Almanac: Walt Disney

An undated portrait of filmmaker and theme park developer Walter Elias Disney, with a shadow of his most famous creation, Mickey Mouse. Hyperion/Disney

(CBS News) And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: December 15th, 1966, 47 years ago today . . . a sad day for the "Happiest Place on Earth."

For that was the day Disneyland founder and animation pioneer Walt Disney died at the age of 65.

 

 Born in Chicago in 1901 and raised in small-town Missouri, Disney arrived in Hollywood in 1923 as a young cartoonist with virtually no money.

By 1928, he had found success with Mickey Mouse in "Steamboat Willie," and was on his way to building the most successful animation studio in movie history.

In 1937, Disney released "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first feature-length cartoon, winning an honorary full-size Oscar and 7 "dwarves" . . . a moment he shared with Shirley Temple:

Temple: "Aren't you proud, Mr. Disney?"
Disney: "I'm so proud I think I'll bust."

Many more animated features would follow "Snow White" over the next several years. 

And then, in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955, Disney's next innovation: a theme park of his own design.

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome," he said. 

Disneyland was another huge success, attracting kids by the millions . . . and prominent grown-ups as well, including Richard Nixon while he was still Vice President.

By the 1960s Walt Disney was dreaming even bigger, acquiring 28,000 acres in central Florida for a project that would dwarf, as it were, his earlier park.

"Here in Florida we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland: The blessing of size," he said.

It was the one big vision Walt Disney never got to see. He died of lung cancer in 1966, five years before Walt Disney World opened for business.

Today the Walt Disney Company has grown many times over, and his name appears on several California landmarks. 

To think, as Disney himself used to say: "It was all started by a mouse."


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