As Dreamers Do: American Magic Redux

Introduction: Walt's Humble Beginnings
  • PREFACE:
    After maybe three and a half years, I have decided to start American Magic over from scratch. I've lost track of a lot of the stuff I had written down to flesh out the world of that timeline, so here we are. Some things might stay the same, while others may be completely different. And of course, you'll see a lot of fictional individuals created to fill certain needs as this TTL goes.

    So without further ado, let's begin...

    Walter Elias Disney
    (December 5, 1901 - TBD)


    Narration by Liev Schreiber (Excerpt from the documentary Walt Disney: An American Original)
    Given how deep the Disney brand is ingrained in our popular culture today, it's hard to imagine a time before Disney theme parks or movies. For some, the brand can sometimes be second to God or a symbol of gung-ho American patriotism. But every staple of Americana has had its humble beginnings, and the Disney brand is no different.

    Walter Elias Disney, or "Walt" for short, was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the fourth son of Elias Charles Disney and Flora Call. Elias was a Canadian transplant with deep Irish roots. Flora was an American of German ancestry. Walt's older brothers were Herbert (b. 1888), Raymond (b. 1890) and Roy (b. 1893). Walt's younger sister Ruth was born in 1903.

    During Walt's childhood, the Disney family would live on a farm to Marceline, Missouri before moving shortly thereafter to Kansas City. In 1917, when Walt was a teenager, the Disneys moved back to Chicago, where Elias bought stock in the now-defunct O-Zell Company, a manufacturer of jelly.

    At age 16, Walt joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver (below) and set off to France.


    "It was during that time [1918] when I was in the ambulance unit that I briefly took up smoking. You have to understand that back then, there was a blissful ignorance towards the long-term health effects. One day behind the wheel, I suddenly realized I misplaced by matchbox. I searched every pocket in my jacket and every pant pocket to no avail. Gradually, I pretty much forgot about those lousy matches and the distraction caused by my smoking habit faded away."
    - Walt Disney in a 1970 interview with Walter Cronkite.

    Schreiber (cont'd):
    "When Walt came back to the United States, he returned to familiar territory in Kansas City. In October 1919, at age 17, he landed his first job as a commercial artist at the advertising firm of Pesmen-Rubin. When that firm alarmingly went out of business, Walt and childhood friend Ub Iwerks went into business for themselves, but few customers expressed interest. It wasn't until Walt landed a job with the Kansas City Film Ad Company that his interest in cel animation had awakened.

    On June 28, 1921, at the age of 19, Walt would form the Laugh-O-Gram Studio.
     
    Sports as of 1921
  • For those curious as to how the world of sports looked in 1921, here is a list of the major leagues as they were at that time.

    Baseball
    American League
    Boston Red Sox
    Chicago White Sox
    Cleveland Indians
    Detroit Tigers
    New York Yankees
    Philadelphia Athletics
    St. Louis Browns
    Washington Senators

    National League
    Boston Braves
    Brooklyn Dodgers
    Chicago Cubs
    Cincinnati Reds
    New York Giants
    Philadelphia Phillies
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    St. Louis Cardinals

    American Professional Football Association
    Akron Pros
    Buffalo All Americans
    Canton Bulldogs
    Chicago Cardinals
    Chicago Staleys
    Cincinnati Celts
    Cleveland Indians
    Columbus Panhandles
    Dayton Triangles
    Detroit Tigers
    Evansville Crimson Giants
    Green Bay Packers
    Hammond Pros
    Louisville Brecks
    Minneapolis Marines
    Muncie Flyers
    Brickley's New York Giants
    Rochester Jeffersons
    Rock Island Independents
    Tonawanda Kardex
    Washington Senators

    National Hockey League
    Hamilton Tigers
    Montreal Canadiens
    Ottawa Senators
    Toronto St. Patricks
     
    Alice and Oswald
  • In early 1923, Walt produced Alice's Wonderland, which would prove to be the start of his silent Alice Comedies series.


    Later that year, the Laugh-O-Gram studio went belly up but Walt saved enough money for a train ride to Hollywood, where he hoped to find work as a live action director. When no such opportunities arose, Walt teamed up with big brother Roy to form the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in their Uncle Robert's garage.


    In 1926, as the Alice Comedies started to wind down, Disney introduced another cartoon series starring a lucky rabbit named Oswald. By this time, Margaret Winkler and her husband Charles Mintz received word that Universal Pictures expressed interest in entering the cartoon business. A year later, Winkler and Mintz arranged for Universal to distribute Oswald beginning with Trolley Troubles in September 1927.


