Walt Disney is cemented in history as an American film icon for the movies he made and the technological feats he achieved when he brought those movies to life. A lesser-known fact is that Walt Disney also had a lifelong love for books, always eager to learn more and improve his craft. Not only did he see books as a source of adventure, he saw them as fountains of knowledge that could (and did) aid the creation of what would become the Walt Disney brand.
In a 1955 interview with Wisdom magazine, Walt Disney beautifully summed up the significance books give the world:
There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main…and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.
Disney, both the man and the brand, has made innumerable efforts to connect people with books beyond the experience they have inside the amusement parks that bring them to life. The work the company has done inspiring a passion for books makes sense, given the company founder’s profound appreciation for books. Let’s take a look at some underrated Walt Disney facts that prove Walt was as big a bookworm as the rest of us.
He Loved Going to The Library
From 1911 to 1923, Walt Disney lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City would be the home of Disney’s first cartoon studio, Laugh-O-Gram Studio. Disney had an interest in animation and motion pictures since childhood, and Kansas City saw the beginning of his journey as an animator. Eager to learn anything he could about the field, Disney frequently checked out Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origin and Development by E.G. Lutz from the Kansas City Library and often recommended it to others also interested in animation.
He Had A Library In Walt Disney Studios
When Laugh-O-Gram Studios went bankrupt in 1923, Disney followed his older brother Roy O. Disney to Los Angeles, where they founded Walt Disney Studios the same year. By 1934, the studio would have an in-company library that consisted of 200 different titles that employees could check out for inspiration.
He Collected Books On His Travels
In 1935, Walt, his wife, and their daughters were on a trip to Europe where they visited England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Holland. During this trip, Disney would collect hundreds of books, which he would bring back with him and add to the Disney library. Thanks to the Disneys’ trip, Walt added 700 titles to the Disney library.
While Disney didn’t oversee the library personally, he contributed to it regularly and checked out many of the books himself. The real overseer of the library was a woman named Helen Ludwig Hennesy, who was hired as the company’s librarian in July 1935.
He Made Several Literary Classics Into Movies
Before his death in 1966, Disney oversaw the creation of dozens of films, many of which were based on classic literature and European fairytales. Disney was fond of many older children’s stories, but his favorite may have been Alice in Wonderland. He loved Alice in Wonderland so much that the book was the inspiration for one of his first creations before Mickey Mouse, a series of shorts called Alice Comedies that combined animation and live-action. Disney stated for The American Weekly in 1946 that Lewis Carroll’s original story stuck with him for years:
No story in English literature has intrigued me more than Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It fascinated me the first time I read it as a schoolboy.
He Read About His Special Interests
Like many other readers, Walt Disney had topics of interest he loved to read about. Disney historian Jim Korkis notes that Disney was fond of reading about Abraham Lincoln. In the same article, Korkis uses a quote from Disney that explains how Disney’s childhood home in Missouri was filled with books about the Civil War and stories from the frontier.
Disney was so fond of the frontier that he created a themed section of Disneyland based on the American frontier, a section that still operates in the original park and in all Disney parks around the world.
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