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Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empires Hardcover – July 16, 1998
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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.
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My favourite quote from the book is Roy's comment that 'Junior's got his hand in the cookie jar again,' which he made any time he thought that Walt was plotting another big project which he, Roy, would have to finance. Having said that, Roy brought the vital common sense to Disney project that balanced his brother's sometimes apparently reckless vision. For example. when Walt had decided to go into live action films as a departure from their cartoon features Roy is quoted as saying. "We are not going into these things because we are feeling our oats or getting ambitious," Roy said. "We are doing it for common-sense business reasons, realizing the hazards of our basic cartoon business."
He was right. Their first live-action feature '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (which was faced with severe budget overruns and a complete re-shooting of the now legendary giant squid sequence, went on to become the highest grossing movie of all time after its release.
For a highly engaging and informative look at the 'other side' of the Disney process, as well as a heart-warming story of brotherly collaboration through thick and thin, then I would highly recommend this book.
Roy O. Disney was the organizational leader who kept his younger brother Walt's vision on track.
This book is an enjoyable journey behind one of the most successful entertainment companies in history... but also essential reading if you work with a visionary leader because they can drive people crazy sometimes.
If you work around, (or are married to), a visionary leader then it will help you tremendously to see how Roy was able to come alongside his creative genius brother, (read as ADD), to accomplish the impossible without a big budget.
I recommend you check this out if you are looking for ways to help the visionary leader in your life move forward to change the world.