Little Bits of History

Who’s Afraid

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2015
The Three Little Pigs poster *

The Three Little Pigs poster *

May 27, 1933: Walt Disney releases a cartoon. Disney produced the short animated film directed by Burt Gillett. It was based on the fairy tale of the same name: The Three Little Pigs. The United Artists film cost $22,000 to create and the Technicolor cartoon ran for eight minutes. Animation was provided by Fred Moore, Art Babbitt, Dick Lundy, and Norm Ferguson. Voices were provided by Pinto Colvig, Billy Bletcher, Mary Moder, and Dorothy Compton. Music was by Carl W. Stalling and Frank Churchill. The film grossed $250,000 and in 1994 was listed as #11 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. The Three Little Pigs was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Both the cartoon and the fairy tale tell the story of three little pigs. Practical Pig is practical and in the cartoon plays a piano and builds his sturdy house of bricks. Fiddler Pig plays a fiddle and dances after quickly building his stick house. Fifer Pig plays a flute after his shoddy construction on his straw house is complete. The pigs play and then the antagonist shows up – the Big Bad Wolf. He destroys the sloppily built houses in turn with each pig making it safely to the next house to hide until he comes to the brick house. When his prior method of blowing down the house fails, he tries to climb down the chimney. The pigs play a catchy tune between being pursued and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” was a musical hit from the film.

The cartoon was a big hit with the audiences of the day. Instead of a short run, it played for months and continued to bring in revenue. It remains one of the most successful animated shorts ever made. It was one of the first attempts to bring cartoon characters to life. Each of the pigs looked the same but each had a particular personality and behaved in a particular way. Even at this early stage in his career, Disney had already learned that successful cartooning depended on telling emotionally gripping stories. Because of this, while this short was in production, a “story department” separate from the animators was created. The storyboard artists worked on story development rather than cartooning.

Frank Churchill’s song became a single and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” gave those living through the Great Depression a rallying cry. When Hitler’s Germany began expanding pre-World War II, the song was used to bring focus to the complacency about the invasions in Europe. Disney went on to create more cartoons with another of his stars – Mickey Mouse. His first appearance pre-dated this cartoon. This film made it possible for Disney to parley his success into making Mickey a top merchandise item by the end of 1934. Mickey appeared in over 130 films and became known worldwide.

You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.

I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.

People don’t care what you know. They just want to know that you care.

A man should never neglect his family for business. – all from Walt Disney

Also on this day: No More Burnt Toast – In 1919, a toaster with a timer was patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.
Le Paradis Massacre – In 1940, the massacre took place.

* “Three Little Pigs poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2013
Walt Disnes

Walt Disney

July 17, 1955: Disneyland in Anaheim, California opens. The media event was followed by the opening to the general public the following day. The specially designed spot for family fun was an idea long before it became a reality. Walt Disney’s father was involved in building for the great 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. That spectacular venue was a confection of white buildings constructed cheaply since they only had to last one summer. It was also where George Ferris first built his eponymous wheel.

The original idea for a fun park was small. “Mickey Mouse Park” would fit on eight acres. As Disney toured other parks and began designing his own, his plans grew. He obtained 160 acres for the park. He then began to earnestly gather funding. He partnered with the new television network, ABC. He provided programming and they helped to finance the park. Their interest was bought back by Disney after five years. On July 18, 1954 construction began with the cost running to $17 million (≈ $137 million in 2009 USD). US Route 101 (today called Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time. They added two lanes to accommodate expected traffic.

Sunday’s special “International Press Review” did not go well. Admission was by ticket only but many counterfeits were produced causing overcrowding. Disney had to choose between working drinking fountains and working toilets (there had been a plumbers strike) and he chose the latter. Many guests sweltering in the 101° F heat were forced to purchase soda. The asphalt paving had been finished only that morning and remained sticky. Vendors ran out of food. Things went so badly, Disney held a “second day” event for the press corps. The official name for this day is now “Dedication Day” according to Disneyland Park’s literature.

David MacPherson bought the first ticket to Disneyland’s public opening. He has been followed by over 515 million more guests. Today, Disneyland Park is only one of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The Magic Kingdom is in Orlando, Florida. There is a park in Tokyo, one in Paris, and another in Hong Kong. Disney also operates a cruise line. In 2007 there were more than 14.8 million visitors to Disneyland Park, second only to the Magic Kingdom where ≈ 17 million came to play. Tokyo had 13.9 million guests, 14.5 million visitors came to the combined Euro Disney sites, and 4.5 million visited Mickey in Hong Kong.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – all from Walt Disney

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901. The family moved to a farm in Missouri in 1906 and it was there that the young Walt learned to draw. Walt and his older brother, Roy, opened a cartoon studio in California which produced the Alice Comedies. The Disney brothers brought in many talented artists to work for them. Their first true success was with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but there was a dispute over who owned the rights to the creation. Disney took his staff away from Universal Pictures’ control and opened the Walt Disney Company. Since he could no longer use his rabbit, he created a new character. This time, instead of Oswald, he developed a mouse to replace him and named the new little guy Mickey. The first animated short to feature his new little guy was Plane Crazy and was a silent film. It was not an unequivocal success and neither was his next attempt, The Gallopin’Gaucho. He added sound to the next short and Steamboat Willie became the hit he needed.

