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November 21

November 21, 1978 – The Library of Congress Holds the Exhibit Building a Better Mouse

“…a ground-breaking popular culture exhibition on display at the Library…”

On November 21, 1978, the exhibition Building a Better Mouse kicked off at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Running until January 30, 1979, the exhibit celebrated Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday as well as “fifty years of animation,” as it was advertised. It was curated by animation historian J. Michael Barrier, and featured over 120 items, ranging from production art, to merchandise, to books; these items were from a variety of sources, including the Disney Archives and materials already in the hands of the Library of Congress.

April 9

April 9, 2002 – The El Capitan Entertainment Centre is Declared a Historical Monument

ECTC

“We are so proud to be a part of Hollywood history and to be playing a continuing role in the revitalization of this historic area of Los Angeles.” – Lylle Breier, Senior VP Worldwide Special Events for Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

On April 9, 2002, the newly resorted El Capitan Entertainment Centre was opened and was named a Historic Hollywood Landmark by the city of Los Angeles. Originally built in 1921 as the Hollywood Masonic Temple, the temple was sold by the Masons in 1982 after years of dwindling membership. In 1998, the Walt Disney Company became the owner of the property, solely for the purposes of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. Disney gave the building an extensive overhaul, restoring some of the buildings’ original features that had been taken out since the sale of the building in the 1980s. Disney has since used the El Capitan Theater for its studios’ film premieres, particularly for Pixar and Disney Animation releases.

December 1

December 1, 1988 – Disney Announces the Creation of Hollywood Pictures

HollywoodPictures

Image credit: wikipedia

“Along with the Disney and Touchstone labels, there was Hollywood Pictures, launched in 1988 to distribute more mature, adult-oriented fare.” – Alisa Perren, Indie, Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s.

On December 1, 1988, the Walt Disney Company announced a new production label and subsidiary of the Walt Disney Studios: Hollywood Pictures. Like the already successful Touchstone, Miramax, and Dimension production companies owned by Disney at the time, Hollywood Pictures was meant to cater to a more mature audience. The division was established on February 1, 1989, and released its first film, Arachnophobia, on July 18, 1990. The most successful film from this studio was The Sixth Sense, released August 6, 1999; other successful films include The Joy Luck Club, The Santa Clause, While You Were Sleeping, and Mr. Holland’s Opus. The studio became defunct in 2001, but was resurrected as an independent studio in 2006; this was short-lived, however, and the studio was shut down in 2007.

October 8

October 8, 1999 – The Documentary The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story Premieres in Los Angeles, California

“When you talk to people about the history of animation, you say, ‘Oh, and then Ub Iwerks…’ they go ‘Uh, Oob?…What kind of a name is that?’…it’s the name if the guy who first drew Mickey Mouse.” – John Lasseter

On October 8, 1999, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story premiered in Los Angeles, California. Narrated by Kelsey Grammar, the documentary tells the oft untold story of one of the creators of Mickey Mouse: Ub Iwerks. It was directed and written by his granddaughter Leslie Iwerks, The documentary begins with how to the two worked to make Mickey Mouse, with Iwerks working overnight to create the character’s design.

The documentary takes us through Ub’s life story, beginning in Kansas City, Missouri, and his meeting with a young man named Walter Disney. The two became fast friends, and attempted to start their own business, but it wouldn’t last. Over the years, the two would work together many times, until they finally hit success with the Alice Comedies and Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, with Ub animating most of the cartoons. After losing their character and co-workers to Charles Mintz, the two created their new character in secret: Mickey Mouse. The success of Mickey Mouse surprised them, as did the success of the Silly Symphonies. The film also explores the breaking of the Disney Iwerks partnership, when Ub left to strike out on his own creatively, with his successes and failures, as well as the new inventions he created to add more life to his animations. Iwerks would return to Disney in 1940, this time in a technical capacity, and would be well known for his achievements in special effects.

 

September 22

September 22, 1984 – Michael Eisner and Frank Wells are Named CEO and President of Walt Disney Studios

L: Frank Wells. R: Michael Eisner

“I thought, you know, Frank [Wells]’s more of a businessman, and Michael [Eisner] is a little nuts, and the two together kind of in some ways made me think of Walt and my dad. So we began saying, ‘How would you two like to take this job?’” – Roy E. Disney

On September 22, 1984, Michael Eisner and Frank Wells were named CEO and President of Walt Disney Studios. Wells, a former classmate of Roy E. Disney’s, had suggested to Disney that Eisner would be a good chairman of the company, with Eisner being seen as having an amazing track record after his stint as the President and COO of Paramount Pictures Corp. Wells came to Disney from Warner Brothers as the Vice Chairman, and served as President and Chief Operating Officer. The two were able to bring Disney back to its glory in an era known as the “Disney Renaissance.” The partnership ended with the Wells’ death on April 3, 1994, with Eisner assuming the presidency on April 4th.

