Steamboat Willie: How Walt Disney came back from ruin

“I found that the animals in captivity are not themselves. What you see of an animal in a zoo is not what the animal actually is when he is out there in nature itself,” he said in a BBC interview in 1959.

“So, I sent camera crews out into the wilds, to capture what an animal actually does in his way of life. And from the film that I brought in for the artists to study, I realised there was a great story there that had never been told.”

Inspired, he launched an ambitious project, the True-Life Adventures, a series of documentaries offering a fascinating glimpse into lives of animals in the wild. As with his animation, Disney’s team of filmmakers pushed the boundaries of technology and innovation. The studio pioneered the use of long-range lenses and underwater cameras, enabling viewers to see wildlife behaviour and the intricate interplay of ecosystems in unprecedented detail.

The series, which carefully balanced educational and engaging storytelling, went on to win multiple Academy Awards, including the first-ever best documentary feature Oscar for The Living Desert in 1954.

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“Over the last few years, we have ventured into a lot of different fields,” said Disney, reflecting on his expanding empire. “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing, that it all started with a mouse.”

In History is a series which uses the BBC’s unique audio and video archive to explore historical events that still resonate today.

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