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Walt before Mickey: Disney's Early Years, 1919-1928 Hardcover – Large Print, April 7, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Real film-history research is hard and tedious work; it often involves endless hours of digging through old journals and documents, searching for some elusive detail. My hat is off to Tim Susanin for his painstaking labors to illuminate the obscure corners of Walt Disney’s early career. Thanks to his efforts, dates, names, and other previously unknown details of Walt’s early years have been brought into the open.”

―J. B. Kaufman, author of South of the Border with Mickey: Walt Disney and the Good Neighbor Program, 1941-1948 and (with Russell Merritt) Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney



“Tim Susanin has unearthed a goldmine of information that enables us to focus on Walt Disney’s early career as we’ve never been able to before. He has dug deep and come up with details and colorful material that deepen our understanding of the man. Bravo!”

―Leonard Maltin, author of The Disney Films and Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons



From the foreword by Diane Disney Miller:

“I have always loved to hear my dad talk about his life, especially the early part . . . his childhood, family, the Kansas City days, and especially how he met and courted my mother. Tim [Susanin] has done an amazing job of chronicling the lives of the people in that period who affected Dad’s life. His research brought out the fact that some of Dad’s early benefactors were his neighbors on Bellefontaine, people who had seen him grow up and were aware of his industrious nature. Dad, it appears, was never shy about asking for a loan. But he was diligent about repaying it . . .

“Tim continues on for several more years, all exciting for the brothers and their wives, though not without periods of anxiety. He ends with the loss of Oswald the Rabbit and the creation of Mickey Mouse. Dad’s telegram to Roy as he, with my mother, was about to depart New York for home was ‘Leaving tonight stopping over KC arrive home Sunday morning seven thirty don’t worry everything OK will give details when arrive―Walt.’ He didn’t mention the fact that they had lost Oswald. They would need a new plan, a new character. Roy, who had been caring for my parents’ chow dog Sunnee, recalls that nothing was said until Roy inquired, ‘Tell me about it, kid . . . What kind of deal did you make?’ ‘We haven’t got a deal,’ Dad cheerfully replied. ‘We’re going to start a new series.’”



“What a monumental work, and a very accurate one. No one has ever gone into as much detail on Walt’s early life. This will be a joy to researchers for years to come.”

―Dave Smith, Archivist Emeritus, The Walt Disney Company



More Praise for the Book:

“Walt Disney was a man in movement, someone whose exceptional energy and curiosity permitted him to create great animated features and the extraordinary Disneyland park. Tim Susanin gives us our closest look yet at Walt when he was just starting to become that great visionary of the middle of the twentieth century. His book is a chronicle of Walt Disney in the 1920s, when he was just starting up Hollywood’s ladder―whose lowest rungs happened to be in Kansas City. We meet many of Walt’s friends and colleagues, too, people who have been little more than names in earlier biographies and studio histories but whose stories are told here in unprecedented detail. This book does a superb job of tracking the restless young Walt Disney through the decade of triumphs and trials that preceded the great turning point in his life: the creation of Mickey Mouse.”

―Michael Barrier, author of The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney and Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age



“The men and women who surrounded Walt in the 1920s come to life as never before thanks to Tim Susanin. Meticulously researched and easy to read, Walt before Mickey is bound to shape the history of Walt’s early days for years to come.”

―Didier Ghez, editor of the series Walt’s People: Talking Disney with the Artists Who Knew Him

From the Inside Flap

The untold story of ten critical, formative years in the great producer's life
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (April 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604739606
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604739602
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,505,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By George H. Taylor Jr. on May 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
About The Author
Currently, Timothy S. Susanin acts as the general counsel for a Fortune 500 Company. Previously, he served the Federal Government and the NAVY JAG as counsel. Obviously, Susanini is no stranger to laborious and meticulous research. Walt Before Mickey is proof of that.

The Review
By far, this is one of the most comprehensive books about any single period of Walt Disney's life. The author presents a detailed look at a very short time in Walt Disney's career when he was working professionally before the creation of Mickey Mouse. Walt Before Mickey starts with a short look at Walt's life and moves through his first jobs in Kansas City until the formation Kaycee Studios, his first studio, in 1921. The majority of the book recounts Walt's time in other Kansas City studios, the Laugh-O-Gram years and the formation of the Disney Bros. Studios in Los Angeles. As expected, the book does end before the creation of Mickey Mouse.

