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From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history. Seven years in the making and meticulously researched - Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives - this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history. Seven years in the making and meticulously researched - Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives - this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose life has largely been enshrouded in myth. Gabler shows us the young Walt Disney breaking free of a heartland childhood of discipline and deprivation and making his way to Hollywood. We see the visionary, whose desire for escape honed an innate sense of what people wanted to see on the screen and, when combined with iron determination and obsessive perfectionism, led him to the reinvention of animation. It was Disney, first with Mickey Mouse and then with his feature films - most notably Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi - who transformed animation from a novelty based on movement to an art form that presented an illusion of life. We see him reimagine the amusement park with Disneyland, prompting critics to coin the word Disneyfication to describe the process by which reality can be modified to fit one's personal desires. At the same time, he provided a new way to connect with American history through his live-action films and purveyed a view of the country so coherent that even today one can speak meaningfully of "Walt Disney's America." We see how the True-Life Adventure nature documentaries he produced helped create the environmental movement by sensitizing the general public to issues of conservation. And we see how he reshaped the entertainment industry by building a synergistic empire that combined film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandise in a way that was unprecedented and was later widely imitated. Gabler also reveals a wounded, lonely, and often disappointed man, who, despite worldwide success, was plagued with financial problems much of his life, suffered a nervous breakdown, and at times retreated into pitiable seclusion in his workshop making model trains. Gabler explores accusations that Disney was a red-baiter, an anti-Semite, an embittered alcoholic. But whatever the characterizations of Disney's personal life, he appealed to the nation by demonstrating the power of wish fulfillment and the triumph of the American imagination. Walt Disney showed how one could impose one's will on the world. This is a masterly biography, a revelation of both the work and the man - of both the remarkable accomplishment and the hidden life.


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From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history. Seven years in the making and meticulously researched - Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives - this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history. Seven years in the making and meticulously researched - Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives - this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose life has largely been enshrouded in myth. Gabler shows us the young Walt Disney breaking free of a heartland childhood of discipline and deprivation and making his way to Hollywood. We see the visionary, whose desire for escape honed an innate sense of what people wanted to see on the screen and, when combined with iron determination and obsessive perfectionism, led him to the reinvention of animation. It was Disney, first with Mickey Mouse and then with his feature films - most notably Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi - who transformed animation from a novelty based on movement to an art form that presented an illusion of life. We see him reimagine the amusement park with Disneyland, prompting critics to coin the word Disneyfication to describe the process by which reality can be modified to fit one's personal desires. At the same time, he provided a new way to connect with American history through his live-action films and purveyed a view of the country so coherent that even today one can speak meaningfully of "Walt Disney's America." We see how the True-Life Adventure nature documentaries he produced helped create the environmental movement by sensitizing the general public to issues of conservation. And we see how he reshaped the entertainment industry by building a synergistic empire that combined film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandise in a way that was unprecedented and was later widely imitated. Gabler also reveals a wounded, lonely, and often disappointed man, who, despite worldwide success, was plagued with financial problems much of his life, suffered a nervous breakdown, and at times retreated into pitiable seclusion in his workshop making model trains. Gabler explores accusations that Disney was a red-baiter, an anti-Semite, an embittered alcoholic. But whatever the characterizations of Disney's personal life, he appealed to the nation by demonstrating the power of wish fulfillment and the triumph of the American imagination. Walt Disney showed how one could impose one's will on the world. This is a masterly biography, a revelation of both the work and the man - of both the remarkable accomplishment and the hidden life.

30 review for Walt Disney: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    B Schrodinger

