History of Walt Disney in Kansas City
The creation of the world’s most well known fictional character, Mickey Mouse, was inspired by a flesh and blood mouse Walt Disney kept as a pet in his Laugh-O-gram Studio building in Kansas City, Missouri. The building where Walt did his first professional independent film making is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In this important historic structure, Walt Disney began the career which continues to have a major impact today on the culture of the world. At the age of 20, Walt incorporated Laugh-O-gram Films in May of 1922, recruiting friends with whom he had worked with at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, including Ub Iwerks, the greatest animator of his time, and others to begin the work which set the pattern for the career of the world’s most successful film producer.
Under Walt’s direction, his staff produced a series of one-reel cartoons he called Laugh-O-grams, as well as a live-action films aimed both at entertaining and educating audiences. The films Walt produced in Kansas City were nearly as good as those being produced on the east coast at that time.
Walt’s final film produced in Kansas City was the first episode of The Alice Comedies, in which a live-action little girl interacts with cartoon characters in a cartoon world. Four-year-old Virginia Davis of Kansas City appeared in that film and, a few months later, when Walt signed his contract to make the series, he persuaded Virginia’s family to move to Hollywood so she could continue with the series. The signing of the contract for The Alice Comedies on October 16, 1923 is the official founding date of The Walt Disney Company.
Walt’s Kansas City studio went bankrupt due in part to the fact that Walt did not have his brother Roy’s sound business advice available to him. Walt often said throughout his life that the experience he had making movies in Kansas City was critical to his later success in Hollywood.
Not only does The Walt Disney Company trace its origins to this building in Kansas City, Missouri, but among the other Kansas City boys who Walt brought to Hollywood were the young men who were the founding animators at Warner Brothers, the founding animators of the MGM animation studio and the animators who taught Hannah and Barbara how to animate as well as one of the animators who founded the DePatie-Freleng studio. Together, virtually the entire Hollywood animation industry traces its roots to the Laugh-O-gram Studio of Walt Disney in Kansas City, Missouri!!