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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination Paperback – October 9, 2007
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“Mesmerizing. . . . There’s nothing Mickey Mouse about this terrific biography. . . . The definitive portrait of Walt Disney, the Dream-King.” —Washington Post Book World“Gabler’s restless eye invigorates each page. . . . Part of the author’s formidable achievement is to take the intricacies of Disney’s devoted artistry and intertwine them with [his] life.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review “Far outshines any previous Disney bio, both in scope and in specificity. The domestic details are revelatory. . . . Walt Disney is looking at us–seemingly for the first time.” —Entertainment Weekly “Illuminating. . . . Engrossing. . . . Gabler paints a vivid portrait.”—The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Neal Gabler is the author of five books: An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity, Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, and, most recently, Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity and Power for the Yale Jewish Lives series. His essays and articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Playboy, Newsweek, and Vogue, and he has been the recipient of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, Time magazine's nonfiction book of the year, USA Today's biography of the year, a National Book Critics Circle nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Public Policy Scholarship at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Shorenstein Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a Patrick Henry Fellowship at Washington College's C.V. Starr Center. He has also served as the chief nonfiction judge of the National Book Awards. Gabler is currently a professor for the MFA program at Stonybrook Southampton.
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WARNING to die-hard D23 Disney fans... this is not the book you are seeking; because some of the personal struggles and business decisions you don't hear about are carefully described in these pages. The success of this luminary is covered, as are the dark times, the nervous breakdown, the bankruptcy, the anger... and I'll stop there for fear of hurting your feelings by going further into the darkness. Uncle Walt was a genius in every way... including troubled childhood which fueled his driven need to create the "Happiest Place on Earth."
If you want to protect the happy Americana image of Walt Disney pick up the wonderfully cheerful biographies written by Bob Thomas or Pat Williams. They offer interesting stories of Walt, teach powerful life-application lessons about perseverance and creativity in a clever way that protects the fairy tale ending, while leaving out the dragons along the way.
Hard reading, but explained a lot to me as a life-long resident of Orlando about how one mans driven desire really did change the world.
Among fascinating personal details are Walt's distant relationship with his father, his somewhat naive idea of women including a marriage that seemed more convenient than passionate, but was faithfully maintained to the end of his life, Walt's warm and cold relationship with his brother and business partner Roy, and the death of his mother, for which he blamed himself.
Gabler also touches on accusations often heard about Walt Disney of being a bad boss, a racist, and a Nazi sympathizer. Although he doesn't give Walt a pass, he does make sure to remind readers of the context of the times Disney lived in, and that there were no standards for animation and film workers as movies were just starting to find their feet in the 1920s and 30s.
As a film history through one man's life, this book also reminds us that Disney innovated things we take for granted now-- things like sync sound in cartoons, color animation, camera animation stands that allowed depth of field, and storyboards. The world of movie animation would be very different if not for Walt Disney and the talent he fostered in his studio.
It's a big volume but it is worth every minute you spend reading it. Let Walt's story work its magic on your mind.
Neal addresses the 'frozen Disney' immediately. At first I wrote him off as hiding the true facts. By the end of the book I believed Neal that Disney was in fact cremated.
I highly recommended this book to tons of people, and I recommend it to you too!