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The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life Paperback – October 1, 2001
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From Library Journal
-?Stephen Rees, Levittown Reg. Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
But there has not, until now, been a serious book about Disney and his mouse factory. Steven Watt's combination biography/cultural study accomplishes this task without either ignoring the real warts on Disney's character or sinking into eye-glazing cultural-studies babble (at no time does he accuse Disney of "phallocentricity," which is a singular accomplishment in and of itself).
Walt Disney began as something of a liberal populist, became a decided conservative, and in his later years became a great believer in the sort of social engineering that both the liberal and conservative establishments seemed to be rather enthusiastic about back in the 1960's, expressed in his original plans for EPCOT, a planned community where everything would be clean and safe and happy, whether that's how people wanted it or not . . .
Certainly that's how Disney wanted it. Disneyland and Disney World seem expressions of his desperate desire to create a place where the lonliness and misery of his childhood couldn't find him, or anyone else. Certainly, the parks are among the most well-ordered and polite imaginable, thanks to the work of his artists and engineers.Read more ›
This book provides Walt's personal story, studio development, good and bad critics, Disney's place in history and his shaping of American culture. It is not biased, but gives a balanced view on a man and his company. It made me believe in this book, since I was very sceptical towards "truths" written in other Walt Disney biographies. In those, Walt was portrayed as either a perfect person, or a villain of the 20th century.
The Magic Kingdom is the balanced truth and the best biography of a man that shaped American culture without a doubt.
For example, the writing on Walt's early years consider the influences of his mother, father, and his small-town/rural upbringing. Many other biographies have done this as well. But Watts also considers how Walt was raised at the cusp of the Victorian era and the rise of modernism, then considers how this affects Walt and his decisions for the rest of his life. Such writing not only helps the reader to better understand the "whats" and "hows" of Walt Disney's life and accomplishments, but attempts to understand the "whys" and "so whats". In this way, the reader gets a sense of how Walt was shaped by the world he lived in and, in turn, shaped that world.
Watts performs this delicate balance between biography, history, and cultural significance throughout the book. He deals with Walt in terms of the Depression, WWII, the shaping of the Hollywood Film Industry, the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the emergence of postmodern culture. This provides the reader with a deeper insight into Disney *and* these important moments.
Because the book covers so much material and makes so many connections, this is not a light read. The material is accessible but the book is hefty in terms of pages and ideas. It's something to be digested slowly, savored. It's well worth it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very thorough, detailed, well researched biography. For quite sometime, I have wanted to know the details of this man's life, a man who changed our entertainment culture and... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dr.Stanley Toompas
This book reads like a Sociology Textbook on American culture. I doubt 10% of it is actual biographical material. I wound up skipping a massive number of pages.Published 17 months ago by C. Ray
I was personally surprised by the ease in reading this book. I purchased it for a course on Disney and at first was slightly disgruntled by having to read this book. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Katie K.
If you're looking for a page turner, this is not the book for you! This is the second biography on Walt Disney that I have read and got it to fill in any of the gaps that I have... Read morePublished on December 29, 2011 by Banks
Bought the book for class, it contains a lot of stuff I never new about the how Walt Disney built his empire. There are a few chapters that is a boring read. Read morePublished on March 31, 2010 by Fanny Wong
This book analyzes Disney's life and impact on American culture. He approaches it by not only looking at biographical sources, but also film critics and letters written by all the... Read morePublished on September 22, 2009 by eritak