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.

Tagged with: , ,


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2012

Walt and Roy Disney

October 16, 1923: Walt and Roy sign a contract with M.J. Winkler to produce a series of Alice Comedies. Walt was 21 and his older brother, Roy, was 30 when they founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio as equal partners. The name changed in 1926 to The Walt Disney Studio and today we know it as The Walt Disney Company. Roy had served in the Navy during World War I and was discharged because of an injury. Although the brothers were from Chicago, after discharge Roy moved to Los Angeles and became a banker. His younger brother followed him out to Hollywood and together they opened up their business. They each ordered a kit house and although both slightly modified them, they built them next door to each other. They were a close knit family.

The Alice Comedies were a series of animated cartoons in which a live action girl named Alice played. Originally, Alice was played by Virginia Davis. There was an animated cat named Julius and the two frolicked across an animated landscape. The first film, a single-reel, ten-minute short called Alice’s Wonderland, was produced with the help of Ub Iwerks. The story began with Alice entering a cartoon studio to see how cartoons are made, and liking it so much, she joined in the fun. There were 57 of these made with four different actresses playing the part of Alice. Margie Gay took over in 1925 with Dawn O’Day making one cartoon that same year and then Gay back on screen. In 1927, Lois Hardwick took over the role of Alice for the last ten shorts.

The Walt Disney Studio changed named and was Walt Disney Productions before assuming its current name. They are famous for creating some of the most famous characters in motion pictures which include Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was the original voice for his famous creation. Disney only lived to age 65 and died in 1966. During his life, he received four honorary Academy Awards and won 22 Academy Awards after being nominated 59 times. One year, Disney won a record four Oscars. He has won more awards and been nominated more times than anyone else. He also won seven Emmy Awards. His company carries on and in 2010 had an annual revenue of about $36 billion.

While famous as a producer, that’s not all The Walt Disney Company has done. Disneyland was opened in 1955 and is a theme park in Anaheim, California. There have been around 600 million visitors to the park since it opened and in 2010 alone there were almost 16 million visitors, making it the second most visited park in the world that year. The year after Walt died, construction began on the Florida resort and in 1971 Roy opened the Magic Kingdom there. In 2010, there were about 17 million visitors in Florida, making it the most visited part that year. Tokyo Disney Resort (1983), Disneyland Paris (1992), and Hong Kong Disneyland (2005) round out the theme parks.

All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable.

I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. – all from Walt Disney

Also on this day:

Cardiff Giant– In 1869, a petrified giant is found near Cardiff.
Complex Numbers – In 1843, quaternions were first defined.
Planned Parenthood – In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a clinic.

Steamboat Willie

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 18, 2011

Walt Disney

November 18, 1928: Steamboat Willie is released. Distributed by Celebrity Productions, the black-and-white short ran for 7:16 minutes. It is considered to be Mickey Mouse’s debut as well as Minnie Mouse’s. Although they both appeared in a preview a few months prior, this is their big production. Steamboat Willie was directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks who also created the story line. It was voiced by Walt Disney and music was provided by Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis. Animation was by Iwerks, Jackson, and Les Clark.

It is the first cartoon with synchronized sound. It was the first cartoon to have a post-production soundtrack added which was far different from previous cartoons with a sound track. In addition, it was quite popular. The short is a parody of Buster Keaton’s film, Steamboat Bill Jr. also produced in 1928. That was a reference to the song, “Steamboat Bill,” by Arthur Collins and produced in 1911.

The cartoon s shows Mickey as a pilot of a steamboat whistling Collin’s song. It appears that Mickey is the captain and all goes well until the real captain appears. Mickey is banished from the bridge and falls down a flight of steps after slipping on soap. A parrot makes fun of him and Mickey throws a bucket of water at the bird. The boat stops to pick up cargo and Minnie has to run to catch the boat before it leaves the dock. Again, a slapstick chain of events follows. Mickey gets in trouble and is sent to peel potatoes and the parrot ends up in a pan of water. The cartoon ends with Mickey laughing as the bird struggles in the water.

The cartoon today takes some heat because of its cruelty to animals. However, it has also received critical acclaim. Part of this is due to introducing one of the world’s most popular characters, but it is also due to innovations evident in the film. Steamboat Willie is 13th among The 50 Greatest Cartoons as voted by members of those working in animation in 1994. In 1998 it was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry.

“Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation.”

“Animation offers a medium of story telling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world.”

“I am not influenced by the techniques or fashions of any other motion picture company.”

“I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” – all from Walt Disney

Also on this day:
Jonestown – In 1978, a mass suicide takes place in Jonestown, when 913 of Jim Jones’s followers kill themselves.
Great Shot – In 1307, William Tell shot an apple from his son’s head, according to legend.