Geography of the US - Geography of the United States

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Hi, everyone. Welcome back. This is episode number 120: Geography of the United States.

Today you’re going to learn so many fun facts about the US, all of which have to do with geography. You’ll hear about the topography, so the physical features of the land that make it visually unique. And you’ll also learn about the population – so where residents are distributed throughout the country. Distributed. I’m going to say that one more time. Not distributed, but distributed. Emphasis on that RI there in the middle.

In any case, by the end of this episode, you should have a solid geographical overview of the United States and be able to talk about geography in English.

This is a 5-minute English episode, so in a matter of 5 minutes or close to it (I hope!), you’ll hear loads of topic-specific vocabulary, so much that it can be overwhelming. A smart human would not be able to retain all of the vocabulary in this lesson after listening once. First off, you should listen twice. And secondly, don’t stress! This is an advanced listening exercise. So to make the most of it, you can do one of two things:

First, you could, you know, look up all of the vocab words on your own and take notes and then push yourself to master all of the terms on your own, or you could sign up to Premium Content at The premium content for 5-minute English episodes includes everything you need to learn and retain the challenging terms you hear in the audio. You’ll be given the definitions for key vocabulary, exercises to practice it, as well as quizzes to make sure you’ve learned what you should have. You’ll also get a pronunciation video and much more.

Many of my students who have signed up to Premium Content have written and told me how much they enjoy this supplementary material and how much it has helped their learning process! So once again, to access premium content, go to, or you can find the direct link inside of the episode notes.


Before we begin, I need to mention that today we are talking about the 50 US states. I’m not talking about U.S. territories, which include Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mariana Islands, or American Samoa. But we will talk about those in a future episode. Each of the places I just mentioned are unique; they have a unique relationship with the U.S. and their own story, their own vibrant culture. They deserve their own episodes. So stay tuned for that.

If anyone listening is from a US territory or a disputed territory, I’d love to talk to you! Please write to me on Instagram, you can find me @americanenglishpodcast.

Without any further ado, let’s begin talking about the United States.

United States Geography


Take a deep breath and look around you. For as far as you can see, there are grassy fields and cows. You’re in Lebanon, not the country, Lebanon, Kansas, the geographic center of the contiguous United States. Smack dab in the middle!

If you drive to the West Coast, it’ll take you around 22 hours. To the East Coast, another 22. A cross-country road trip would take almost two days driving, nonstop. That’s a big country!

In fact, if countries were ranked by size, the US would come in fourth after Russia, Canada and China. It’s 3.8 million square miles. And I should say third or fourth, depending on who you’re talking to.

By now, you probably know that the US is part of North America and there are 50 states, each represented by a star on the American flag. The 48 connected states, the ones sandwiched between Canada and Mexico, we call the contiguous US, or more casually, the lower 48. The other two, Alaska and Hawaii, are really out there.

Alaska, which is our biggest state – one sixth the size of Europe – sits just 55 miles away from Russia. It has arctic temperatures and long, icy winters. Hawaii, our southernmost state and island state, has the same latitude as Mexico City and boasts tropical weather year round, just like southern Florida.

The states are spread out. In fact, we have six different time zones: Hawaiian, Alaskan, Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern Time.

My question to you is, if you could live anywhere in the US, where would that be?

Approximately 332 million people live in the States, ranking third after China and India. And according to the US Census, a whopping 29.1% of the population live near the coast.

There are three main coastlines.

The Pacific Coast, or West Coast, is where you’ll find Washington, Oregon and California, as well as icy cold Pacific Ocean water and chilly nights. While you’ll find tons of beachgoers and sunbathers in SoCal, aka Southern California, up north, the beaches are less crowded and are often part of scenic hiking trails.

The Atlantic Ocean is off of the East Coast with a number of famous beach cities and towns from the Latin-infused Miami in southern Florida all the way to the rich New England beach towns up north like the Hamptons, Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Just picture rocky coasts with lighthouses and colonial architecture.

The Gulf of Mexico is sometimes called the Third Coast and is a popular destination for divers who want to visit its coral reefs and shipwrecks. The coastline is spotted with oil rigs – one sixth of the US’s crude oil is taken from there.

