An Icon Is Born — In The Back of a Real Estate Office in Los Feliz

Ninety years ago on October 16, 1923, brothers Walter Elias Disney and Roy Oliver Disney founded Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.

The studio was located in the rear of a small office occupied by Holly-Vermont Realty at 4651 Kingswell Ave. near Vermont Ave. in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. Rent was $10.

Walt Disney had come to Hollywood from Kansas City after his first company, Laugh-O-Gram Films, went bankrupt. One of Disney’s final Laugh-O-Gram features was Alice’s Wonderland, a mix of animation and live action. 

In the short, a young girl visits a cartoonist’s studio where the cartoons come to life. Afterwards, she dreams she visits “Cartoonland.” REcognize the cartoonist?

The impetus for the creation of Disney Brothers was an October 15 telegram from Margaret J. Winkler, the first woman to produce and distribute animated films. 

Margaret J. Winkler

Margaret J. Winkler

At Walt Disney’s request, Winkler — who began her career as Harry Warner’s secretary — watched Alice’s Wonderland and liked it enough that she commissioned a series of “Alice Comedies” at $1,500 a reel. In her October 15 telegram she says: “Will pay $1,500 each negative for first six and to show my good faith will pay full amount on each of these six immediately on delivery of negative.” 

Soon, the Disney studio outgrew it’s original space. In 1925, Walt Disney hired Lillian Bounds as an ink artist and secretary. Later that same year, they married.

Mickey Mouse was born in 1928. Walt wanted to name him Mortimer. Lillian favored Mickey.  


Filed under: California History

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