being Walt’s initials). The organization was founded to help create Disneyland. The first three Imagineers (a portmanteau of ‘Imagination’ and ‘Engineer’) working on this project, and first three employees of WED, were Harriet Burns, Fred Joerger, and Wathel Rogers, who had been working on the Disneyland project before the organization was formed. Walt would sell his interest in WED Enterprises to Walt Disney Productions in 1965, with the whole organization moving to Glendale in 1961. In 1986, the organization was renamed Walt Disney Imagineering.

December 5

December 5, 1901 – Walt Disney is Born

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“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

On December 5, 1901, Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Elias and Flora Call Disney. A few years after his birth, the Disney family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri, where young Walt developed a love for simple farm life and drawing. The family eventually moved to Kansas City in 1910, where Elias owned a newspaper distribution business, and Walt delivered papers for him before school. In 1917, the family moved back to Chicago, where Walt began high school and took night courses at the Chicago Art Institute. At age sixteen, Walt dropped out of high school to join the army during World War I, but he was rejected for being underage. He and a friend decided to join the Red Cross and were sent to France for a year. After the war, Walt came back to Kansas City and found work, thanks to his brother Roy, at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, creating advertisements. It was there that he met Ub Iwerks, and the two soon started their own commercial art company.

In1920 Walt became fascinated with animation, and decided to start another studio, called Laugh-O-Gram. This venture failed as the studio’s debts mounted, and Walt decided to move to Hollywood, California, to start again. After convincing his close friend Iwerks to move all the way from Kansas City, Walt and his brother Roy set up the Disney Studios there in 1923. The studio had a hit with the Alice Comedies (live action girl in a cartoon world), and then had a success with their animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In 1928, Oswald was taken away from the Disney Studios, along with most of the studio’s animators, by their distributor, Charles Mintz. Needing a new character, Iwerks and Walt worked in secret, and on November 18, 1928, their new character, Mickey Mouse, debuted on the big screen, becoming an overnight success. The Silly Symphony short films quickly followed and led up to what Hollywood had dubbed “Walt’s Folly,” the film that changed the face of animation: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

A young Walt poses for a publicity photo

The studio thrived until 1941, when it was taken over by the U.S. armed forces for creating training and instruction videos. Many propaganda and training films were released during this period, with one film in particular, Victory Through Air Power, convincing President Roosevelt to use air power to help win the war. However, these films did not generate as much income as the studio needed, and it took several years after the end of the war for prosperity to return to the studio. It wasn’t until the release of the 1950 animated feature Cinderella that Walt had another hit on his hands.

In 1955, Walt opened his biggest project to date: Disneyland. It was designed as a place where adults and children alike could enjoy the attractions. The success of Disneyland gave the company the financial stability it had sought for many years. Walt also devoted time to other media, including live-action films and television, revolutionizing both with great triumph. He continued to work until his death of lung cancer on December 15, 1966. Thanks to the weekly televised anthology series Disney hosted, millions of children thought of him as “Uncle Walt,” and he was mourned the world over.

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There is much to say about Walt Disney: he was an innovator, able to see the potential in people and new processes, starting with synchronized sound, to Technicolor, to the multi-plane camera, to television and theme parks. His many firsts helped revolutionize the entertainment industry. At virtually every step, people called his projects a “folly” or “unattainable,” but Walt would always surprise them. The company still thrives today, with millions of people visiting the theme parks, and millions of children still enjoying the films their parents and grandparents loved, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Mary Poppins. They say it all started with a mouse, but it really all started with a man: a dreamer and modernizer named Walt Disney.