The Gulf also hugs a region that we call the south, which is actually the southeast, from Texas to the Atlantic coast. That area, the south, has a reputation for being hot and humid, especially near its wetlands, such as swamps and rivers. In wintertime, you can also find snow at higher elevations, just take a trip to the Appalachian Mountain Range, the Ozarks, or head to the Great Plains, just west of the Mississippi River.

Speaking of rivers, the US has over 250,000 of them. The longest is the Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi, our second largest. The Mississippi, though, is debatably more popular. It’s the setting for many classic American novels like Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And it plays an important role in U.S. history, since it is where Native American tribes and settlers chose to live, fish and harvest over the past thousands of years. Take a look at a map, the river stretches from north to south, bordering ten different states and looks like a man with a top hat.

Southern California Beach
Southern California Beach
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah

Many beaches in the United States are not near the ocean. The Great Lakes region is spotted with charming beach towns and cozy getaway spots. 10% of the US population calls it home.

There are Five Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, and we share all of them except Lake Michigan with our northern neighbor, Canada. Together, they make up 84% of the US’s fresh surface water. Lake Superior is the largest of them and is also the second largest lake in the world.

The states in the Great Lake region, and just to the west of it, are referred to as the Midwest, which can be confusing because although it is mid or central, it’s nowhere near the West Coast, it’s north and central. The name was created back when everything west of the Appalachian Mountains was considered west. There you’ll find rolling hills, plains and grasslands.

The northeast is home to the 13 original colonies of the United States and also to a few famous cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The region is also known for its distinct seasons; photographers flock during fall to catch the leaves changing colors.

While the most densely populated city is New York City, with 8.8 million residents, and the most populated state is California with around 40 million, there are areas of the United States that are stunning and very sparsely populated.

The Southwest; Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Utah, and debatably, California, is known to be dry or arid. Long, barren highways in the desert lined with cactus lead visitors to old Western corrals, sections of Route 66, and the iconic Red Rocks that the Southwest are known for.

You can catch a sunset at the Grand Canyon, admire red sandstone arches at Arches National Park, the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, the Valley of Zion, or even have a tour of the sandstone buttes in Monument Valley with a Navajo guide. How cool! 

Monument Valley, Arizona
Monument Valley, Arizona

I hope you enjoyed the talk about geography. There’s so much more that could be discussed here, but this is a good first overview.

Before I hang up today, I do want to clarify a few facts about US geography that often confuse people. The first being the capital of the US.

The capital of the US is Washington, D.C., which was named after the first president of the US, George Washington. The man you’ll see on our $1 bill and also on the US quarter. The capital, also known as DC, which stands for the District of Columbia, is not in any state. It’s actually sandwiched between Maryland and Virginia. It’s on the East Coast, about 4 hours south of New York City.

The capital has nothing to do with Washington, which is a state on the West Coast. To avoid confusion, don’t forget to say D.C. when you’re talking about the US capital.

Number two, Americans do not agree on which states are technically within each region. For example, the South. Some people say that northern Florida is part of the South.

Other people don’t include Florida at all. Texas is sometimes in it, sometimes it’s left out. Sometimes it’s considered part of the Southwest. Some people divide Texas in two. It all depends. It’s related to culture. It’s related to the way that the land looks. And yeah, I just wanted to clarify that sometimes even among Americans, there is confusion. Same thing with California.

Many people think, Oh, California, that’s not part of the Southwest. Whereas when they go to the eastern part of California with Death Valley and some of the cactus that you see, you kind of get that image of the southwest in your mind. Some people include it. Some people don’t.

Number three, I mentioned the largest state is Alaska. Our smallest state is Rhode Island and it’s not actually an island.

I mentioned that Denali is the highest peak in the US and it’s in Alaska. Fun fact. The official name for Denali was actually Mount McKinley up until 2015. I grew up hearing Mount McKinley, so yeah, that was a surprise to me when the name changed.

Once again, I hope you really enjoyed this episode. If you would like to get the bonus material that goes along with this, I highly recommend buying the Premium Content. You can find that in the episode notes, or on the website at Hope you’re having a nice day, and until next time! Bye.

The West is also known for the Rockies, which are popular for skiing, Yellowstone National Park for its geothermal hot springs and wildlife. But perhaps the most challenging adventure would be a hiking trip to the highest peak in the country; Denali, which sits at 20,300 feet above sea level in Alaska.

