Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901. In 1906, his family moved to a Missouri farm, where he had an idyllic early childhood and first learned to draw. The farm failed, and in 1911 his family moved to Kansas City, where he rose at 3:30 am to deliver newspapers on his father’s paper route and fell in love with vaudeville and movies.
In 1917, the family moved to Chicago, where Walt created cartoons for his high school yearbook, took classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. Rejected for being underage, he joined the American Ambulance Corps and arrived in France as World War I ended.
When Disney returned to the United States, he settled in Kansas City and got a job at a commercial art studio. In 1920, while working at an ad company, Walt discovered the fantastical world of animation and immersed himself in the young medium. While keeping his day job, he began making Laugh-O-gram ad reels and animation shorts with artist Ub Iwerks. Laugh-O-grams Films soon went bankrupt, and Walt, at age 21 moved to California.
Walt’s early drawings and mementoes from his childhood, as well as cameras similar to those he used in Kansas City, will be highlighted in the Museum’s first gallery.