Laugh-O-Gram Laugh-O-Gram

Thank You Walt Disney, Inc., a Missouri organization dedicated to preserving the physical history of Walt Disney’s early film career in Kansas City, accepted a $2 million check on Thursday that will be used to help restore a historic piece of the Walt Disney legacy.

How will the $2 million be used? The funding is intended to restore Walt Disney’s historic Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which he launched in 1922 when he was just 20 years old, and open it to the public as offices, a museum, and a space for kids to train in digital media.

Laugh-O-Gram Studio – Image colorized by Christopher Dorsey, courtesy of Thank You Walt Disney, Inc.

Where did the money come from? The $2 million came from a larger sum of $40 million that state rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D) had raised to fund 15 community projects in the area.

What is Thank You Walt Disney? The organization is dedicated to conserving Walt Disney’s Kansas City history and providing a place for art and animation study while encouraging confidence and entrepreneurial individualism. Among its goals, the group is working to:

  • Restore the Laugh-O-Gram Studio, located on the top floor of Kansas City’s McConahay Building, recreating its offices and exhibits to honor Walt Disney and his fellow artists.
  • Provide a state-of-the-art teaching facility for the K.C. metropolitan digital media industry in cooperation with Digistory KC.
  • Operate a theater and lecture hall hosting events focused on animation.

When will the studio open to the public? It could be a while. Efforts to restore the studio have been in the works for two decades, but with the latest funding organizers say they’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Added to previously raised funds, the $2 million – plus $500,000 in tax credits that the organization has been granted by the Missouri Development Finance Board – puts Thank You Walt Disney 51% of the way to their fundraising goal. According to the group, they still need another $3.4 million to fully realize their restoration ambitions.

What they’re saying. Upon handing over the $2 million check, Rep. Cleaver said:

I am as happy as a Mahomes at Disney the day after a Chiefs Super Bowl win to have secured this federal funding for the rehabilitation of the historic Laugh-O-Gram Studio. The efforts of Thank You Walt Disney, Inc. to preserve and restore this landmark to its glory for future generations of innovators and entrepreneurs makes a clear statement that Kansas City isn’t some Mickey Mouse town, but a city of great historical significance, at the forefront of innovation and community.

On its Facebook page, Thank You Walt Disney posted:

We are excited to share that U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO) has formally announced and presented a $2 million check to Thank You Walt Disney Inc. as part of his robust Community Project Funding initiative! This financial package will directly benefit our restoration efforts and go towards the $6.4M in needed costs to redevelop the historic building that once housed Walt Disney’s Laugh-O-gram Studios, his first professional animation office. Stay tuned for more details!

Pictured at top: Kansas City’s McConahay Building – Credit: Iknowthegoods at Wikipedia

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