The Origins of Walt Disney

Author and Cultural Historian

Historian and teacher, Andrew Kiste, is the author of the three-volume A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World, which discusses the historical accuracy of Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions, and Walt Disney and the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair: Great Moments, which utilizes in-depth research to tell the story of the partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the State of Illinois. He recently released the first in a new trilogy series, entitled The Early Life of Walt Disney, which discusses the years between Walt Disney’s birth and the “birth” of Mickey Mouse in 1928.


A History of Walt Disney

Many remember Walt Disney as a creative genius who revolutionized the entertainment industry. However, it was never inevitable during Walt’s early years that he would become the entertainment mogul of the twentieth century.

Walt Disney’s Early Years

When a new form of entertainment emerged in the early 1900s, “motion pictures” captured the imagination of a young boy from Missouri. Over the next several years, Walt would begin to hone his art skills, overcoming several hurdles, including numerous relocations, a close call with a global pandemic, a deployment to Europe in the days after World War One, numerous bankruptcies, and even homelessness. It was these adversities, along with the historical events that surrounded him, that would influence the man he would become.

Retrace the Steps of the Young Walt Disney

Join author and historian, Andrew Kiste, as he retraces the steps of the young Walt Disney–from the room where he was born in Chicago, to the small-town farm that impacted him so much, to the urban streets on which he delivered newspapers and experienced homelessness in Kansas City. Learn about the fascinating line of events and developments that led Walt Disney to become one of our most famous artists, animators, filmmakers, and visionaries.

Recommended Reading on the History of Walt Disney:

  • Walt Disney: An American Original, by Bob Thomas
  • Walt Disney’s Missouri: The Roots of a Creative Genius, by Brian Burnes
  • The Story of Walt Disney, by Diane Disney Miller
  • In the Service of the Red Cross: Walt Disney’s Early Adventures: 1918-1919, by David Lesjak and Bob McLain
  • The Early Life of Walt Disney, by Andrew Kiste

Discussion Questions About Walt Disney’s History:

  1. If Walt Disney’s rise to dominate the animation industry was never inevitable, what event in his first three decades was most influential in cementing his decision to start an animation company?
  1. Walt Disney always claimed Marceline, Missouri as his hometown, explaining that “more things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have happened since,” yet he only spent about five years of his childhood in the rural Missouri town. Is this a valid assertion, or did Chicago and/or Kansas City impact who he would become more?



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Jeffrey Watt


The topic was really interesting, but occasionally the sequencing was a little mixed. It would be nice if our lecturer smiled a bit more as his affect was a little flat. We still enjoyed the lecture.

2 years ago
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