August 23

August 23, 1986 – The U.S. Senate Passes Public Law 99-391, Designating December 5th as Walt Disney Recognition Day

“Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, president of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 5, 1986, as Walt Disney Recognition Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this very special day in the spirit in which Walt Disney entertained young and older Americans.”

On August 23, 1986, the United States Senate passed Public Law 99-391, which designates December 5th, 1986, as “Walt Disney Recognition Day,” and requested that President Reagan issue a proclamation that observes this event. The joint resolution was introduced on September 9th, 1985, in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Republican Representative from California Robert K. Dornan. There were 221 cosponsors for this resolution, and, after signing it as public law on August 23, 1986, President Ronald Reagan gave an official proclamation on December 5th, 1986.

July 17

July 17, 1943 – The Film Victory Through Air Power is Released to Theaters

“Our country in the past has struggled through many storms of anguish, difficulty, and doubt. But we have always been saved by men of vision and courage, who opened our minds and showed us the way out of confusion.”

On July 17, 1943, the feature film Victory Through Air Power was released to theaters. The film was based on the book of the same name by Maj. Alexander P. de Seversky, who also served as the on-screen narrator of the film. De Seversky’s book explains how long-range air power could defeat the enemy during World War II. Walt Disney, like many who read the book, was impressed with the material, and it became one of his most ambitious projects. He used the film to educate and send a message to the public rather than to entertain, as at the time the film was released, an Allied victory was anything but certain. H.C. Potter was hired as the live-action director, and David Hand was the Animation Supervisor, with Art Baker as the animation sequence narrator. Critics did not like the film, and RKO, Disney’s film distributor, did not want to release it, so Disney released it through United Artists. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Although the film was not popular with critics, it did the job of presenting the idea of air power to win the war. “[T]he most important response to the movie came from Winston Churchill,” film critic Leonard Maltin explained. “When [Churchill] flew to Quebec for an Allied conference, and learned that President Roosevelt hadn’t seen the movie, he and Air Marshal Tedder prodded him until he ordered that a print be sent to him. H.C. Potter was told by Walt that it was only after Roosevelt saw Victory Through Air Power, that our country made the commitment to long-range bombing. And that, after all, was the reason that Walt committed to making this movie in the first place.”

The animated sequence shows the progression of air power, including the first trans-continental flight

The film begins with newspaper clips from past years, beginning with 1919, where men have tried to convince the public about air warfare, and how defense depends on an air army. The film is then dedicated to Billy Mitchell, who was a pioneer in the fight for air power, and the brave airmen of the United States military. The audience then sees the history of flight in an animated sequence, beginning with Orville and Wilbur Wright, and leading into the first air corps, the first aircraft carrier, and the first trans-continental flight. When World War I began, aircraft was used only for observation service, until the installation of the machine gun turned the plane into a weapon. The bomber would soon develop from this idea.

1939 brings about a new war, and American aviation is ready to meet the challenge of the Axis powers. This then leads to the introduction of Maj. de Seversky and his book, Victory Through Air Power. De Seversky began his military education in Russia at age 10, graduating as a lieutenant, and seeking service in 1914. He became a pilot and was assigned flying duties, but was shot down on a night flying mission, resulting in the loss of his right leg at the tender age of 22. Nevertheless, de Seversky became a strong proponent of air power, and the leading ace of air warriors. In 1918, he came to the US and worked for the United States Army, becoming a major in the U.S. Army when he became a citizen in 1928.

Maj. Alexander de Seversky, who explains to the audience why air power is an absolute necessity to win the war

De Seversky begins his speech to the audience, warning that it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. has its share of civilian casualties, thanks to the advances of air power by other countries. He also declares that everyone must understand the strategy of war. There were formerly two ways to destroy the enemy: one was to destroy the enemy’s entire army to grab their source of power, the other was to sink their navy and enforce a blockade. With the airplane, there is no safe place: the plane can attack quickly over the heads of the enemy forces. Those that could foresee the usefulness of air power were considered crazy and ignored. An example is then shown of how England was supposed to attack the Nazis via sea forces, and the French were to attack via the land. Hitler, however, came in with air power, which allowed him and the Nazi forces to take over France. “Only when it was too late,” de Seversky warns the public, “did the French realize that their whole plan of defense was futile.” The British thought they could stop the Nazis through a blockade, only to find their battleships destroyed by bombers. The Royal Air Force grew out of this tragedy, ready to attack Hitler’s air troops. “As long as a nation controls its own skies, it cannot be invaded,” de Seversky tells us as the moral of the British story.

