When people think of Walt Disney they tend to think of his stunning successes. What most people do not realize is that Walt had more than his fair share of set backs. This led him to the famous quote about a kick in the teeth.
All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
Walt Gets A Kick In The Teeth ( The First Time)
Walt was a young man when World War 1 was raging in Europe. He dropped out of high school to join the army. Unfortunately he was too young and the army rejected him. When the army would not take him he joined the Red Cross and served as an ambulance driver. That is one kick in the teeth.
Another Kick In The Teeth-Two Failed Companies
In 1920 Walt and his friend Ubbe Iwerks founded an animation company together. The company, Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists, did not last long. Walt had to leave the company because he needed to earn some money. Iwerks could not run the company alone and it closed. That’s number two.
In 1922 Walt started a new company on his own. For this new company, Laugh-O-Grams, Walt hired several people including Iwerks. Though the company was able to sell their animated shorts Walt could not afford to pay his employees. The company went bankrupt in less than a year. Evidently the third time is not a charm. Walt got a kick in the teeth again.
Another Kick In The Teeth-Alice and the unlucky rabbit
Walt was not ready to give up though. He and his brother, Roy, started a third company, Disney Brothers’ Studio. This company had some success with the Alice Comedies. These shorts proved to be popular at first. By 1927 they had run their course.
Disney Brothers’ Studio then introduced Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This character, created by Ubbe Iwerks was hugely popular. Oswald was produced for a man named Charles Mintz and distributed by Universal.
Walt did not feel that he was being paid enough for these animated shorts. While attempting to negotiate for a higher fee Mintz informed him that he was cutting the fee.
If Disney did not like the new lower fee Mintz had a backup plan. He had already agreed to hire all of Disney’s animators, except for Iwerks (who refused to leave Walt.) Because Universal owned the rights to Oswald he would produce the cartoons himself.
Walt refused and Mintz carried out his threat. Walt’s company had created a highly successful character and had it stolen out from under them.
One More Kick In The Teeth-Mickey The Failed Mouse
Walt could have just given up but he was not ready to yet. He had created the Alice Comedies. They had been successful if only for a time. Oswald had been a great success even if he was stolen.
Out of all this adversity Mickey Mouse was born. And it was all successes after that right? Well not really. The first two Mickey Mouse shorts were Plane Crazy and The Gallopin Gaucho. Both were silent movies. They were far from successful. In fact Walt could not even find anyone to distribute them.
Success At Last-Steamboat Willie
In 1928 Walt decided to give Mickey another shot and released the short animated feature, Steamboat Willie. There was one big thing that set Steamboat Willie apart from the previous Mickey Cartoons. Steamboat Willie had sound. In fact it was the first cartoon to have synchronized sound.
Walt found a distributor and success. Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie became hugely popular. In fact, Mickey soon became the most popular cartoon character around.
Walt continued to get kicked in the teeth from time time. He had to shut down commercial production during World War 2. The opening day of Disneyland was marred with failures. But he never let anything keep him down. Mickey Mouse had given Walt a taste of success and he never looked back.
Which brings us to another famous Disney Quote:
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