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THIS IS AMERICA - January 14, 2002: The Disney Company - 2002-01-11


Walt Disney was one of America’s most famous film producers. He created Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and some of the world’s most successful entertainment businesses. I’m Bob Doughty.


And I’m Doug Johnson. The world of Walt Disney is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.



Film artist and producer Walt Disney died in Nineteen-Sixty-Six. Yet his work and influence live on. People around the world watch Disney movies and Disney television programs. They buy Disney music, books, videos, toys, clothes and games. They attend Disney shows. They stay in Disney hotels and ride on a Disney passenger ship. They visit Disney entertainment parks in the United States, France and Japan.


Last month was the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney. He was born in Nineteen-Oh-One in Chicago, Illinois. In Nineteen-Twenty-Three, Walt Disney moved to Hollywood, California. He hoped to become a movie producer or director. However, he could not find a job. So he decided to make animated movies or cartoons. Walt Disney was an artist.

He wanted to bring his pictures to life. A cartoon is a series of drawings on film. Each drawing is a little different from the one before it. Each shows a tiny change in movement. When we see the movie, the cartoon people and animals appear to move. They speak with voices recorded by actors.

Walt Disney believed that animated movies could be just as popular as movies made with real people. He decided he needed a cartoon hero. So he created Mickey Mouse.

This cartoon mouse had big eyes and ears. He stood on two legs like a human. He wore white gloves on his hands. Disney’s first short cartoon films starring Mickey Mouse gained great success. Both the mouse and his creator became famous.


In Nineteen-Thirty-Two, Disney produced the first cartoon filmed in the full-color process called Technicolor. Mickey Mouse was the main character in this movie, called “Flowers and Trees.” Disney served as the voice of his mouse.

Disney created cartoons with other characters including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto the dog. These cartoons were very popular. But Walt Disney wanted to make other kinds of animated movies too.


Disney’s first full-length cartoon movie was completed in Nineteen-Thirty-Seven. It was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” became one of Hollywood’s most successful movies.

Disney made a number of other extremely popular cartoon films during the Nineteen-Forties and Nineteen-Fifties. They include “Fantasia,” “Cinderella,” “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo” and “Bambi.”

Disney’s skills in this animation process made him one of the world’s most successful movie artists. Film experts say that without Walt Disney, the art of animation would not have developed so fully.

In the Nineteen-Fifties, Disney started producing live-action films with actors. He also started producing several popular television series.


In Nineteen-Sixty-Four, Disney made a popular film called “Mary Poppins.” It told about a woman who cares for other people’s children. Human actors shared the action with cartoon characters. “Mary Poppins” was one of Disney’s last productions.

For about forty years, other filmmakers praised and honored the work of Walt Disney. He won thirty-two Academy Awards for his movies. He also received honors for scientific and technical inventions in filmmaking. However, Walt Disney was not just a great artist and filmmaker. He also gained great success in business.



In Nineteen-Fifty-Five, Walt Disney opened an entertainment park in Anaheim, California, near Los Angeles. He called the park Disneyland. He wanted it to be the happiest place on Earth. It re-created places from Disney movies. It also showed real places as Disney imagined them. For example, one area looked like a nineteenth-century town in the American West. Another area looked like the world of the future. Disneyland had many exciting rides for children of all ages and for adults too.

Disneyland was so successful that Walt Disney developed plans for a second entertainment and educational park. The project was called Walt Disney World. It opened near Orlando, Florida in Nineteen-Seventy-One, five years after Disney died. It was larger than Disneyland and had many more activities.


Today, the Disney Company continues Walt Disney’s work and traditions. Michael Eisner became the company chief in Nineteen-Eighty-Four. At the time, the company was not making successful films. It was depending on the entertainment parks for much of its profits.

Mister Eisner changed that situation. He ordered that old Disney cartoons, programs and films be sold to television stations. He approved the production of programs and movies for adults. He expanded the idea of the Disney parks to Japan and France. Disney parks opened in Tokyo in Nineteen-Eighty-Four and in Paris in Nineteen-Ninety-Two.


Led by Mister Eisner, the Disney Company continues to build entertainment centers. Disney’s California Adventure park opened last year in Anaheim, next to Disneyland. It cost one-point-four-thousand-million dollars. California Adventure is smaller than Disneyland. It celebrates the state of California, not some make-believe place.

The park has three areas. Paradise Pier celebrates the great American amusement park. It has the world’s longest roller coaster, called “California Screamin.’” It is almost two-thousand meters long. The park also has a ride that makes people feel like they are hang-gliding in the air over famous areas in California. They include Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sierra Mountains.

The second area in California Adventure is called Hollywood Pictures Backlot. It shows visitors the movie-making industry. The third area, called The Golden State, shows important places in California including agricultural areas.

There are also new Disney parks in Paris and Tokyo. Disney Studios Europe will open this year next to Disneyland Paris. It will bring a little bit of Hollywood to France. Tokyo DisneySea opened recently next to Tokyo Disneyland. It has seven areas that celebrate exploration and discovery of the seas.



The Disney Company earns about twenty-five-thousand-million dollars a year. It is one of the largest media companies in the world. It operates movie and television companies. In Nineteen-Ninety-Five it bought the Capital Cities A-B-C media company which includes the A-B-C television network. The Disney Company recently bought a group of international cable television channels. It also owns sports teams.

The Disney Company also has become a major Broadway theater producer in New York City. Its stage productions of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” have been among the most popular plays on Broadway.

The company continues to make successful animated films. Its latest movie is a computer-animated film produced with the Pixar Company. It is called “Monsters, Incorporated.” It was the third most popular movie in the United States last year.


Last year, however, a weak economy and the September terrorist attacks hurt the Disney Company. It lost money on its Internet operations. Sales of products at Disney stores decreased. The A-B-C television network lost viewers and advertising sales. Attendance at the Disney parks fell. The company cut four-thousand jobs last year. Most financial experts, however, say the Disney Company will improve in the future. They believe people around the world will always enjoy Disney entertainment.



This program was written by Shelley Gollust and Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by George Grow. I’m Bob Doughty.


And I’m Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.