Walt Disney's Kansas City
This short driving tour includes sites related to Walt Disney's five years in Kansas City including his home, the Laugh-O-Gram Studio, and the theater where his first commercial cartoons were screened.
This home on Bellefontaine Avenue was the residence of world famous film animator Walt Disney and his family from 1914 to around 1922. Disney, his parents, and his siblings moved to Kansas City after spending five years in Marceline. It was here that Disney first developed a passion for entertaining and an interest in becoming an animator. Using a borrowed camera, he set up a makeshift studio in the family garage and experimented with making cartoons. Disney also established his first (short-lived) film company, Laugh-O-Gram Films, before going bankrupt and leaving Kansas City for good in 1923. Today the house remains a private residence and is not open to the public. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
The McConahay Building on East 31st was home to Walt Disney's first professional cartoon studio, Laugh-O-Gram Films. The fledgling studio consisted of Walt, Ubbe Iwerks, and a handful of other artists from the Kansas City area. They operated from rooms in the second story of the building and produced several cartoons. It is said that around this time Disney met a mouse that would later provide the inspiration for Mickey Mouse in 1928. Laugh-O-Gram Films was short-lived, opening in May 1922 and filing for bankruptcy in July 1923. Disney and several of his employees would later go on to become pioneers in the animation industry. Today the building is owned by the non-profit group Thank You, Walt Disney Inc., which is working to convert it into an interactive museum.
The Newman Theater was a popular movie theater that existed on Main Street from 1919 until 1972. It was one of several built by local exhibitor Frank L. Newman. The Newman Theater was known for its opulence and extravagant features, such as Italian tapestries and hand-painted murals. The theater is also noteworthy for being the first site to air a production by Walt Disney, a series of short satirical cartoons called Newman Laugh-O-Grams. They were fully animated by Disney himself and screened during newsreels in 1921. In the 1940s the Newman became a Paramount Theater, and was eventually closed and demolished in 1972. Today the site is occupied by City Center Square.