For countless people around the world, the appeal of the pop-culture offerings from Walt Disney’s namesake studio has long been underpinned by what LIFE magazine once called “the Disney combination of action and humor, nostalgia and violence.” Those characteristics have largely held sway in Disney’s films for close to a century, from the earliest Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Willie cartoons and classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs right up to the near-perfect Toy Story movies (produced by Pixar, released by Disney) and blockbusters like Frozen.
In the Nov. 2, 1953, issue of LIFE, in an article titled “A Silver Anniversary for Walt and Mickey,” the magazine took its readers behind the scenes at Disney:
The Disney studio is big (it covers 51 acres) and resembles a huge and complicated machine. Up to 400 draftsmen, editors, artists, cameramen, musicians, idea men, special effects men, all kinds of technicians, are required for even the shortest cartoon. There are inventions of great complexity and ingenuity. . . . But being Disney’s, the special stamp of this machine is that it careens along looking as if every screw inside were loose. The wanderer through the studio will come across animators making faces in mirrors to get ideas for the looney animals they are drawing.
Here, in this gallery, are some pictures that ran in that 1953 issue of LIFE — and several that didn’t.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.