One night, at a Los Angeles dinner gala, Walt Disney gave a rare public statement about his older brother, Roy: "We started the business here in 1923, and if it hadn't been for my big brother, I swear I'd've been in jail several times for checks bouncing. I never knew what was in the bank. He kept me on the straight and narrow."
Although Walt wasn't quite that ignorant of the numbers, it's true that Roy handled most of the finances for the Disney empire. It was Roy who kept the studio running in the early years, Roy who put together the financing deals for Disneyland, Roy who oversaw the completion of Walt Disney World in Florida after his brother's death in 1966.
Building a Company provides plenty of anecdotal details about the Disney entertainment empire's rise to power. Don't look for juicy scandal, though: Bob Thomas's fully authorized (and, ultimately, Disney-financed) biography steers clear of any controversies, such as Disney's attempts to get out of a contract with ABC in the late '50s, before they can cause a blight on the success story. Useful primarily to those interested in the details of business and entertainment history.
From Publishers Weekly
Roy Disney was born in 1893, a full eight years before his brother Walt. Despite the age gap, the brothers were from the beginning almost inseparable. Roy joined the Navy during WWI, but following his discharge discovered he had tuberculosis. His search for a suitable climate for recovery brought him to California, where he was soon joined by Walt, who had already set up his first cartoon film company, Laugh-O-Gram. With Walt supplying the vision, Roy was brought onboard to handle the finances. Together they established the Walt Disney Company; by himself, Walt came up with a signature character named Mortimer Mouse, who made his debut as Mickey in the film Plane Crazy. Once he reappeared in his first talkie, Steamboat Willie, an American cartoon icon was born. Thomas (Walt Disney: An American Original) depicts the business acumen of Roy in such matters as licensing, the forming of the original Mickey Mouse Clubs and the retention of TV rights of Disney products as early as the 1930s. Thomas covers as well Roy's part in the company's going public; its financial restructuring after WWII; the production of feature films like Fantasia; and the creation of Disneyland, leading to the Florida land-buy necessary for DisneyWorld, which opened just before Roy's death in 1971. This is a highly entertaining book that will interest a business readership in addition to fans of Disney. 16 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. (July) FYI: Hyperion, a Disney company, appears to have taken its name from the first location of the Walt Disney Studios, 2719 Hyperion Avenue in downtown L.A.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.