    Also in 1927, the Disney staff would move from Kingswell Avenue in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles to Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake neighborhood.
     
    A Mouse is Born
  • Narration by Alec Baldwin (From the TV special It All Started with a Mouse)
    Unfortunately, the Disney partnership with Mintz and Universal was too good to last. By early 1928, a budget dispute led Mintz to strip Walt of not only Oswald, but a few of Disney's staff members as well. Some stayed loyal to Walt, including Ub Iwerks, Wilfred Jackson and Les Clark.

    WALT: "Lilly and I were coming back from New York on the train...I swore to myself that I had to have something when I got back to Hollywood. I couldn't tell 'em I lost Oswald."


    Earliest known Mickey drawings. Unclear if Walt or Ub drew these.

    Baldwin (Cont'd)
    When he returned to Los Angeles, Walt sat down with Ub Iwerks to develop a new character.

    WALT: "We tried cows, dogs, horses and frogs...then one day Ub drew me this handsome looking mouse. I was suddenly reminded of a mouse I once kept as a pet back at the ol' Laugh-O-Gram office...Ub and I both agreed that a mouse could be a sympathetic cartoon character even though people are frightened of real mice."


    Ub Iwerks at the drawing board.

    Baldwin (Cont'd)
    Originally, Walt wanted to call the new character Mortimer. But it was his wife Lilly who preferred "Mickey." The first two Mickey shorts, Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho were originally silent but didn't make an impression on potential distributors. Sound was barely in its infancy in cinema, with Warner Bros' release of The Jazz Singer often credited for ushering in the new era of live action "Talkies." In animation, the Fleischer brothers experimented with sound earlier in the decade with their Song Car-Tunes.

    Ultimately, Walt's third Mickey cartoon Steamboat Willie would prove to be the Disney studio's first big hit of the sound era. Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho would be made later with fully synchronized sound.

     
    Silly Symphonies
  • Narration by Alec Baldwin (From the TV special It Was All Started by a Mouse)
    By mid-1929, Walt was enjoying great success with the Mickey Mouse shorts. As Steamboat Willie exceeded box office expectations, Walt began entertaining distribution offers from Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, Celebrity Productions and the Fox Film Corporation. In the meantime, he visited an old Kansas City acquaintance, Carl W. Stalling, and the two conceived the idea of a new series that would become the Silly Symphonies.

    The first Silly Symphony was the Skeleton Dance, released on August 1, 1929.


    Three years later, the studio released Flowers and Trees. Half of the picture had already been finished in black and white, but when Walt learned of the three-strip Technicolor process, many scenes were redrawn, repainted and reshot in full color.


    Later in 1932 came Babes in the Woods, based loosely on Grimm's Hansel and Gretel fairy tale.


    Then in 1933 came The Three Little Pigs. Thanks to the memorable song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, this short would go on to be the most successful entry of the Silly Symphonies series.


    The following year in 1934, Donald Duck made his screen debut in The Wise Little Hen.


    Baldwin (Cont'd)
    But in the midst of the Silly Symphonies craze, Walt was already looking towards the future.

    WALT: "I saw the handwriting on the walls early - that the short subject is just a filler on any program. I just felt I just had to diversify my business. So if I could crack the feature field, I could do things."

     
    Drumroll Please
  • In 1915, William Fox founded the Fox Film Corporation.


    Eighteen years later, former Warner Bros executive Darryl F. Zanuck forms 20th Century Pictures.


    In mid-1935, the two studios merged to form the 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation.
     
    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937 Film)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


    Premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles (below) on December 21, 1937.

    Snow White is pretty much the same as OTL, but I still felt the need to get this update out of my system.



