Disney in the UMKC Archives

A studio portrait of young Walt Disney in three-quarter profile

Now through September 2024 | First Floor Gallery | Miller Nichols Library


Walt Disney’s earliest animated films were created right here in Kansas City, by Disney and collaborators at Laugh-O-Gram Films. The images in this display are digitized from original photographs and documents in the UMKC Libraries’ LaBudde Special Collections, and the sound recordings are digitized from our Marr Sound Archives.

Walt Disney seated at light table
Walt Disney seated at light table

So, why does the UMKC Libraries have photos of Walt Disney in our archival collections? Known as a “creative photographer,” Baron Siroon Missakian captured the images of Kansas City’s resident and visiting performers during the Jazz Age, a time when Kansas City was one of the most dynamic arts centers in America. His camera not only documented the worlds of classical music and dance, but also the new popular entertainments, vaudeville and the movies. By 1926 he was well established and garnered awards for his studio portraits. Among those photographed were Missakian’s friend and neighbor Walt Disney, Milton Berle, and Sir Carl Busch, founder of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra.1

Disney established the production company Laugh-O-Gram Films in an office located across the hall in the same building as Missakian’s studio. Disney’s personal secretary was Nadine, who later married Missakian and then donated a large collection of photographs and other memorabilia, including the Disney materials in this display, to LaBudde Special Collections.2

Laugh-O-Grams title film still
Laugh-O-Grams title card animation cell.

“Martha”

This recording of the song “Martha” is digitized from an original in our Sound Archives. Disney’s Kansas City company created short silent films called Song-O-Reels, which played at local movie theaters. One of them was created around this song and a recording of this music would have played concurrently with the film.

Cover illustration for sheet music. Photo of George Goldman; drawing of a woman in a white dress and red hat looking off to the side
The cover of a 1992 sheet music score for the song “Martha: Just a plain old fashioned name,” by Joe L. Sanders. The Disney Song-O-Reel “Martha” was animated for this song.

Disney on the radio

Recordings of Walt Disney speaking are fairly rare. Listen to this radio broadcast clip from the 1940s in which Disney talks about creating the characters of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and performs the voice of Mickey Mouse.

Credits

The images in this exhibit were digitized by the Digital Projects department of UMKC University Libraries. Photos are in the Baron Missakian Collection, held by LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC University Libraries. Audio clips are from the collections of the Marr Sound Archives.

View the Baron Missakian photos

This collection display was curated by Peyton Consani and Olivia Kayes, Academic Library Fellows, with assistance by Dani Wellemeyer, Head of Outreach & Engagement, Stuart Hinds, Curator for Special Collections and Archives, and Derek Long, Head of the Marr Sound Archives.

View the display during library open hours. There is no free parking on the UMKC campus. Metered parking is available north of the library.

  1. Missakian, Baron Siroon. University of Missouri-Kansas City Special Collections and Archives Repository. https://finding-aids.library.umkc.edu/agents/people/482 ↩︎
  2. Baron Misskaian Collection. University of Missouri-Kansas City Special Collections and Archives Repository. https://finding-aids.library.umkc.edu/repositories/2/resources/293 ↩︎

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EXHIBIT DISPLAY TABLES

Case dimensions: 5’ long x 30” wide x 9” high sitting atop 3’ legs

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FIRST FLOOR GALLERY

The First Floor Gallery is located just inside the main entrance of the Miller Nichols Library.

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Conference Room 325

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