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20th Century Genius Award Paper

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Introduction
Walt Disney, born Walter Elias Disney, was a great man, with faults of his own. He started as a boy with a dream; and with the help and belief of his associates, friends, and family, Walt created what is now an “entertainment empire” that, in 2009, had revenue of over U.S. $35 billion. Upon his death, Walt’s brother Roy continued the company they had started together and pushed to achieve Walt’s dream.
Walter Elias Disney – His Life
Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5th, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Elias Disney, an Irish-Canadian, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, a German-American, had five children, four sons and one daughter. The Disney family moved to Marceline, Missouri and there Walt began drawing. Walt began selling his sketches and drawing of animals and nature to friends and neighbors at the age of seven (Disney Archives, 2010).
In 1918, Walt tried to enlist in the Army but was rejected as he was only sixteen at the time. Determined to serve his country, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to France to drive an ambulance and to be a chauffeur for Red Cross officials (Just Disney, 2010).
Walt Disney was a pioneer and innovator and had on of the most fertile imaginations the world had ever seen. Walt, and his employees, received more than 950 honors, including 48 Academy Awards and seven Emmys in his lifetime. “Walt Disney’s personal awards included honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California, and UCLA; the Presidential Medal of Freedom; France’s Legion of Honor and Officer d’Academie decorations; Thailand’s Order of the Crown; Brazil’s Order of the Southern Cross; Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle; and the Showman of the World Award from the National Association of Theatre Owners” (Disney Archives, 2010, para. 2).
Walter Elias Disney – The rumors, lies, and uglier
Walt Disney is rumored to be cryogenically frozen and stored underneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland. Walt died in December, 1966, of lung cancer, which his Death Certificate confirms. Though he was obsessed with death, specifically his, there is no truth to the rumors of his body being stored inside Disneyland (MythBusters, 2010). He was cremated and his family attended a small private service at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA. Walt was long known to dislike funerals, and even told his daughter “When I’m dead I don’t want a funeral. I want people to remember me alive” (Findadeath.com, 2010).
In 1941 rumors began that Walt Disney was a racist. Although there are still people who say that today, and many find proof in the characters depicted by the Disney Company, many people don’t believe it. “Some revisionist critics have accused Walt of racism or anti-Semitism, and a lot of intellectually lazy people have repeated the accusation without bothering to check the facts. It's hard to know where these charges originated, but some Disney scholars believe they may have originated in the union smear campaign against Walt during the 1941 strike. In any case, there should be no doubt about this: Walt Disney was NOT a racist” (Salisbury, 2008). Although it makes sense that employees already disgruntled about wage and benefits during a union strike would engage in a smear campaign, there is also some “proof” in the way different ethnicities are portrayed as characters in Disney films. While those depictions are offensive and close-minded, they often portrayed the stereotypical, and sometimes comical, view of other ethnicities. Keep in mind, these characters were not created in the time of political-correctness and ethnical-equality. And just as those images and depictions are seen as offensive today, in those times, they were seen as typical or normal, somewhat comical.

Walter Elias Disney – His legacy “A pioneer and innovator, and the possessor of one of the most fertile and unique imaginations the world has ever known. Walt Disney could take the dreams of America, and make them come true. He was a creator, a imaginative, and aesthetic person. Even thirty years after his death, we still continue to grasp his ideas, and his creations, remembering him for everything he's done for us” (JustDisney, 2010). Prior to his death, Walt took an interest the California Institute of the Arts, a college-level professional school for all the creative and performing arts. In Walt’s will he donated 38 acres of his Golden Oaks ranch in Valencia, CA for the school to be built on. CalArts opened in Valencia in 1972. He also created several charitable trusts, one for the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and another for the Disney Foundation.
Walter Elias Disney – His impact
Today the Walt Disney Company owns five vacation resorts, eleven theme parks, two water parks, thirty-nine hotels, eight motion picture studios, six record labels, eleven cable television networks, and one terrestrial television network. The Disney Foundation has increased volunteerism in the United States with it’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” program, committed one million dollars to China to rebuild schools after their most recent earthquake, encourages kids to make a difference for our earth with the “Friends for Change” program, and continuously offers Disney tickets or packages for nonprofit organizations to offer as prizes or to raise money for worthy causes (Walt Disney Company, 2010).
Conclusion
Walter Elias Disney was a great man with a great dream, but was a man just the same. He had hopes and dreams, weaknesses and failures. Following his dream and working towards a better future this man, with his wife and two daughters, along with his brother Roy Disney, began an entertainment empire. This empire, last year had a revenue of over $36 million. With such a huge company, of course there are questions, rumors, worries, etc. All in all, Walt Disney was a great man who changed the world, and continues to change the world with the company he started and the communities he inspired.

References

Disney Archives, 2010. Walt Disney: A Biography. Retrieved from: http://disney.go.com/vault/read/walt/index.html
Findadeath.com, 2010. The Death of Walt Disney. Retrieved from: http://www.findadeath.com/Deceased/d/disney/uncle_walt.htm
MythBusters, 2010. Is Walt Disney Frozen Beneath Disneyland? Retrieved from: http://www.mythbusters.com/is-walt-disney-frozen-beneath-disneyland.html
Salisbury, Nora, 2008. Walt Disney was Not a Racist. Retrieved from: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/877357/walt_disney_was_not_racist.html
Just Disney, 2010. Walt Disney: Long Biography. Retrieved from: http://www.justdisney.com/walt_disney/biography/long_bio.html
Walt Disney Company, 2010. Press Releases. Retrieved from: http://corporate.disney.go.com/responsibility/latestnews.html…...

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