    Distributed by
    United Artists
    (Special thanks to @PNWKing for that suggestion)

    Adapted from
    Grimm's Fairy Tales

    Directors
    David Hand
    Ben Sharpsteen
    Wilfred Jackson
    Perce Pearce
    Larry Morey

    Story
    Dorothy Ann Blank
    Ted Sears
    Webb Smith
    Earl Hurd
    Richard Creedon
    Merrill DeMaris
    Otto Englander
    Dick Rickard

    Voices (Added to reissue prints)
    Adriana Caselotti as Snow White
    Pinto Colvig as Grumpy and Sleepy
    Scotty Mattraw as Bashful
    Roy Atwell as Doc
    Otis Harlan as Happy
    Billy Gilbert as Sneezy
    Lucille LaVerne as The Queen and The Witch
    Stuart Buchanan as the Huntsman
    Moroni Olsen as the Magic Mirror
    Harry Stockwell as the Prince

    Reaction
    "Thank you, Mr. Disney"
    - The New York Times

    "An authentic masterpiece."
    - TIME magazine

     
    Animation Studio Directory as of 1938
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Cartoons
    ***NOW HIRING***

    Key people: Fred Quimby, Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising
    HQ: MGM Backlot; Culver City, California

    Walt Disney Productions
    Key people: Walter E. Disney, Roy O. Disney
    HQ: Hyperion Avenue; Los Angeles, California
    Distributor: United Artists

    Leon Schlesinger Productions
    Key people: Leon Schlesinger, Eddie Seltzer
    HQ: 5800 Sunset Blvd; Los Angeles, California ("Termite Terrace")
    Distributor: Warner Bros

    Terrytoons
    Key people: Paul Terry
    HQ: New Rochelle, New York
    Distributor: 20th Century Fox

    Walter Lantz Productions
    Key people: Walter Lantz
    HQ: Universal City, California
    Distributor: Universal Pictures

    Fleischer Studios
    Key people: Max Fleischer, Dave Fleischer, Seymour Kneitel, Sam Buchwald
    HQ: Miami, Florida
    Distributor: Paramount Pictures

    Jam Handy Organization
    Key people: Jam Handy
    HQ: Detroit, Michigan

    Van Beuren Studios
    Key people: Amadee Van Beuren
    HQ: New York City
    Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures

    Screen Gems
    Key people: Charles Mintz, Margaret Winkler
    HQ: Los Angeles, California
    Distributor: Columbia Pictures

    I think I've got most of them, but if there's one I'm missing please let me know.
     
    The Comic Book Golden Age Begins!
  • @nick_crenshaw82
    Might still be in Florida



    Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, already the creators of Slam Bradley, decided to develop a character that could be nearly indestructible.



    Originally, Superman was to be a telepathic menace unleashed by a mad scientist.



    But after a few years of rethinks and revisions, Superman would evolve into a do-gooder, forever engaged in his ongoing battle for truth and justice. Originally conceived as a newspaper comic strip, Superman would be rejected by every syndicate in the country. Finally in 1937, Siegel and Shuster found favor in National Periodical Publications, who sought a centerpiece for their proposed anthology Action Comics.

    Action Comics #1 debuted in the late spring of 1938 and became an instant bestseller.

     
    Sports as of 1939
  • The professional sports leagues of North America as of 1939

    Major League Baseball
    American League

    Boston Red Sox
    Chicago White Sox
    Cleveland Indians
    Detroit Tigers
    New York Yankees
    Philadelphia Athletics
    St. Louis Browns
    Washington Senators

    National League
    Boston Braves
    Brooklyn Dodgers
    Chicago Cubs
    Cincinnati Reds
    New York Giants
    Philadelphia Phillies
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    St. Louis Cardinals

    National Football League
    Eastern Division

    Brooklyn Dodgers
    New York Giants
    Philadelphia Eagles
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    Washington Redskins

    Western Division
    Chicago Bears
    Chicago Cardinals
    Cleveland Rams
    Detroit Lions
    Green Bay Packers

    National Hockey League
    Boston Bruins
    Chicago Blackhawks
    Detroit Red Wings
    Montreal Canadiens
    New York Americans
    New York Rangers
    Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    Gulliver's Travels (1939 Film)
  • Gulliver's Travels

    Released on December 22, 1939 by Paramount Pictures
    Produced by Fleischer Studios
    Based on the story by Jonathan Swift

    Directed by Dave Fleischer
    Musical score by Victor Young
    Songs by Sammy Timberg, Winston Sharples, Leo Robin, Ralph Rainger and Al Neiburg

    Voices
    Sam Parker as Lemuel Gulliver
    Pinto Colvig as Gabby
    Jack Mercer as King Little, Twinkletoes, Sneak, Snoop and Snitch
    Tedd Pierce as King Bombo

    Princess Glory
    Jessica Dragonette - Singing Voice
    Livonia Warren - Speaking Voice

    Prince David
    Lanny Ross - Singing Voice
    Cal Howard - Speaking Voice

    Despite the $350,000 penalty being butterflied, tensions still arose between Paramount and Fleischer Studios in other areas, namely the timeframe to phase the Popeye short subject series into Technicolor. Another point of tension is the Fleischers' decision to option Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo's story treatment about a friendly ghost (below).

