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Walt Disney’s Birthday

walt-disney-drawingOn December 5, 1901, Walt Disney, innovative American animator, movie producer, and entrepreneur who started The Walt Disney Company, was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Disney lived in Missouri for most of his childhood and started selling pictures, paintings, and drawings he created to his neighbors and friends. After his family moved back to Chicago, Disney attended McKinley High School and took drawing and photography classes while working as the cartoonist for the school’s newspaper. He took classes at the Chicago Institute of Art at night and dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the military. Because he was underage, he was rejected and joined the Red Cross instead, and was sent to France where he drove ambulances for a year.

Disney finished his time with the Red Cross in France in 1919 and moved to Kansas City to become a newspaper artist. He began doing cutout animations for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, and experimented with cel animation with a camera the owner of the company let him borrow. He soon decided to start an animation business and produced short cartoons which he called Laugh-o-Grams that he screened at a Kansas City theater. After the cartoons gained a significant amount of popularity, Disney was able to open up his own animation studio and hire a fairly large amount of animators. In the few years it was open, his studio’s profits did not exceed the salaries he payed his employees, and Disney was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Unphased by this setback, Disney and his brother, Roy, pooled their money, moved to Hollywood, and started Disney Brothers Studio. There they searched for a distributor for Disney’s Alice Comedies, a series of live-action Alice in Wonderland shorts featuring a little girl named Alice having adventures in an animated world. They found salvation in Margaret Winkler who owned Winkler Pictures with her fiance, Charles Mintz. They struck a deal contracting out the shorts to Winkler Pictures for $1,500 each. After Winkler and Mintz married in 1927, Mintz assumed control of the company and ordered a new series of animated shorts from Disney to be distributed through Universal Pictures. The Disney studio created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit which was instantly popular. When Disney confronted Mintz about increasing his fee per short, Disney was surprised to find out that Universal owned the trademark to Oswald and Mintz had most of Disney’s animators under contract. Mintz informed an appalled Disney that he would be decreasing his production budget, and if Disney did not accept these new terms, he would produce the Oswald shorts without Disney.

Cutting his losses, Disney decided to strike out on his own once again with his brother and animator friend who had been with him from the beginning, Ubbe Iwerks. Together they created a new character, the iconic Mickey Mouse. With the addition of sound to film, Mickey Mouse soon became the world’s most popular cartoon character and Disney received an honorary Oscar for his creation of Mickey Mouse in 1932. Disney began producing many successful cartoons and set out to make the first full-length cel animated feature film in 1934.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in Los Angeles on December 21, 1937. Despite the effects of the Depression, Snow White was produced at an unheard of $1.499 million. During its initial release it grossed $8 million ($132,671,390 today), and Disney was given an honorary Academy Award featuring a full-size Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones. In the next few years following the release of Snow White, the Disney studios produced several more full-length animated films including Fantasia, Pinocchio, Bambi, and Dumbo.

In the 1940s, Disney experienced some setbacks when his animators went on strike, but began making more animated features in the 1950s including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland and others. When television gained mass appeal, Disney took advantage of this and produced some of the first full-color television programs. The 1950s also saw the opening of Disneyland, a family theme park that became a world-renowned tourist hot spot soon after its opening.

The Disney studios produced a plethora of feature films in Walt Disney’s lifetime including popular live-action and animated films like Mary Poppins. Plans for a larger East coast version of Disneyland called Disney World including the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow or EPCOT were put into motion in the early 1960s, but Walt was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 1966 and passed away later that year. In his memory, Walt’s brother renamed the new theme park Walt Disney World and it was completed in the 1970s.

Walt Disney is a legendary figure whose name is now synonymous with creativity, imagination, and never giving up on your dreams.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, Just Disney


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Nostradamus’s Birthday

On this day in 1503, Nostradamus, a French apothecary, seer, and astrologer, was born.

Nostradamus is best known for his series of books titled “Les Propheties” (“The Prophecies”). Divided into ten “centuries,” “The Prophecies” were long-term predictions, many of apocalyptic nature, with each prediction written as a rhyming quatrain. Nine of the centuries contained 100 prophecies while one contained only 42.

In order to prevent himself from accusations of being a magician, Nostradamus was not only cryptic in his writing but wrote in a variety of languages through out the series. Yet, overenthusiastic believers of Nostradamus’s predictions have misinterpreted, mistranslated, or twisted the predictions to “prove” that Nostradamus predicted such events as the French Revolution, the Great Fire of London, the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana, and even the 9/11 attacks. Nostradamus is even linked to predictions that he didn’t even write, including the 9/11 “prediction.”

What’s more, the interpreting is always done after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight, and with the concerted aim of proving the relevance of a given passage to an actual event.”

- David Emery, About.com guide on Urban Legends

Many people are also linking Nostradamus to the Mayan prophecy that many believe marks the end of the world (December 21, 2012.) However, the Mayan prophecy, the Mayan calendar, 2012, December 21, and anything else related to December 21, 2012 are mentioned nowhere in Nostradamus’s works.

Celebrate Nostradamus’s Birthday by reading “The Prophecies” and making your own interpretations. To really get in the Nostradamus spirit, make some predictions of your own and compile them into a journal to pass down to the next generation.

And if you haven’t learned enough about Nostradamus already, check out these strange facts about the apothecary turned seer.

Sources: Wikipedia, How Stuff Works, About.com, History.com

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Mary’s, Queen of Scots, Birthday

On this day in 1542, Mary, Queen of Scots, was born. The only legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, Mary succeeded the throne six days later, upon her father’s death, and was crowned on September 9, 1543.

Though Mary was the queen of Scotland, she was raised in France. In 1558, she married Francis II, Dauphin of France, and became queen consort of France when Francis II was crowned King in 1559. Almost a year after King Francis II’s death in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland to begin her reign as queen regnant of Scotland.

However, her reign ended in 1567 when she was forced to renounce the throne and pass the crown over to her one-year-old son, James, from her second marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary fled to England where she spent the rest of her life – mostly confined, as she was considered a legitimate heir to English throne and a threat to Elizabeth.

Mary was eventually beheaded on February 8, 1587 after being convicted of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth.

Celebrate the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots, by learning more about Mary’s life. You can also take a virtual tour of Edinburgh Castle, where Mary was born.


Sources: Wikipedia, History.com, Scotclans.com

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