5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Walt Disney

On December 5, 1901, movie producer Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois. From his rural and rather humble beginnings, he became a pioneer of cartoon films, the creator of Mickey Mouse, and the founder of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Here are five things you didn’t know about Walt Disney.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mickey Was Almost Named Mortimer When Walt was on a train ride in 1928, he sketched a picture of a mouse. This mouse would eventually become the official mascot of his multinational corporation, although he didn't know it at the time. He named the sketch "Mortimer Mouse". When he showed it to his wife, she wasn't particularly fond of the name and suggested giving the mouse a cuter name, such as Mickey. Fortunately, Walt agreed and a star was born.

Disney Really Disliked Facial Hair It took almost 60 years, for employees at Walt Disney’s two U.S. theme parks be be allowed to sport a beard or goatee (but only if they are “neat, polished, and professional,” according to the official memo). Disney was so adamantly against facial hair that guests were turned away if they didn’t meet the theme park’s dress code during the 1950 and 1960s. Even the frontman for The Byrds, Jim McGuinn, was turned away because of his provocative Beatles style haircut. Disney eventually relented on this policy to allow all patrons to enjoy “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

ADVERTISEMENT

He Made His Housekeeper a Multimillionaire Thelma Howard was the Disney family’s live-in housekeeper and cook for three decades. As part of her annual Christmas gift, the Disneys would give her stock in the company. She never sold any of her shares and by the time she died in 1994, Thelma was a multimillionaire from all of her shares of stock. She left nearly $4.5 million to her disabled son, and another $4.5 million to poor and disabled children.

Walt Was The Voice Of Mickey Mouse From 1928 to 1947, Walt was literally the man behind the mouse.  When Mickey Mouse made his official debut in a 1928 short film titled “Steamboat Willie,” it was Walt himself that provided the voice of the beloved cartoon character.  In 1947, Jimmy MacDonald began doing the voice work and headed Disney’s sound effects department. Disney didn’t give up completely on doing voice work, and continued doing the mouse’s voice for shorts for “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Walt Disney Was A High School Dropout Walt was just 16-years old when he dropped out of high school, and forged his birth certificate to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps during World War I. Although he didn't see much action, he traveled to France in late 1918, not long after the armistice was signed that ended the fighting. Walt still helped out where he could, driving Red Cross officials and performing other tasks that were needed, before he was discharged in 1919.