When Walt arrived in California in 1923, he didn’t even have enough clothing to fill a shabby suitcase. Ten years later he was the world-famous father of Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies. The story of this incredible decade is replete with enormous disappointments for Walt along with great successes. On two occasions, men he trusted with his career and fortunes turned on him in a totally unanticipated fashion. He drove himself with such unrelenting fervor that toward the end of this period he suffered through an experience he was later to call “a hell of a breakdown.” Meanwhile, in 1925, Walt married a young woman named Lillian Bounds. Their romance began when she came to work for him in his fledgling efforts at animation, and their partnership was to last the rest of his life. Lilly accepted Walt’s dedication to his work, understood his drive toward perfection, and (though she sometimes fretted over his willingness to risk everything on the next gamble) had absolute faith in his genius. During this time, too, the lifelong collaboration with his brother Roy grew and matured into one that would combine brotherly love with an interdependence that led both to heights that may have been unachievable alone.
Within 10 years of his arrival in Hollywood in 1923, Walt Disney was famous around the world as the creator of Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies like “Three Little Pigs.” He played polo at the fancy Riviera Club with celebrities like Spencer Tracy and Will Rogers. He had pioneered color and sound cartoons and was beginning to think about yet another revolutionary step with the first feature-length cartoon, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” What a difference a decade makes. Walt boarded the train for California in 1923 with only a pair of pants, some underwear, a checkered coat, a few shirts, and a little cash to his name. In a move that seems daft — but wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew Walt well — he had purchased a first-class ticket for the journey. “I was in my pants and coat that didn’t match,” he recalled, “but I was riding first class.”
Fortunately for Walt, his Uncle Robert had preceded him in moving out West, so he had someplace to live. Robert was a large, outgoing man who had lost his first wife, Walt’s beloved Aunt Margaret, relatively early in life. He later married a woman named Charlotte, and the two of them had a son, Robert Junior. Walt arranged to pay him $5 a week for room and board while he sought his fortune (though there’s every reason to suspect that Uncle Robert frequently didn’t get his rent). Walt’s relationship with his uncle wasn’t always smooth — Robert had a habit of reminding Walt how much he had helped him. But on balance, Walt’s feelings toward his uncle were generally affectionate. © 2006 Walt Disney