America's Man (a Walt Disney TL)

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  • PNWKing

    Let's start from the beginning. An itinerate Canadian immigrant and a WASP belle with roots in the United States going back to Colonial Massachusetts. Elias and Flora Disney were as unlikely a couple as can be.

    However, this unlikely couple welcomed several children. But the one we will focus on was born on December, 5, 1901, in Hermosa, Chicago, IL. His name was Walter Elias Disney. Walter was from his father's pastor, an influence on his life.

    However, Elias was not a perfect Christian on the surface. He was a violent man, and he let this violence out on his sons and his daughter Ruth, born 1903. Ruth's one friend was her older by two years brother Walt.
    Young Walt
  • PNWKing

    Elias would move a lot. When Walt was four years old, Elias moved the family from Chicago to Marceline, Missouri. It was in Marceline that Walt first discovered his true passions: art and trains.

    Walt began to draw. He soon began taking commissions for his drawings. His drawings became known around Marceline. Elias did not approve of this as he did not see it as the path to a successful career.

    Elias encouraged Walt's other interest: trains. He saw Walt working on the trains and making money off of it. When Walt began to draw the trains, Elias though, disapproved.

    However, another influence entered Walt's life at 8 years old, in 1909. He started school with his younger sister, Ruth. It was there that he was engrossed in the world of tales. He found the German tales of the Brothers Grimm intriguing. The collections also included people like Charles Perrault. And he found the latest novels by one Lyman Frank Baum, who published as L. Frank Baum.

    Walt encouraged Ruth to read, which Elias did not like. This was what lead him to another great American writer, Samuel Clemens, or as his pen name was, "Mark Twain".
    World War I
  • PNWKing

    1914. Now, most years are just moves of the planet around the Earth, but some have consequences. 1914 was one of them. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Serbia by a Serbian nationalist. Because Serbia was allied with Russia, France, and the UK and Austria-Hungary was allied with the German & Ottoman Empires, soon Europe was thrust into a war of Biblical proportions.

    Within a few years, the Lusitania, a British ship carrying Americans was sunk. "Remember the Lusitania!" calls came out from every street and every home in America. Including the one in Chicago owned by an investor in the Zell-O company, Elias Disney. 16-year old Walt Disney was as caught up in the patriotic fervor as any American.

    Finally in March of 1918, Walt got his mother Flora to falsify his record so instead of 16 he was 18. He could now enlist. Walt found himself serving with the 16th Battalion in France, in what turned out to be one of the final battles of the war [1].

    After the armistice, Walt met up with a young artist and fellow war veteran named Ub Iwerks. Walt realized that Ub also had ties to the Kansas City, MO, area and thought, "We should go into business together." However, he thought the name Iwerks-Disney sounded wrong and that Disney-Iwerks sounded like a place that made eyeglasses. So, he came up with a new name, the Kansas City Commercial Art Company.

    [1] First divergence from OTL.
  • PNWKing

    As the 1920s began, the Kansas City Commercial Art Company had become successful. But in 1923, a letter to the Kansas City Commercial Art Company was received from a New York distributor named Margaret Winkler, demanding new films for release. Walt soon answered Winkler's letters with a series of shorts, the Alice Comedies. These comedies starred a cartoon cat and a human actress named Virginia Davies.

    In 1924, Walt began making more and more of the Alice Comedies. These had become profitable for the Kansas City Commercial Art Company, which changed it's name to the Laugh-O-Gram Company.

    In 1925, however, Winkler stopped buying the Alice Comedies and the Laugh-O-Gram Company lost their revenue. This was a disaster, as the company declared bankruptcy and was liquidated.
    So, in 1926 with his last $40 and a change of clothes, Walt Disney decided to take a train to join his brother, Roy, in Los Angeles, California. The sleepy town had grown with the rise of the film industry.
  • PNWKing

    1927 marked a year of change for Walt Disney and his new Walt Disney Company. The company was looking for a distributor. MGM, UA, Universal, Paramount, the newly formed 20th Century-Fox, and Columbia Pictures were all on the docket.

    Walt realized soon he could try for Universal, and he made a character with Ub Iwerks. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit debuted and became a successful franchise for Universal. But Charles Mintz wanted more.
    Mickey Mouse
  • PNWKing

    Throughout 1927, Disney began working on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts for Universal. However, Charles Mintz did not want Universal's short output to be controlled by an outsider. So in late 1927, Mintz stole Oswald from Disney, and 40% of Disney's staff left to to joint Mintz at his venture.

    However, Mintz did not count on one thing: Walt Disney. Disney took another train ride, looking for inspiration. Disney heard his inspiration instead. The train wheels would go "Mo-ouse, Mo-ouse". Reminded of a pet mouse he had once kept in Kansas City, he began to think of a mouse. Lillian Bounds, an ink-and-paint artist that Walt had grown fond of, rejected his first suggestion, Mortimer Mouse. Walt decided on "Mickey" instead.

    All he needed now was a distributor. He couldn't go to Universal. His other options were RKO, Paramount, MGM, UA, Columbia, and a little place called 20th Century-Fox that had just formed from the merger of 20th Century Studios and Fox Film.

    He decided to rough it out with the small Columbia Pictures studio. The first short "Plane Crazy" debuted. However, Walt had other ideas. He had heard of Warner Bros. use of synchronized sound in The Jazz Singer. He realized he could add sound to his films. So he did, starting with the second appearance of Mickey, Steamboat Willie.

    Steamboat Willie was a hit. The New York Times said "Columbia proved that Universal made a mistake to fire cartoonist Walt Disney, when he released his brilliant reel Steamboat Willie. Mark my words, Mickey Mouse will swamp Oswald the Lucky Rabbit."
    Great Depression
  • PNWKing

    1928 was a pretty big year.

    But 1929 was one of those years that is more than just a simple rotation of the Earth. It was one of the years that had impact.

    It all began in late October. The New York City stock exchange began to plummet as people began to sell off stock. The New York City stock exchange soon plummeted. Stock exchanges around the globe began to plummet.

    By November, people were already starting to call what was beginning a "Great Depression." Walt wanted to see if his fledgling studio could survive the Depression. Columbia made cheap films, but would people even have the disposable income to go out and see a movie?
    The Early 1930s
  • PNWKing

    As the Great Depression worsened, new forms of entertainment had emerged. People had bought radios en masse and kept them. "The WSM Barn Dance" from WSM in Nashville, Tennessee, was soon renamed "The Grand Ole Opry". Walt Disney found himself at the forefront of the radio revolution. Walt Disney, a woman named Marcellite Garner, and Clarence Nash reprised their roles from the Disney shorts on the all new Mickey Mouse Radio Hour, sponsored by Getty Oil and airing on the NBC Blue network.

    Another form of entertainment grew throughout the early 1930s. These were cheap books printed on cheap paper with cheap drawings. These were called "comic books". In 1934, Walt Disney licensed his name and iconic characters to a company called Dell Comics to produce a series of comic books around Disney's characters. Soon, artist Carl Barks began expanding the stories of Donald Duck into a "Duck Family" comic, soon revolving around the miserly billionaire Scrooge McDuck, a reference to Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
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