     
    Pinocchio (1940 Film)
  • Pinocchio

    Released by Walt Disney on February 23, 1940

    Released Thru
    United Artists

    Based on the story by
    Carlo Collodi

    Supervising Directors
    Ben Sharpsteen
    Hamilton Luske

    Sequence Directors
    T. Hee
    Norm Ferguson
    Jack Kinney
    Bill Roberts
    Wilfred Jackson

    Story
    Ted Sears
    Otto Englander
    Webb Smith
    Dorothy Ann Blank
    Joseph Sabo
    Erdman Penner
    Aurelius Battaglia

    Music and Songs
    Leigh Harline
    Paul Smith
    Ned Washington

    Voices
    Dickie Jones as Pinocchio
    Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket
    Christian Rub as Gepetto
    Evelyn Venable as the Blue Fairy
    Walter Catlett as J. Worthingon Foulfellow
    Charles Judels as Stromboli and the Coachman
    Frankie Darro as Lampwick

    Winner of two Oscars
    Best Song for When You Wish Upon a Star
    Best Musical Score​
     
    Disney's New Digs
  • As production on Pinocchio was winding down, Walt Disney began the process of moving his staff out of the now-cramped facilities on Hyperion Avenue...


    To a more modern studio lot in Burbank, which was completed shortly after Pinocchio premiered.

     
    Entertainment News for Summer 1940


  • Five years ago, RKO Radio Pictures was spurned by Walt Disney's extension of his current deal with United Artists. Now with the Van Beuren cartoon studio liquidating its assets, RKO is launching a campaign to outbid 20th Century-Fox for the distribution deal for Terrytoons.
    - The NBC Blue Network

    Columbia Pictures hopes to lure Norm McCabe, Tex Avery or Bob Clampett away from the Leon Schlesinger studio to improve the shaky fortunes of its Screen Gems division. If they are unsuccessful in luring Avery, Jones or McCabe, look for Columbia to try to hire Otto Messmer away from Fleischer Studios. Besides Columbia, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is also interested in Avery's services.
    - Mutual radio network

    As a plan B in case RKO lures Terrytoons away, 20th Century-Fox chairman Darryl Zanuck has two options. He can try to lure Walt Disney away from United Artists, or Zanuck can raise Fox's line of credit in order for the studio to open its own cartoon department.
    - CBS Radio​
     
    1940 Cartoon Debuts
  • A Wild Hare
    (Warner Bros./Schlesinger)

    Often considered the debut of Bugs Bunny even though prototype rabbit characters had been popping up in WB's cartoons as early as 1938.

    Puss Gets the Boot
    (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

    The debut of Jasper (later Tom?) and Jerry. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera directed this one while Rudy Ising served as the producer.

    Knock Knock
    (Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz)

    The debut of Woody Woodpecker, though it was originally released as an Andy Panda short.​
     
    Fantasia (1940 Film)
  • Fantasia


    Released by Walt Disney through United Artists on November 13, 1940

    Featuring
    The Philadelphia Orchestra


    Conducted by
    Leopold Stokowski


    Narrative Introductions [1]
    Deems Taylor


    SEGMENTS
    Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach)



    The Nutcracker Suite (Tchiakovsky)


    The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Dukas)


    The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky)


    The Pastoral Symphony (Beethoven)


    The Dance of the Hours (Ponchielli)


    A Night on Bald Mountain (Mussorgsky)


    Ave Maria (Schubert)


    [1] ITTL, Deems Taylor's skits are shorter, with his narration spoken over footage of the orchestra tuning their instruments for each segment. The shorter skits can be seen in the 1991 VHS or Laserdisc of the OTL film.​
     
    The Reluctant Dragon
  • The Reluctant Dragon

    Walt (left) and Robert Benchley (right) come face to face.

    Released by Walt Disney on June 20, 1941

    Distributed by United Artists

    Algonquin Round Table humorist Robert Benchley, grandfather of future Jaws author Peter Benchley, wanders off while on a tour of Disney's then state of the art headquarters in Burbank. Benchley's goal throughout the film is to pitch Kenneth Grahame's Reluctant Dragon story to Walt as a movie idea.