    Whether you believe that Walt Disney was a lovable storyteller, a great filmmaker and a bringer of joy or that he was a relentless purveyor of sentimental pap who was responsible for an empire that drained the U.S. of it's culture is really just a naive view of who was, and still is long after his death, a great man. Most of this audience would be of the generations who experience Disney after his death in 1966, but even I remember watching repeats of "The Wonderful World of Walt Disney" on Sund Whether you believe that Walt Disney was a lovable storyteller, a great filmmaker and a bringer of joy or that he was a relentless purveyor of sentimental pap who was responsible for an empire that drained the U.S. of it's culture is really just a naive view of who was, and still is long after his death, a great man. Most of this audience would be of the generations who experience Disney after his death in 1966, but even I remember watching repeats of "The Wonderful World of Walt Disney" on Sunday afternoons. And as a child I loved all of his work. And being a romantic I guess I still love his work especially "Mary Poppins" and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". But I still recognise the power that his legacy has left, which at it's heart like all businesses is to make money, and lots of it. I guess that is why his legacy is intriguing. I chose to read this biography due to it's length, the author's credentials and the fact that the author had cooperation from the current Disney corporation. Why does the book length entice me? Well if I want to read a biography I want it to be more in depth than the respective Wikipedia article. And sometimes I have read a 200-400 page biography and thought that it was no more informative than just reading a wikipedia article.So therefore I see that there is a probability of getting more depth from a longer biography. I also liked that there was 200 pages of notes at the end. It is extremely well-researched. If I'm going to invest my time in a biography I want definitive and thorough. I don't want to have to read another biography on that person. Despite having the backing of the Disney clan, it does not seem biased at all. I came away with many opinions and a greater understanding of the man and his work, but also of the feeling that Walt was an asshole. Well not completely, but you can see him becoming one over the years and you can also see what made him that way. I guess that it shows the success of the biography in that I went into it curious and with warm childhood memories and later life skepticism and came out understanding both of these aspects, but with a greater depth of understanding of what made Walt tick and how he became a messed up media mogul. But I still have the same appreciation for his work, despite knowing how calling most films produced under his name could be argued not to be his work at all, especially in the later years. And despite knowing that he did end up treating everyone around him, apart from his direct family, with mistrust and disdain. So not only was this book magnificent in that it illustrated the multidimensionality of Walt's personality, it also captured the times and locations very well. And despite it's density of information and people, it was intensely readable.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I wavered between 3 and 4 stars on this book. One of the problems with writing a biography about Walt Disney is that people either see him as the lovable "Uncle Walt", or a driven and obsessive tyrant. This book does a fine job of objectively showing you all the sides of this complex man. (It also didn't hurt that the writing and research were exceptionally well done). On one hand, I loved all the details about Walt Disney, his life, family, and career. However, all that detail became weighed dow I wavered between 3 and 4 stars on this book. One of the problems with writing a biography about Walt Disney is that people either see him as the lovable "Uncle Walt", or a driven and obsessive tyrant. This book does a fine job of objectively showing you all the sides of this complex man. (It also didn't hurt that the writing and research were exceptionally well done). On one hand, I loved all the details about Walt Disney, his life, family, and career. However, all that detail became weighed down in the middle of the book when the author spent too much time on Walt's legal, financial, and political troubles, and not enough on the good stuff (ie: feature animation, television/live action programs, and Disneyland). Overall, a very interesting glimpse at the man who revolutionized the film industry and changed popular culture forever.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Thought this was a great biography of Disney but also turned out to be exactly what I came to the book looking for - a thorough history of Walt Disney studios. There are reviews here that say it’s too much detail, and that’s true in many places but I didn’t mind because I love that I got the full story. This is definitely a book to read with YouTube open. About halfway through Gabler mentions the “The Reluctant Dragon” which was basically a movie designed to show off the studio in a behind-the-sc Thought this was a great biography of Disney but also turned out to be exactly what I came to the book looking for - a thorough history of Walt Disney studios. There are reviews here that say it’s too much detail, and that’s true in many places but I didn’t mind because I love that I got the full story. This is definitely a book to read with YouTube open. About halfway through Gabler mentions the “The Reluctant Dragon” which was basically a movie designed to show off the studio in a behind-the-scenes style. I watched it and it was a great way to see some of the production processes from the first half of the book up close, especially the multiplane camera - a device that Gabler describes in detail, but I didn’t understand until I saw it in the film. What an incredible piece of technology, especially for the time! There were a lot of great parts like that in the book, and the fact that so much of Disney history is also shown on YouTube - the first color cartoon, the first sound cartoon, the shorts that Gabler puts you in the room for the creation of - makes it even better. Gabler spends some time trying to find psychological through-lines between what Disney was making and his upbringing, need for control, etc. It was a stretch and I kind of rolled my eyes at it and left it at that. Wasn’t a distraction for me. Some of the things that stood out to me: - Gabler does a great job with all the conflicting stories around the creation of Mickey Mouse, very interesting. - One of the best scenes of my favorite movie - Jim Dear giving Lady as a present to Darling in a hat box - came almost shot for shot from Walt and Lilian’s real life experience. - “Disney didn’t trust women, or cats. Every villain was a woman or a cat.” - Ward Kimball - Loved the history of Donald Duck, how he came about because Mickey couldn’t have the mischievous personality everybody wanted. The early DD cartoons are fantastic. - This book is also the rise and history of animation, and it was really interesting. Felix the Cat was the big thing, and then Mickey and Donald came along and crushed him because Disney pushed animation more detailed, technical, realistic. But then Mr. Magoo came along and was the next big thing (really!) because modern animation swung toward more simplistic, “limited” animation - less nuance, flat backgrounds, straight lines. Hanna-Barbera succeeded on this type of animation. But ... Disney is the one still around and making boatloads of cash to this day.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    https://thebestbiographies.com/2020/0... “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler was published in 2006 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Gabler is an author, journalist and former film critic whose previous books include a biography of Barbra Streisand and a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood. He is currently working on a biography of Edward Kennedy. This biography of Walt Disney is one of two recent, compelling works reviewing the life of a man https://thebestbiographies.com/2020/0... “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler was published in 2006 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Gabler is an author, journalist and former film critic whose previous books include a biography of Barbra Streisand and a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood. He is currently working on a biography of Edward Kennedy. This biography of Walt Disney is one of two recent, compelling works reviewing the life of a man whose lasting impression on American culture is indisputable (the other being Michael Barrier’s 2007 “The Animated Man.”) Biography aficionados will quickly discover that Gabler’s hefty book – with 633 pages of text and about 200 pages of notes and bibliography – provides much to enjoy. To suggest this book is built upon a foundation of impressive research seems an understatement. Every important moment of Walt’s early life appears to have been uncovered and, at times, it seems certain Gabler must have followed Disney through his entire life…and interviewed everyone who ever knew him. Like many talented and highly-driven individuals, Walt Disney was a far more complex person than is generally appreciated and this biography adroitly captures his multifaceted (and occasionally unpleasant) personality. Gabler also offered me something slightly unusual: a reading experience where I frequently found myself slowing my pace in order to more fully savor the literary journey. From an engrossing introduction to coverage of the early days of the Disney Brothers Studio to a surprisingly interesting exploration of motion picture technology and, finally, to the consummation of Disney’s dream of building a theme park, Gabler’s book offers an impressive balance of insight, erudition and accessibility. But fastidious detail and insight is not just one of this book's great gifts, it is also the biography's primary vice. Coverage of some topics is far more meticulous than many readers will desire, including the mechanics of Disney's third-party business arrangements, minutiae relating to contracts and negotiations, blow-by-blow accounts of various hassles encountered during film production... While the detail is undoubtedly enlightening, encyclopedic coverage of all events great and small will strike many as unnecessary and, quite possibly, tedious. So although this author seems to possess biographer Robert Caro's penchant for unusually attentive and vigilant research, he also demonstrates a similar gift for garrulous gab. Overall, however, Neal Gabler’s “Walt Disney” is a methodical, revealing and often engrossing look at a fabulously creative and complicated individual. But rather than convincing me I do not need to read Michael Barrier’s contemporaneously-published biography of Disney, this book (to its credit) convinced me I would be crazy not to. Overall rating: 4¼ stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    This is how a biography should be written. Gabler's treatment of Disney is thoroughly fair, engaging, engrossing, and professional. In short, a wonderful read. He leaves no relevant details out of Disney's life, yet I seldom if ever felt inundated with minutiae. The closest Gabler comes to delving too deeply into a particular area is during the (long) discussion about the making of Snow White. However, it was such a seminal event in Disney's life that I fully understand why Gabler lingered over This is how a biography should be written. Gabler's treatment of Disney is thoroughly fair, engaging, engrossing, and professional. In short, a wonderful read. He leaves no relevant details out of Disney's life, yet I seldom if ever felt inundated with minutiae. The closest Gabler comes to delving too deeply into a particular area is during the (long) discussion about the making of Snow White. However, it was such a seminal event in Disney's life that I fully understand why Gabler lingered over it. It was Disney at his finest and most exacting. Gabler shows that Disney was nowhere near the genial "Uncle Walt" persona that he so carefully tried to cultivate as he grew older. He was tyrannical towards his employees, and also towards his family at times. Disney's life was always about what mattered to him the most: and that was, alternately, his studio, Disneyland, The 1964 New York World's Fair, or EPCOT. His wife and his two daughters usually took a backseat to those things, although by his daughters' accounts, when Disney was home, he was an exceptionally devoted and caring father. It seems ironic that the person responsible for entertaining millions and millions of people around the world, was also a very lonely, isolated man who had few real friends and always seemed distant from everyone else. I think this is one of the best biographies that I have ever read. Grade: A