There are several themes throughout most Disney biographies: consistent and early failure paired with an unchallenged sense of destiny; bringing together the best people; and managing people with visionary leadership. Walt Before Mickey spends a indulgent amount of time describing such events. I have read the major biographies on Walt Disney and I am always shocked by the nexus of animation that occurred and grew out of Kansas City. Most biographers agree that the landscape of animation would be vastly different without Disney pulling together artists from his local Kansas City environs.

The strength of this book could be considered its weakness; we see an almost daily look at Walt's life. We meet all of the characters that worked with, influenced or helped a young Walt Disney as artist.
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Format: Hardcover
The men and women who surrounded Walt in the '20s come to life as never before thanks to Tim Susanin. Meticulously researched and easy to read, Walt Before Mickey is bound to shape the history of Walt's early days for years to come. If you are a serious Disney historian, this is a "must-have."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a very interesting bio of Walt's early life as an animator and filmmaker before the creation of Mickey Mouse. This book is exhaustively researched, and while this book is informative and interesting the amount and degree of research is its one weak point. There is way too much time spent detailing various aspects of extraneous information that offer very little valuable information about early Walt. Do we really need to know ancestral information about every person early Walt interacted with or where everyone lived in relation to the studio? Even with that said, this book is interesting and should be on every Disney fan's reading list.
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Format: Paperback
This review is of a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Walt Before Mickey” by Timothy S. Susanin is one of the, if not the, most exhaustive accounts of Disney’s early years that can be found. The research is thorough, and it shows.

I have mixed feeling on “Walt Before Mickey”. As a historian, and a huge Disney nerd, the facts presented are a treasure trove. Almost all of the information is rare, the sources are solid and well-documented, and it brings a feeling of closeness to Disney himself.

On the other hand, there is almost too much information. Every single person he met has a painstaking account of their looks and history. Not that those things are not important, but it slows it down and takes away from what is important. More than once I found my mind wandering during these descriptions, and it really is a shame that it mars what is otherwise an exceptional account of a great man.

I can highly recommend “Walt Before Mickey” to historians or those with an intense interest in Disney himself, but would recommend those with a casual interest to give this one a pass.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not much into biographies, had to get one for a school project (subject... psychology). Reading the biographies (yes, bought another one as I needed to have certain information to write a report, and the first one did not contain what was needed.) with a purpose behind the reading made them enjoyable to me. If you just want to read it for knowledge of the person or how hard getting your dream started can be, this is a good book. Having the knowledge of failures, progression, setbacks, and opportunities provides a well rounded individual and someone unattainable.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just to show the wide audience that Walt Disney's start was not like the make believe world of rosy easy happy endings. He went thru a lot to be successful, try and try again, dogged determination to succeed and deserved the success at the end. It can be a business book inspirational reading for the future businessman. Like some saying from I forgot who, success is 90% hard work and only 10% luck.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent background on Walt Disney's early years. I've read several biographies of Disney and this book, apart from others, does an excellent job of providing details on those very early years. Heavily annotated.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I was gifted a copy of “Walt Before Mickey” via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is no way changes my opinion or view of this book.

I enjoy biographies, autobiographies and memoires immensely, as it helps you grasp a person’s life truly. This book of course is none of the above, nor does it claim to be. However, I was hoping it would be a little more interesting then what it was. If you are looking for a timeline of Walt’s life, with a whole lot of detail about things that I personally do not feel relevant, than you may enjoy this book. However, it is not a book for everyone.

It is very obvious that the author did a great deal of research while writing “Walt before Mickey”, and in doing so, wanted to get every ounce of that research put into this book. Because of that, it is a bit overwhelming, and at times, dry.

If you are looking for a book about Walt that reads as a timeline pre-Disney (as the name states), then this is the book for you. Just know that about 50% of the book is actually research and the other 50% lists the resources used during said research.
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