In the 1920s, Walt Disney opened up a cartoon company. He got lucky and met this film distributor Margaret Winkler (not sure if she is related to Henry). She contracted 12 short films about a cartoon character named Oswald. However, soon, Margaret Winkler got married to Charlie Mintz. Charlie Mintz took over overseeing Walt Disney’s company. What they noticed is that Walt Disney wasn’t a very good artist, and they decided to cut out the middle-men and just directly take over the artist’s that Walt Disney had hired.
Walt Disney, then declared bankruptcy.
But lucky for Walt Disney, bankruptcy didn't completely wipe his saving! Disney managed to get some start-up money from his savings. He also mortgaged his house to create a new company, where he thought of the idea of an animated cartoon that spoke (until 1928 animated films were silent) and he released Steamboat Willie in 1928.
Steamboat Willie was a success, but it didn't earn him much profits because, animation was hard work and it required intensive labor. Artists drew each cartoon frame by frame.
Walt Disney, in 1932, pitched another animated film: snow white. In 1937, after 4 hard years of work, and 750 animators, Disney released Snow White. IT MADE A LOT OF MONEY! It made $7.8 million ($136,000,000 today).
However, during the production of Snow White, illustrators received only $12 an illustration. If they made any mistakes, or if Disney had any edits, they would have to redraw the illustration and wouldn’t get paid.
In 1937, Disney pitched another full-featured length film Pinocchio. But, in the middle of the production of Pinocchio, the Disney staff formed a union in 1941. Walt Disney retaliated by firing 24 illustrators who were responsible for the union. This caused upheaval and the entire Disney animators went on strike demanding that Walt Disney recognize the employees’ right to a union.
Disney responded to this strike by writing a letter to the FBI, accusing his employees of being communist infiltrators.
In 1947, Walt Disney testified in front of the House Unamerican Activities Committee, where he denounced his illustrators and got them blacklisted.
Sadly, little has changed within the Disney culture in the past 70+ years. Disneyland workers complain of living in poverty and homelessness. Apparently, Disney has offered some concessions for the workers, but the fight is still not over! Pay may have increased, but conditions are still bad: