Disney, Day 1

On October 16th of 1923, just hours after striking a distribution deal with M. J. Winkler, near-penniless brothers Walt and Roy formed the company we now know as Disney. On the very same day, 21 year old Walt desperately wrote the following persuasive letter to the mother of Virginia Davis, a 5 year old girl who had previously starred in the short film on which the deal hinged: Alice’s Wonderland. In the letter, Walt attempts to convince the Davis family to move to Hollywood so that Virginia can reclaim her role and become the star of the new Alice series. Luckily for Walt, they agreed and made the long trip from Missouri. The rest is history.

Thanks to Phil Sears – now the letter’s owner – for allowing it to appear.

Transcript follows.



4406 Kingsmill Av
Hollywood Calif.
Oct 16th 1923

Dear Mrs Davis:

I have at last succeeded in arrainging for distributors on a series of “Alice” productions – twelve in all – with a very reliable distributor in New York.

I screened “Alice’s Wonderland” several times in Hollywood and every one seemed to think that Virginia was real cute and thought she had wonderful possibilities – and I was wondering if you could arrange to come out here so I could star her in this series – It would be a big opportunity for her and would introduce her to the profession in a manner that few children could receive.

M. J. Winkler the distributor of “Felix the Cat” and “Out of the Inkwell” will distribute my production and believe me she gives her subjects a vast amount of publicity and if Virginia was used in the series it would be the making of her. M. J. Winkler is devoting her time to the distribution of short subjects and for her own good she believes in advertising her wares – so you can see the big possibilities that await Virginia – as an example of her speed and pep – she arrainged with a chain of newspapers to run a colored Sunday comics of Felix – in all these newspapers – she is always doing publicity stunts like this.

If you desire to come out and let me star Virginia in this series it will be necessary that you answer immediately as in all probility I will have to start production within fifteen or twenty days so I will know wheather or not I will use Virginia or have to get a little girl here in Hollywood – If you decide to come answer immediately so I can count on you – I will want a years contract with option on further services at a very reasonable salary – as it is necessary for M. J. Winkler to spend a vast amount of money on advertising these subject and the girl – before she gets any return therefore she demands that who ever I star in the series must be under contract to me for a series of twelve pictures with option on further services – because after making her known to the theatre public she will have to get her own money back – therefore you understand the necessity of a contract – However if Virginia can secure other work between pictures she can do so without any complications and I believe I can secure her work myself – In all probility I will do most of my shooting in one of the studios near here – I am now discussing with several for space.

All financial arraingements for this series has been arrainged and when we start work it will be but a short time till the series will be covering the world – please answer immediately one way or the other so I can make arraingements at once – as ever –

Walt Disney