December 21, 1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is released.
Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length cel-animated feature film in history and a major landmark in animation history. Prior this film’s release, the Walt Disney Company had seen much success with its short films, which launched its character Mickey Mouse to popularity. In 1934 Disney began work on its most ambitious project yet - a feature length animated film. At the time of its production, Hollywood derisively referred to it as “Disney’s Folly” - the world’s first full color animated feature film cost $1.5 million to produce. But by the end of its run, the movie had grossed nearly $8 million internationally, making it the highest-grossing sound movie ever produced until Gone With the Wind. It also won its creator an Academy Honorary Award, which described the film as “a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field”. This award was presented to Walt Disney by Shirley Temple in the form of one full-sized statuette and seven miniatures.
July 17, 1955: Disneyland opens.
On the dedication day of “the Happiest Place on Earth”, nearly 30,000 people showed up - some of them guests, and some of them owners of counterfeit tickets. The event was televised nationally, anchored by three men, including one Ronald Reagan. Alas, a series of problems marred the happiness of the day (which came to be known by Disney execs as “Black Sunday”) - as the temperature rose, soda fountains ran dry, food ran out, traffic backed up, and a gas leak forced four lands to close. The true opening day came on July 18, when the public was invited to experience the park.
Fifty-three-year-old Walt Disney read this statement to dedicate his new park:
To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
November 18, 1928: Disney’s Steamboat Willie debuts.
Since 2007, this short logo clip has been featured at the beginning of all Disney animated films to honor Steamboat Willie, a milestone in animation history. Not only was it the first sound cartoon to feature the now-iconic character Mickey Mouse (created by co-director Ub Iwerks), it was also the most successful of early attempts at synchronizing sound and animation.
(pictured: Disney and Iwerks)
Produced on a budget of less than $5,000, Steamboat Willie soon became more popular than the feature film it was attached to (Gang War) and thrilled audiences with its apparently seamless blend of sound and motion. It brought both Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse to international prominence, giving Disney the opportunity to give his next Mickey cartoons wide releases. Steamboat Willie and Disney’s later cartoons paved the way for America’s first animated feature film: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.