After Laugh-O-Gram Studio went bankrupt in 1923, Disney moved to Hollywood where his brother Roy was recovering from tuberculosis, and he hoped to become a film director. Disney’s production of “Alice’s Wonderland,” which combined live action with animation, was the only thing left from his Laugh-O-Gram venture and, eventually, he signed a contract with NY film distributor Margaret J. Winkler for a series of six Alice comedies with an option for two more six-part series. This time Disney’s partner was his brother Roy. They formed Disney Brothers Studio, the forerunner of The Walt Disney Company, to produce the films. Virginia Davis, who had played the title role, was talked into relocating her family to Hollywood to continue production under a monthly contract of $100. By July 1924, Disney had also talked Ub Iwerks into relocating to Hollywood as well.
Disney married Lillian Bounds in July, 1925, after hiring her earlier that year as an ink artist. Lillian had no interest in films or the Hollywood scene, preferring household management and providing support for her husband. Their union was blessed with two daughters. Diane was born in December 1933 and Sharon was adopted in December 1936 at the age of six weeks. Walt and Lillian were in total agreement on privacy. The Lindbergh kidnapping had taken place on March 1, 1932, and Disney took great pains to keep the girls out of the public eye and not photographed by the press.
Winkler had turned over distribution of the Alice series to her husband Charles Mintz by 1926. The series continued until July 1927. By that time, Disney wanted to change from a mixed format to all animation. When Mintz requested new material for Universal Pictures, Disney and Iwerks created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character Disney wanted to be “peppy, alert, saucy and venturesome, keeping him also neat and trim.”
The Disney/Mintz relationship fell apart in February 1928. Disney was hoping to negotiate a larger fee for the Oswald series, but Mintz was planning to reduce the fee. Disney also found out that Universal owned the intellectual property rights to Oswald and Mintz was prepared to start his own studio if Disney didn’t agree. In fact, Mintz had already recruited all but one of Disney’s staff for himself. Disney refused and, with only Iwerks by his side, Disney began again.
Next week: Mickey Mouse is born …
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News for over ten years. She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.email@example.com.