The audience is then shown the first real battle between air power (Nazis) and sea power (British Navy) over the island of Crete. Crete became the first territory to be conquered completely through air power. This then leads to Pearl Harbor, and how American troops left themselves unprotected against the air power of the Japanese troops, because the American troops were instead prepared for traditional naval warfare. De Seversky explains that the Japanese were imitating the German blitzkrieg, and were able to capture most of the Pacific. American armed forces finally realized that no place on Earth was safe without gaining control of the skies above. The success of American victory through air power demanded two things: to produce a vast amount of weapons of endless variety, and to deliver this equipment to battlefronts all over the face of the Earth.

Animated sequences are used through the film to illustrate de Seversky’s points; this image shows how American air power can cut Hitler off at the source, allowing troops to invade

The audience is then introduced to another problem to consider: the transportation of these weapons. America is able to transport across the country with no problem, but gets caught in the slow speeds of shipping to overseas locations. Americans also have to contend with the German submarines. The audience is warned that if Americans fight only on the surface of the Earth, Hitler has all the advantage. Air power would give American forces an advantage and the ability to cut off Hitler’s power at the source. Success will also depend on supply lines, and where American air bases are located. The film ends with a patriotic look at how American forces can use air power and airmen’s skills to win the war. “America should not hesitate to place its destiny in the hands of [the airmen],” de Seversky explains, “for with the strategy of air power, they will make the enemy fight on our terms, against the weapons of our choosing, at our time, but on his soil.”

July 13

July 13, 1925 – Walter Elias Disney Marries Lillian Bounds

“We shared a wonderful, exciting life, and we loved every minute of it. He was a wonderful husband to me, and wonderful and joyful father and grandfather.” – Lillian Bounds Disney

On July 13, 1925, Walt Disney married Lillian Bounds in a small ceremony at Bounds’ brother’s house, with Lillian wearing a lavender gown. They had a year-long courtship beforehand, with Walt coming by Lillian’s house often, long drives in his beloved Moon roadster, and dinner at Hollywood tearooms, and Walt proposed indirectly by asking Lillian to pitch in to either buy a new car or a ring; when Lillian said that she wanted the ring, Walt (with Roy’s help) bought a ¼ carat diamond on a platinum band surrounded by sapphires for seventy-five dollars. The couple remained married for 41 years, until Walt’s death in 196.

June 22

June 22, 1970 – Dave Smith Hired as the First Disney Archivist

“I wrote a proposal to set up the Walt Disney Archives, offered my services, and soon, they were accepted.” – Dave Smith

On June 22, 1970, Dave Smith was the first Disney Archivist hired to set up the Walt Disney Archives. The archives were conceived after Walt’s death, when people began to realize that the knowledge and history the current staff had would soon disappear and nothing was being done to preserve the history. Smith was then working at UCLA, compiling a Disney bibliography, which he calls “the right place at the right time.” He began to collect the oldest materials that were in the most danger of being lost, as well as gathering materials that were scattered all around the company. One of these places where many pieces of work were stored was known as the Morgue. After an animated film was completed, the drawings, cels, and other pieces of work had to be placed somewhere, so they were sent to the rooms beneath the Ink & Paint building. In this case, morgue was not a derogatory term, but was borrowed from the newspaper term where artists could go study “back issues” or old artistic products for inspiration.

 

The Archives were built to help the future employees of the Walt Disney Company keep in touch with its roots. “It did not take long for…employees to realize that they could call the Archives and quickly get answers to whatever questions they might have about Disney in general or about the legacy of their own department,” Smith wrote in an article for the D23 publication, which is sponsored by the Archives. Historical items continue to make their way to the archives, with items from retired attractions in the park to props from recent live action films, to any pieces of work from animated films making their way into the collection. Smith worked for the archives for forty years, retiring on June 24, 2010. Smith still works with the D23 publication, answering a variety of questions from Disney fans.

June 5

Posted on

June 5, 1934 – Mickey Mouse Trademark Granted for Newspaper Cartoon Strips

Image from the original patent file. Image credit: US Patent Office Website

“[After the loss of Oswald], that’s when [Walt] decided that he would never not own his own work again. That was a crucial moment in his life and career. He knew then that he had to own whatever he did. And he held fast to that the rest of his life.” – Leonard Maltin.

On June 5, 1934, the United States Patent Office granted the Walt Disney studios a trademark of Mickey Mouse for use in books and newspaper comics. The registrant is listed as the Walt Disney Productions, Ltd. at the Hyperion Studios. The original trademark has since lapsed, but has been renewed three times, the last time on July 14, 1994.

When Walt lost the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit character to Charles Mintz in 1928, he was careful to make sure he owned all of his work and vowed “Never again will I work for somebody else.” The company is very careful to protect its trademarks, no doubt due to Disney’s fierce protection of his work after Mickey Mouse’s creation.