And the Award goes to... Walt Disney! The 84th Academy Awards® will be held this coming Sunday, and to celebrate, The Walt Disney Family Museum presented a special lecture on Walt Disney and his record 32 Academy Awards. On February 18th, Disney historian and author Jeff Kurtti hosted the special event in The Walt Disney Family Museum’s state-of-the-art digital theater. The audience attending was treated to rare footage of Walt at the Academy Awards, a few of the awarding winning shorts and trailers, and listened to little-known stories about Walt.
Walt’s Academy Award collection began in 1932, when he took home the Academy Award for the cartoon short Flowers and Trees. While watching this film on the big screen, it was very easy to imagine what the audiences of 1932 found appealing about this film. The brilliant colors, the multiple shades of green, and the heartwarming story still makes audiences chuckle at the enchanting film. Walt was also awarded a special Oscar® in 1932 for the creation of Mickey Mouse.
At the Academy Award banquet in 1932, Walt Disney’s humorous short The Parade of the Award Nominees was also shown. The film depicted whimsical caricatures of that year’s Oscar nominated actors. As the nominees walked the carpet in the film Jeff Kurtti called out the names of each actor for the benefit of our audience.
From 1934-1938 Walt continued to add Academy Awards to his collection by winning for best cartoon short subject each year. One fun fact the audience learned was when Walt accepted the award for The Three Little Pigs he spoke about how he was excited to take home his little "Oscar.” This was the first time the public became aware of the film industry's "inside name" for the golden statuettes.
The program at the Museum also included a showing of the 1938 Oscar winner Ferdinand the Bull. We were reintroduced to the charming and peaceful Ferdinand whose only desire in life was to sit and smell the flowers.
Not only were these films entertaining, but they also provided a snapshot of the past, and what was on people’s minds in America at that time. In 1943 Walt won an Oscar for the film Der Fueher’s Face, which depicted jolting images of a swastika-clad Donald Duck as a member of the "Nutzi" Army. The short ends with Donald waking up in his red, white, and blue pajamas, realizing it had only been a bad dream, and grateful to be an American.
Nineteen-fifty-four proved to be a productive year, with Walt winning four Oscars.The Living Desert won for best documentary feature, The Alaskan Eskimo for best documentary short subject, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom for Best Short Subject (Cartoon), and Bear County for Best Short Subject (Two Reels). We laughed as we watched Bob Hope kid Walt about all the Oscars he was winning. Jeff also told a funny story about that night. Walt hadn’t expected to win any awards and told Lillian to stay home. After the award ceremony, when Walt arrived home, Lillian was mad that she had missed all of the fun and she wouldn’t let Walt into the house. Walt slept in his office that night.
The last Oscar Walt won before he passed away was for the short Grand Canyon. This film takes the audience through a year in the Grand Canyon and is set to Ferde Grofé's "Grand Canyon Suite." Filmed in Cinemascope™, the featurette contains breathtaking aerial footage of the canyon, swirling rapids, and close up shots of the wildlife that make the canyon their home. By effectively using Ferde Grofé’s score, the music also creates heightened drama and draws the audience into each moment.
Walt’s final Oscar was awarded posthumously in 1968 for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Lillian had an Oscar shaped charm made for her bracelet every time Walt won an Academy award. You can see this bracelet in person, as well as more than 20 of Walt’s Academy Awards on display at The Walt Disney Family Museum. Walt’s True-Life Adventures are playing in the Museum’s theater throughout the month of February.
Volunteer at The Walt Disney Family Museum
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Image above: Walt wins big at the 1954 Academy Awards. © Disney.