At -282 feet below sea level, Death Valley is the lowest point in the country and can be found in eastern California, just north of the Mojave Desert. On July 10, 1913, the National Weather Service measured a record breaking 134 degrees Fahrenheit there. That’s 56.7 degrees Celsius. What many find surprising is the fact that in spite of its name, Death Valley is known for life. In springtime, you might just spot a bighorn sheep walking through fields of yellow flowers. Maybe even a road runner. Beep beep.

Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Park
Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Idaho and Montana)


Come to the US! While on the West Coast, you should consider checking out Redwood National Park to see Hyperion, the tallest tree in the world at 380 feet tall. Or check out General Sherman, the most massive tree in the world, a sequoia, at 52,500 cubic feet – that’s located in Sequoia National Park.

Just up north, you can check out the deep blue of Crater Lake in Oregon, the deepest lake in the US, or take a trip to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah or the Great Sand Dunes of southern Colorado. Take a lot of pictures so your friends will come to.


Redwood National Park, California
Redwood National Park, California
Denali, Alaska
Denali, Alaska (formerly Mt. Mckinley)
Niagara Falls, USA
Niagara Falls (New York and Canada)

Sample Premium Transcript Reader

060 - Out of This World.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

060 - Out of This World.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

All who come to this happy place, welcome.

Disneyland is your land. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

Hi, everybody. My name is Shana and this is the American English Podcast. My goal here is to teach you the English spoken in the United States. Through common expressions, pronunciation tips and interesting cultural snippets or stories, I hope to keep this fun, useful and interesting. Let's do it!

Hello and welcome back to episode number 60. Today, we have a lot in store. I'll begin by telling you a joke, then we'll work through an expression, which is "out of this world" and we'll do some pronunciation exercises. In the last 10 to 15 minutes or so, for the fun fact, I'll share the life story of Walt Disney with you.

Walt Disney was not one to sit still. During his lifetime, he had a number of achievements that were accomplished, not just because he was a visionary, but because he was a go-getter. He chased after his dreams. At the same time, he wasn't immune to failure. His story is very relatable and very interesting. So stay tuned for that.

The intro to this episode was of Walt Disney welcoming guests to Disneyland on its opening day in July of 1955, and it was taken from an interview with his daughter, Diane Disney. I'll be sure to provide the link to that within the transcript. For today, though, let's go ahead and start with a joke. Ready?

Why was Rapunzel so creative in her escape?

Any ideas?

She felt very inspired.

Do you get it?

Rapunzel, as you probably know, is a fairy tale character that has very long hair and she lived in the top of a tower or in a spire, we might say. A spire is part of a building, usually shaped like a cone. Many churches have spires, castles have spires and if you think of Rapunzel, you probably imagine her locked away at the top of a tower or in the spire part of the tower.

Why this joke is funny is that it is a simple play on words. If she is in a spire, we could jokingly say she was inspired. Right?

So let's hear the joke one more time:

Why was Rapunzel so creative in her escape?

She felt very inspired.

So she was creative because she felt inspired, as in motivated or stimulated. But she also probably felt pretty trapped, she felt stuck in the spire. She was inspired.

All right, so that's it for the joke. Let's go ahead and move on to the expression. Today, we'll be talking about the expression "out of this world." Let's go through the definitions of the individual words first.

Out, we often hear as a preposition. For example, the man walked out of the house. However, in this expression, it's used as an adjective. Out meaning away from or absent from.

Of is a preposition that helps us associate one thing with another.

This is a determiner or pronoun. It refers to the specific person, place or thing that was just mentioned. This can also be used to describe something that's close. Is this your sweater? The one that I'm holding in my hand? Is this yours?

And world: world refers to the planet Earth and all of the environment and people on it. Our world is wonderful.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the expression out of this world means "superlatively good. Find beyond description. Beautiful, delightful, wonderful."

If something is out of this world, it feels like it's absent from this world. It doesn't exist here. It's so unbelievably magnificent, it's hard to imagine existing on Earth, it blows our mind, it perplexes us, it's amazing.

It's also a hyperbole. In other words, it's an exaggeration, but people from the United States use this expression all the time.

If you personally feel like you overuse the word amazing, which is common, don't worry about it. You can try and slip this expression into conversation every now and then as a replacement. I'll also use a lot of synonyms for wonderful and amazing in the examples I'll share now, so take notes if you want to expand your vocabulary.

