Ah, birthdays. Who doesn't love a good cake cluttered with candles? While Dec. 5 may not be the birthday of anyone you know, there's still good reason to celebrate: it's the 118th birthday of American animator and visionary Walt Disney. You can mark Walt Disney's birthday with your kids by sharing these fascinating facts with them before watching your family's favorite Disney flick.
Born in Chicago on Dec. 5, 1901, Disney was the fourth of five children, according to Biography.com. When he was just 4, his family moved from the Windy City to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. Roughly five years later, the family moved again, this time to Kansas City, where Disney helped his father run a newspaper route. But eventually, the family found themselves back in Chicago, where Disney dropped out of high school to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps during World War I.
After the war, Disney returned to the United States to pursue a career in animation, Biography.com explains. After a somewhat rocky start, Walt Disney Studios was born. Nowadays, Disney is credited as being one of the world's most prolific filmmakers having created a number of animated shorts and feature films.
In honor of what would have been his 118th birthday, here are six facts about Disney, the creator, to share with your kids:
He Started Drawing Young
While Disney held many jobs before launching Walt Disney Studios, he took an early interest in drawing, according to The Walt Disney Family Museum. Thankfully, Disney's Aunt Margaret took note of this interest and kept him supplied with paper and various drawing implements.
"Aunt Margaret was the one that gave Walt his first drawing implements," the Walt Disney Family Museum reported Dave Smith, the founding director of the Walt Disney Archives, said. "So from that he started drawing. He drew a horse that was owned by the local doctor, Doc Sherwood ... And Walt did this really good drawing of this horse and sold it to the good doctor."
According to Smith, that drawing was Disney's first successful art sale.
Mickey Mouse Wasn't His First Character
While most credit Mickey as being Disney's first character, the truth is that Disney only thought up the iconic mouse after losing the rights to his first character — a rabbit. That's right, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was actually the first character Disney tried to pursue, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum.
He Was Once The Voice Of Mickey Mouse
The first time viewers ever heard Mickey Mouse speak, it was actually Disney's voice that they heard. According to History.com, Disney wasn't completely happy with the initial voice used for Mickey and so, opted to record the character's voice himself for a short called "The Karnival Kid," which aired in 1929. Walt continued to be the voice of Mickey until 1947, at which time his busy schedule forced him to forgo his side gig in voice acting.
He Loved Trains
"I suppose I’ve always been in love with trains," Disney supposedly wrote in an essay published by Railroad Magazine in October 1965 (The Walt Disney Family Museum has since acknowledged that the essay was likely written by a Walt Disney Studio publicist or staff writer).
"We fellows would marvel at the tall stacked engines that pulled into and out of the depot opposite the park where we played, huffing with steam and trailing nebulous smoke plumes," the essay continued. "One day in about 1909, when I was 8 or 9 years old and full of nerve, my buddies dared me to climb into the cab of one of them that stood there, temporarily deserted, and pull the whistle cord. I did so, but as soon as the whistle shrieked I quickly climbed down in a panic and ran like the dickens."
Both Disney's father and uncle worked on the railroad and are credited with igniting Disney's life-long interest in trains, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum. He loved them so much, he even installed one in his backyard. What's more, Disney's love of trains certainly had an influence on his work at Walt Disney Studio as trains and railroads were often featured in his early works.
In Fact, He Had A Brief Career In Railroads
While writing about his love of trains for Railroad Magazine, Disney revealed that long before his career in cartoons, he held a brief railroad career. In 1916, at the age of 15, Disney followed in his brother's footsteps by obtaining a job selling magazines, nuts, candies, cigars, and drinks on Fred Harvey system trains. Although Disney said he found his job as a train news butcher "exciting," it was ultimately unprofitable and he quit after just one summer.
Yes, Disney Had A Favorite Character Too
Just like many of us treasure one or two Disney characters above all the rest, Disney is also reported to have had a favorite Disney character. But while Mickey Mouse was the character that really put him on the map, Disney is reported to have favored Goofy most of all, according to the magazine INC.