Richard Warner, D.D.S.
Warner Family Dentistry in Council Bluffs
If it were not for a Kansas City dentist, Walt Disney might have moved on to a different career...
As hard as it is to imagine there once was a time when the name “Walt Disney” wasn't recognizable.
It was a completely unknown young Walt Disney that was trying to make a go of an animation business in Kansas City, Missouri. He had ideas, but few customers and even less money.
Walt learned to animate films while working for the Kansas City Slide Company and in 1922 at age 20 decided to open his own business which he called “Laugh-O-gram Films”. He hired some friends and they went to work.
They had talent, ideas, and exuberance, but by the fall of 1922 lack of money was taking its toll. There were no funds for payroll and Walt, unable to pay his rooming bill, took up lodging at his office where the rent had been paid in advance.
Walt Disney’s animation business was “down to its last penny” when a local dentist paid a visit. Dr. Thomas B. McCrum was interested in a film about dental health and he invited Mr. Disney to his house to work out a deal. Walt had to sheepishly decline as he had no shoes, explaining he had left them with the cobbler “who won’t let me have them back until I dig up a dollar and a half.” Dr. McCrum came to the “Laugh-O-gram” office instead, not only bringing a dollar and a half for the shoes but also an agreement for $500 to produce the dental film.
The revenue wasn’t enough to pay off Walt’s mounting debts, but biographers have said this unexpected project and its income recharged his ambition. The film “Tommy Tucker’s Tooth”, a ten minute, 32 second tale combining animation and live action about one boy who brushes his teeth well and one who doesn’t, was released on schedule. Dr. McCrum was pleased and a second Disney dental production— “Clara Cleans Her Teeth”— was produced a few years later.
Though the Disney Kansas City years have never received much publicity, the building that housed “Laugh-O-gram” studios is still standing. Located at the corner of 31st and Forest, the building is currently being renovated by a group called “Thank You Walt Disney.
(Above) A very early Mickey Mouse. (Below top) Walt Disney’s boyhood home in Marceline, Missouri. (Bottom lower) Zurcher building in Marceline, a design from Walt’s childhood memories he borrowed for Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. (Photos by
(At left) Kansas City building where Walt Disney established his company "Laugh-O-gram Films". It was here he produced Dr. McCrum's dental health film and here where he reportedly made friends with a real mouse. The building is under restoration today by the nonprofit group "Thank You Walt Disney.” Photo supplied by them for the HSPC “Member Journal” article and is used with their permission.
Click on the picture to watch "Tommy Tucker's Tooth."
(Story reprinted from the Historical Society’s of Pottawattamie County’s “Member Journal.” It was written by Council Bluffs dentist Dr. Richard Warner. To learn more about "Tommy Tucker's Tooth" we suggest the books "Walt Disney: An American Original" by Bob Thomas and "Walt Before Mickey" by Timothy S. Susanin.)