Example #1: Imagine going to a new restaurant and everything on the menu sounds sensational. You're a little overzealous, a little extra eager, and order multiple meals and multiple desserts. When the food comes, your mouth starts to water, everything looks phenomenal.

And when you take the first bite, you're in heaven. You might tell your friends afterwards, "you have to go to the new restaurant in town. The food is out of this world!" In other words, it's superb, it's spectacular, it's beyond delicious. It's out of this world.

Example #2: Two years ago, a friend of mine went on a trip to Bolivia and came back raving about the largest salt flat in the world there, called Salar de Uyuni - excuse my pronunciation. Apparently, a prehistoric lake dried up and left a thin, bright white crust that reflects whatever is above it.

While walking, the ground is a mirror image of the sky, you can see the clouds, yourself and whoever or whatever is on top of that thin white crust. According to her, the places is out of this world. It is breathtakingly stunning, awe-inspiring and mind-blowing at the same time. It's beautiful. It's out of this world.

Example #3: I briefly talked about lunar rainbows and the giant sequoias when talking about Yosemite in episode number four. But there's something about my favorite national park that will blow your mind. Every year during the first two weeks in February, it's possible to see a fire fall, which is essentially a waterfall that reflects light in a certain way and looks like fire falling from above.

So if you're interested in seeing the bright orangey red flow of water fall 2,000 feet down the surface of El Capitan, which is one of the giant granite rocks there, you should definitely go. The site is truly out of this world. In other words, it's surreal. It's perplexing. It's mesmerizing and photo-worthy. It is out of this world.

So, yeah, great adjectives in there, hope you were listening. If you need to rewind, go ahead.

And let's move on to the pronunciation exercise. Today, we'll use the question, is it out of this world? In other words, is it amazing? Is it incredible? Is it mesmerizing and perplexing and photo-worthy and all of the above? So repeat after me:


Is it.

Is it out of.

Is it out of this world? (2x)

And the conjugation.

I thought it was out of this world.

You thought it was out of this world.

She thought it was out of this world.

He thought it was out of this world.

We thought it was out of this world.

They thought it was out of this world.

It thought it was out of this world.

That's it for the first part of the episode. We'll now move on to the fun fact about the life story of Walt Disney.

And once again, if you are interested in the bonus material for this episode, you can access that at inside of the classroom. Right. So that would include the transcript and all of the bonus exercises, including quizzes, vocab exercises and definitions, for this episode. So let's begin.

Walt Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 5th, 1901.

The Disneys, which consisted of Walt, his parents and four other siblings, lived in a neighborhood called Hermosa, which at the time was less than desirable and going downhill.

His parents decided as early as 1906 that it wasn't the best place to raise a family and uprooted their lives to move to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. Walt's uncle Robert had bought land there, and everything about Marceline was magical in young Walt's eyes.

The green pastures surrounding the farmhouse were spotted in fruit trees, and there were plenty of animals to take care of and play with.

The downtown was as cute as a button. Apart from the colorful storefronts and sweet shops, the streets were lined with gas street lights. The roads were unpaved and traffic was made up of horses and buggies. It seemed quaint, so quaint, he later modeled Main Street in Disneyland after it. Just walking distance from Walt's house, multiple train lines met and he soon fell in love with them, the trains, that is.

He would watch them come and go and imagine the adventures and new places its passengers would encounter.

For one reason or another, Walt's parents first sent him to school at age seven instead of age five, like most kids. To say that the transition was rough is kind of an understatement.

For one, he had priorities during class and paying attention to the teacher was not one of them. He would spend his days drawing pictures in the corner of his notebook, then flip the pages quickly to make the images appear to be moving. He loved drawing, and even at an early age, he called himself an artist.

Walt also loved to entertain. Outside of class, he was cast in school plays. One of the most memorable roles he landed was as Peter Pan. And as lead character, he got to fly. He'd never forget it, especially because once, while in flight, the chords broke and he landed into the audience.

At age nine, Walts father came down with a case of typhoid and the family was forced to sell their farm and move to Kansas City. Leaving Marceline, just two years after arriving, was heartbreaking for Walt. After all, his fondest childhood memories were there.

Once in Kansas City, Walt started his first job working as a newspaper delivery boy. At just nine years old, he and his brother Roy would wake up before sunrise to do their paper route. Afterwards, he'd head to class with his eyelids half shut, and he had a hard time applying himself, as his teachers wanted. One teacher actually said he was the "second dumbest" kid in class.

