The Sad Truth About What Happened To Walt Disney's First Studio

On May 18, 1922, a young man hailing from Chicago, Illinois stood inside the office of Missouri's then Secretary of State to incorporate his new studio, "Laugh-O-gram Films" (via Thank You, Walt Disney Inc.). Using what he learned from his venture with fellow animator Ub Iwerks, Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists (via Digital Media FX), Walt Disney made a deal with the manager of a local theater chain, Milton Feld, to create a series of animated features for his chain, Newman Theaters. Newman's Laugh-O-grams (via Mouseplanet) firmly secured Walt Disney's place in entertainment history.

With a deal in hand, Disney set about hiring his old partner, Ub Iwerks, along with a virtual who's who of animators, individuals who would eventually become legends in their own right: Friz Freleng, Hugh Harmon and Ruby Isling (via Visit KC). Over the next two years, Disney and his crew would go on to create 12 animated features that included fairy tales and fables like "Goldie Locks and the Three Bears," "Jack and the Beanstalk," and "Little Red Riding Hood" (via Silent Film).

Heading to California

Less than a year later, the newly incorporated studio was already in a bunch of financial upheaval. Just a few months into their deal, Newman Theaters declared bankruptcy (via D23). Disney wouldn't see another penny from the deal. In fact, according to Thank You, Walt Disney Inc., he couldn't even afford his apartment any longer, letting his lease expire and moving directly into the Laugh-O-gram Films studio. A few short months later, Disney would have to declare bankruptcy, but not before completing the short "Alice in Cartoonland." Dejected, he took the next train out of Kansas City and headed for Hollywood, California (via Britannica).

It surely wasn't the end for Walt or Ub, though. While on his journey to California, "Alice in Cartoonland" became a smash hit in Kansas City. Disney hit the Hollywood streets running, with the distributors of "Alice in Cartoonland" clamoring for more animated shorts. And he had just the thing. During his time at Laugh-O-gram Films studio, Disney took to feeding a small mouse he called Mortimer (via Visit KC). As legend has it, it was this very mouse that inspired a despondent Walt Disney during the train ride to California to begin a new chapter of his life.