    From Benchley's POV, we see early evidence of Walt Disney's futurism through the display of maquettes of characters from Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp. Both projects would ultimately be put on hold until after the Second World War.



    CARTOON VOICES
    John McLeish as the Narrator
    Claud Allister as Sir Giles
    Bill Lee as the Boy
    Barnett Parker as the Dragon
    Clarence Nash as Donald Duck
    Florence Gill as Clara Cluck

    Barnett Parker passed away roughly a month and a half after the film's original release.

    The release of The Reluctant Dragon coincided with the peak of the animators' strike (below), which would not be resolved until Walt set off for South America on a goodwill trip.
     
    Superman (1941 Film)
  • Superman


    Released by Paramount Pictures on September 26, 1941

    Based on the characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

    Directed by
    Dave Fleischer

    Music by
    Sammy Timberg

    Story
    Seymour Kneitel
    Izzy Sparber
    Jack Mercer
    Bill Turner
    Tedd Pierce
    Carl Meyer
    Dan Gordon

    Supervising Animators
    Myron Waldman
    Nick Tafuri
    Steve Muffati
    George Germanetti
    Seamus Culhane
    Grim Natwick
    Otto Messmer
    Willard Bowsky
    Reuben Grossman
    Stan Quackenbush
    David Tendlar
    Arnold Gillespie
    Otto Feuer
    Orestes Calpini

    Voices
    Bud Collyer as Clark Kent/Superman
    Joan Alexander as Lois Lane
    Julian Noa as Perry White

    Additional Voices
    Jack Mercer (The Mad Scientist and Jimmy Olsen)
    Jackson Beck



    ITTL, the Mad Scientist, the Mechanical Monsters and the Bulleteers are bridged together with more scenes of Lois and Clark (above) at the Daily Planet offices. The first act still begins with the synopsis of Supes' origins, which can be seen in the OTL Mad Scientist short.

    This film marks the first occurrence of Supes' flying abilities. Previously, he was only able to "leap tall buildings in a single bound."

    Thanks to a built-in fanbase that grew rapidly in just two and a half years, Superman jumped out to an early, comfortable lead at the box office. However, with Walt Disney bringing out Dumbo a week before Halloween, it'll be interesting to see if Supes can stay at #1 for a few more weeks.

    Naturally, National Comics hopes Superman can be followed up with a film adaptation of Batman. However, Fleischer has not expressed much enthusiasm for the Caped Crusader, so look to Walter Lantz, Leon Schlesinger or another producer to sway both National and Bill Finger.

    In the meantime, the box office success of Superman should bring in a surplus of cash for the Fleischers to finally bring Popeye to Technicolor full time.​
     
    Dumbo (1941 Film)
  • Dumbo

    Released on October 23, 1941 by Walt Disney thru United Artists.

    Based on a book by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl.


    Directors
    Ben Sharpsteen
    Otto Englander

    Story
    Joe Grant
    Dick Huemer

    Supervising Animators
    Wolfgang Reitherman
    Ward Kimball
    Bill Tytla
    Art Babbitt
    Fred Moore
    John Lounsbery

    Voices
    Sterling Holloway as Mr. Stork
    Verna Felton as the Matriarch Elephant
    Edward Brophy as Timothy Q. Mouse
    Herman Bing as the Ringmaster

    The Crows
    Cab Calloway
    Nick Stewart
    Hall Johnson
    James Baskett
    Jim Carmichael

    The Elephants
    Noreen Gammill
    Dorothy Scott
    Sarah Shelby

    In its theatrical debut, Dumbo was the Kryptonite to Superman's box office bliss, knocking the Paramount/Fleischer film down from #1 to #2 at the box office. Universal's Wolf Man would push Superman further down the charts the following month.

    Dumbo was scheduled to grace the cover of TIME Magazine, but of course, that didn't happen.​
     
    One fine day at Termite Terrace

  • Termite Terrace aka Leon Schlesinger Productions

    Staff Meeting
    November 3, 1941


    LEON SCHLESINGER
    "Okay, so Fleischer's doin' well with Superman and Disney's doin' well with Dumbo. Now I think I have an idea for a feature cartoon. How many of you guys remember that story Alice in Wonderland?"


    CHUCK JONES
    "Not me. Haven't really thought about it in ages."


    TEX AVERY
    "Paramount made a version a few years back that was pretty good."


    BOB CLAMPETT
    "I think I can make the material work as a movie."​
     
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