Just like at his old school, he was the entertainer in class, he was a class clown. The academic side, though, was really not his cup of tea. And at age 16, he dropped out, two years before graduation.

No longer a student, he was left with a decision: What would he do with his life?

He could go work on a train, just as he had done shortly before dropping out. It was fun work which involved chatting with passengers from near and far and selling them candy, soda and newspapers. But no, he wanted to be involved in something bigger, like the entertainment industry.

So he and a friend bought a camera and started filming, thinking they could sell their films for profit. Reality did not meet their expectations, though. Pretty soon they were broke and looking for side jobs.

Wall often got what he wanted through persistence, even at a young age. When trying to get a job at the post office, they told him, sorry, son, you're too young. Feeling just as competent as any older man, he would not accept the defeat. Instead, he went home, drew on a mustache, put on a gentlemen's hat, went back and asked the boss to reconsider. Liking Walt's clever tactic and sense of humor, he was hired on the spot.

While Walt was working at the post office, World War I was raging in Europe. The US stayed neutral in World War I until 1917 and at that point, many who were enlisted were drafted. The draft was welcome at that time, though, unlike later in American history. Walt wanted to be there, too. But once again, he was too young. He eventually was able to join the Red Cross by forging his birth date on his birth certificate, but was sent off to France right about the time the war ended.

After his short hiatus, Walt returned jobless to the US. But that's when he met a talented young artist named Ub Iwerks. Ub, just like Walt loved animation. Together, Ub and Walt created animations, they also created art for ads and characters for the Kansas City Slide Company.

The competitive environment among artists at the company forced Walt to develop his talents. He would spend nights trying to depict small movements in invented characters. He even created silent films that lasted no more than a few minutes and called them Laugh-O-grams. They were funny, all right too. Audiences giggled during them and applauded at the end. To Walt, that was great. They had a huge selling potential.

So he started a company with a team of artists to sell more Laugh-O-grams and other animated works. But when it went bankrupt, he decided Kansas City was not where he was meant to be.

Hollywood, however, in the 1920s was where you had to be if you wanted a shot in the entertainment industry. Universal, Paramount and all of the major studios were already set up there. It just so happened that his older brother, Roy, also lived in California.

So what did Walt do? He packed up his bags and headed out.

Now, to say that Walt was always successful would be inaccurate. His career was full of ups and downs. For one, when he moved out to California, he expected to get a job as an actor simply by showing up to movie sets and appealing to directors. It was very unsuccessful, but shortly afterwards, he did catch a break. A woman named Margaret Winkler had seen the work he'd done at the Kansas City Slide Company and wanted him to create a cartoon series about Alice from Alice in Wonderland. She even offered to sell the series to local theaters.

Although excited, Walt knew he couldn't do it on his own. Fortunately, his business-minded brother Roy was near and he seemed like the perfect partner to organize an official business. That's when Disney Brothers studio was created. For the first time in Walt's life, business was going really well. They had even created a character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit that was bringing their studio some fame.

There was a lot of pressure, though, and under pressure, creativity was not as fun for Walt. Animators who worked with him, claimed he was stressed, overly critical about their work and sometimes downright mean. Perhaps it was just a side effect of working with a self-proclaimed perfectionist, but some were unhappy.

One day, a film producer named Charlie Mintz did something unforgiving: He hired almost all of Walt's artists behind his back. Not only was Walt cut out of the picture, the artists took Walt's beloved Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, away from him. It was not just a blow to his confidence, but also to his workflow. What was he going to do without Oswald?

But he wasn't one to give up, even when the going got tough. So infuriated and unable to sue, he found himself some distractions: A special lady and a new character.

At the office was a short, beautiful, 26-year old named Lillian Bounds, and Walt fell in love with her easily. She was a light-hearted person and a good conversationalist. They hit it off and eventually got married.

At night, Walt would tell her about the characters he was designing with Ub Iwerks. One character was a replacement for Oswald the Rabbit. He was a mouse and his name was Mortimer. As the story goes, Lillian told him she didn't like the name Mortimer and suggested Mickey. Mickey, of course, as we all know, stuck.

