Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1901. When he was 5, a murder occurred nearby in Chicago, and the Disneys decided to move to the small town of Marceline, Missouri. Walt was often scolded at school for not doing work, and drawing instead. His best friend in school was Walt Pfeiffer, and they both looked up to the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Walt became in ambulance driver in France in 1918, near the end of World War II. At only 16, he had to lie about his age to become a driver (you had to be 17). He would draw cartoon characters on the side of his ambulance. When he returned to America, he began taking jobs as an artist at places like advertising companies. In 1922, he and his brother started the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, now known as the Walt Disney Company, and made the Alice comedies, combining live action and animation. On July 13, 1925, he was married to Lillian Bounds.In 1927, he created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Universal Studios, and created multiple cartoons. Later that year, Charles Mintz, his superior at Universal, offered better pay to Walt's animators, and they all went to work for Universal, except for Walt's friend and animator Ub Iwerks. In 1928, on a train to Los Angeles with his wife and Ub Iwerks, he began drawing a mouse, not to different from Oswald. He named him Mortimer, but Lillian suggested Mickey Mouse, and Walt and Ub agreed. On November 18, 1928, Steamboat Willie, the first "talkie" cartoon, as well as first Mickey Mouse cartoon, created by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney, had premiered. In 1932, Walt and his animators created "Flowers and Trees," the first color cartoon. In 1937, he took a huge chance, and created the first animated full-length motion picture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, amid much criticism, but the film did unbelievably well.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Walt would take his daughters, Sharon and Diane, to Griffith Park to ride the merry-go-round, and began to have ideas of creating an amusement park of his own, but not just for children, but for everyone, no matter how old. In 1951, he created WED (Walter Elias Disney) Imagineering to build "Disney Land" (sic), a theme park to be built next to the Studio in Burbank. But plans grew too big for the small plot of land next to the studio, and the project evolved into Disneyland. Walt heard about an orange grove south of Los Angeles, in the City of Anaheim, in the then-tiny Orange County. He purchased this land, and it was to become Disneyland. Ground was broken for Disneyland on July 18, 1954, exactly 364 days until the scheduled opening. In October, Walt pioneered into television, and his own show, also called "Disneyland" to promote the park, premiered, and this anthology series would live on to today as the Wonderful World of Disney. On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened. Walt was not one to procrastinate, and Disneyland opened on its scheduled day, but it was unfinished. Its opening day ceremonies, hosted by Art Linkletter, Ronald Reagan, and Bob Cummings, was the largest live television broadcast in history, and showed all the parks problems, including wet cement, gas leaks, and even Walt himself messing up his Tomorrowland opening speech. Critics called it "Disney's folly," but it did not fail. It thrived, and welcomed its millionth guest just 12 weeks after opening, and still is an American icon today.
In 1964, Walt and his Imagineers created Disney attractions for the New York World's Fair: "it's a small world," Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Ford Magic Skyway, and the Carousel of Progress. After the fair, they all went to Disneyland, except for the fact that only one scene of Ford Magic Skyway made it into Disneyland. "small world" made its home in Fantasyland in 1966, Lincoln on Main Street in 1966 as well, and the Carousel of Progress in the new 1967 Tomorrowland (it closed in 1973, and was moved to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, where it opened in 1974 and remains today). In 1966, Walt had dreams for EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a futuristic city. He secretly bought tens of thousands of acres in Florida swampland near Orlando to be used for the Disney World Magic Kingdom park, and EPCOT. He created false companies to buy up the land, to avoid motels from infesting the land around the park, like what happened to Disneyland. It was later revealed in the Orlando Sentinel (when Disney OKed it) that the companies were all owned by Walt Disney Productions to build its new park there. Sadly, on December 15, 1966, just ten days after his 65th birthday, Walt died from lung cancer, after a lifetime of smoking. EPCOT plans were shelved, but Disney World plans remained. Walt's older brother Roy renamed the plans as Walt Disney World, in tribute to his little brother Walt. It opened on October 1, 1971 EPCOT-less with the Disneyland-based Magic Kingdom park. Unfortunately, Roy passed away two months after Walt Disney World's opening. EPCOT Center, a world's fair-style park opened, in honor of EPCOT, the unbuilt city, and it featured Future World and World Showcase. Future World was the closest EPCOT Center ever came to the EPCOT city. In 1995, EPCOT Center's name was shortened to Epcot.