Back then, Mickey was not an admirable character. He was actually mean, cruel, in fact, he'd play tricks on people. Although Mickey looked cute - thanks to the artwork done by Ub Iwerks - the artists eventually agreed that he needed to be more likable, charming, even. Maybe they could even give him a girlfriend, they'd call her Minnie.

As for Mickey's trickster personality, it was placed in a new character that we all know as Donald Duck.

One of Mickey's first debuts was in a film called Plane Crazy, P-L-A-N-E, and he played Charles Lindbergh, the first man (in real life) to make a solo transatlantic flight. That was in 1927, the same year that the first film with sound was released.

And while not being one to fall behind on the times, jumped on the bandwagon and his very next film, Steamboat Willie, brought Mickey to life with sound effects and music. The crowds went wild when it debuted at a theater in New York City in 1928. It was the first ever cartoon with synchronized sound, and Walt Disney actually did the voices for both Mickey and Minnie.

Newspapers all around printed Disney's success, and from the surface, everyone seemed happy. Theaters were filling up across the country with eager audiences trying to get a piece of the action.

Ub Iwerks, on the other hand, was not happy. After all, he had helped come up with Mickey and did most of Mickey's early animations. Ub thought much of his well-deserved recognition was going straight to Walt, who was taking all the credit. Later on, he claimed Walt didn't even know how to draw a proper Mickey.

Before the two cut ties though, they basked in their success and that success was spreading.

Firstly, a theater manager in California, trying to draw in more crowds created the Mickey Mouse Club, which was a group of so-called "Mouseketeers" - in other words, Mickey fans - that would dress up, sing and play games before binge watching Mickey Mouse.

The hype was real and Walt loved it. He spread Mickey Mouse clubs to other cities, got Mickey Mouse published in newspaper cartoons, and even started selling Mickey merchandise, like Mickey Ears.

At home in 1931, Walt and his wife Lillian were trying to have children, with difficulty. Walt was distraught by the thought of not becoming a father and eventually had to be seen by a medical professional who told him he needed to relax. He was too stressed out.

So he took up sports, took a cross-country train trip and even took a boat trip to the Panama Canal.

Two years later, Lilian got pregnant and she gave birth to a baby girl, Diane Marie Disney. Shortly afterwards, they adopted one more child named Sharon Mae.

Although early Hollywood seems magical, Walt was not as interested as in being a family man and a dedicated father who loved games and playing pretend with his daughters.

Walt's brother Roy lives nearby with his wife and daughter, and on weekends the families would gather for barbecues. The only thing missing, of course, was their parents. But to the Disney boys, who'd recently made some big bucks, that was a fixable problem.

As a surprise, Roy and Walt bought their parents a house, and they (the parents) eventually moved from Oregon down to California.

There was a horrible turn in events, though. The house that Walt and Roy had bought had a problem. Carbon monoxide was leaking from a heater inside and going into the air.

Both parents became sick, and although their father, Elias, was able to survive, the poison killed their mother, Flora. Walt was deeply affected by this tragedy for the rest of his life.

In the early 1930s, the US was going through the Great Depression, a time of severe economic hardship when about a quarter of Americans lost their jobs. Not as many people were going to the movies, but Walt continued to see some success.

First, in 1933, with the Three Little Pigs, then Flowers and Trees, the first commercially produced animated movie in full color.

Most importantly, though, for Disney Studios was creating the first full-length animated movie, which was released in 1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was an adaptation of the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

To Walt Snow White, was the perfect story for the full-length animated film. It was a classic tale, and it touched on all natural human emotions, making it perfect for an audience to connect. The hatred of the evil stepmother, the queen, the sweet charm of Snow White and, of course, the understanding hunter and the likable seven dwarves with their own quirky personality traits.Happy, Grumpy, Dark, Bashful, Dopey, Sneezy and Sleepy.

Snow White took years to finish and over a million dollars to make. Walt worked late directing the artists and helping develop each character and their movements. A total of a quarter of a million drawings were made for that movie, and the movie lasts just 83 minutes.

However, the work paid off. It was the highest grossing film with sound at the time, earning a total of eight million dollars just after its release. The profit on Snow-White made it possible to hire more artists and complete projects quicker. Soon afterwards, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi came out and their studio was moved to a bigger location.

Walt was on a roll, he saw one success after another. But the extent of his success would soon slow down. At the bigger studio, the Disney brothers disappeared from the spotlight, and their lack of involvement led to a strike with workers demanding higher pay.

To add to his stress, World War II was in full force. People were not paying as much money as they previously had on movies. In 1941, Dumbo was released without much buzz. So Walt tried live action movies, in other words, movies with real people. So then came Treasure Island, the Swiss Family Robinson and 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. All of the films were not the big box office successes Walt had expected.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. Song of the South was released and it enraged the NAACP who claimed Walt made slaves look happy.

People and the press were saying Walt had lost his magic and Walt felt the pressure. He definitely was no longer as excited doing film as previously, possibly because he was already brainstorming the next big project, Disneyland.

In his daughters' early years, Walt had built a train in his backyard and they would ride around on it on weekends. His daughters would play in the cottage that looked like Snow White's cottage and then as a family, they'd top off the day with some scrumptious banana splits, covered in whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Sometimes he'd take them to Griffith Park merry-go-round in Los Angeles and watch them as they went around. He'd also watch other families having fun with their kids, and it got him thinking: What if a place existed, where families could experience magical, wholesome fun together?

It could have trains for sure. And there'd also be other rides. It'd be like an amusement park, but cleaner, nicer and safer than any other that existed.

What if it had a downtown like the one in Marceline, Missouri, with gas street lights and carriages? It could be filled with little shops selling banana splits and sweets. What if there were places where you could sell Disney memorabilia? He became obsessed with the idea, after all, it could incorporate everything he loved. The only barrier to entry was money, but he had a solution.

In the early 1950s, television was taking over movie theaters and radio programs. People were happy sitting at home and watching broadcasted shows from their couches, and Walt saw this as an opportunity. He reached out to the network ABC to make a deal and it worked.

Disney would produce content for the network if ABC financed the creation of Disneyland. It was a very clever scheme, too. ABC provided air time for Walt so that he could broadcast himself talking to audiences across the United States, where he would share some of the park's developments. Then he'd be able to play Mickey Mouse, Disney movies and show the Mickey Mouse Club. ABC popularized Disney's stories and got Disneyland, the place, plenty of exposure well before opening day.

On July 17th 1955, the day before Disneyland officially opened, 20 thousand excited guests showed up. Counterfeit tickets had circulated.

Although the first few days were a bit of a disaster due to malfunctioning water fountains and rides, everything improved immediately.

Even in the early days, walking into Disneyland felt like a fantasy. There was a parade with a marching band, life-sized characters walked down Walt's picturesque Main Street and at the very end of it was Sleeping Beauty's castle, modeled after the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany.

Having become popular on TV, Walt would need to disguise himself while in public. He put on a big hat and sunglasses, walked around watching kids have fun, and then would hide away in his office above the firehouse on Main Street.

His daughters and eventually their families would visit Disneyland, be part of the parades and all of the fun as well. According to his daughter, Diane, family was everything to him, and that's what Disneyland encompassed.

In 1966, when Walt was just 65 years old, he found out he had lung cancer. The timing was not so great. In 1964, the world found out that cigarettes caused lung cancer and he had been chain smoking since his years in France, so more than half of his life. Walt passed away on December 15th, 1966, and was unable to see Walt Disney World in Florida open in 1971.

So let's wrap this up.

Walt was a man of a lot of firsts. He had the first successful animated movie with sound, the first commercial animated film in color. He had the first full-length animated film. He was also the first man to be nominated 38 times for an Oscar. By the end of his life, Walt won a total of 26 Academy Awards, including honorary mentions, 3 Golden Globe Awards and 1 Emmy. Walt Disney revitalized amusement parks in the U.S.. He was a visionary, but more importantly, a go-getter, who never let failure stop him in his tracks.

That's it for today's episode. I truly enjoyed learning about Walt Disney. And in order to create the audio and the text for this episode, I watched the few available interviews with him on YouTube, the interviews with his daughter, Diane Disney and I read the book Who was Walt Disney by Whitney Stewart. Additional information was added from other sources that I found on the Internet and I will provide those sources to you in the transcript.

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Thank you for listening to this episode of the American English Podcast. Remember, it's my goal here to not only help you improve your listening comprehension, but to show you how to speak like someone from the States. If you want to receive the full transcript for this episode or you just want to support this podcast, make sure to sign up to premium content on Thanks and hope to see you soon!

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