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    In my childhood, I was a Walt Disney nut. I loved the cartoons, I loved the movies, and I loved reading about the man himself, ever since I checked out one of those American Pioneers mini-novels from my elementary school's library. The problem with most Walt Disney bios is that there's a hard and fast line that's drawn between them. Either they paint an absolutely rosy picture of the man (fully and completely sanctioned by The Disney Corporation) or they go in the absolute opposite direction, hi In my childhood, I was a Walt Disney nut. I loved the cartoons, I loved the movies, and I loved reading about the man himself, ever since I checked out one of those American Pioneers mini-novels from my elementary school's library. The problem with most Walt Disney bios is that there's a hard and fast line that's drawn between them. Either they paint an absolutely rosy picture of the man (fully and completely sanctioned by The Disney Corporation) or they go in the absolute opposite direction, highlighting his anti-semitism and racism. This is the first biography that does an admirable job of splitting the difference, and that makes it a great read. All the standard Walt Disney stories are included (his hardscrabble childhood, "You can't top pigs with pigs" and so on) but they're tempered with genuine insight. The best thing I can say about a book that was written with the full cooperation of the Disney family is that it doesn't FEEL like it was written with full cooperation. There's bad stuff here as well, especially Disney's shameful appearance in front of HUAC. Really stellar biography.

  7. 5 out of 5

    emily compton

    this is undoubtedly a 5 star book, but it took me two months to get through it and there were parts of it that seemed endless, so i'm knocking it down one just for my own reading experience. that said, this is an exceptionally well done biography. it is so thorough and so well researched, which is almost universally a strength, but got pretty sloggy in the middle, while world war II was the catalyst for a miserable period in walt's life (and by extension, the reader) as he was bogged down with s this is undoubtedly a 5 star book, but it took me two months to get through it and there were parts of it that seemed endless, so i'm knocking it down one just for my own reading experience. that said, this is an exceptionally well done biography. it is so thorough and so well researched, which is almost universally a strength, but got pretty sloggy in the middle, while world war II was the catalyst for a miserable period in walt's life (and by extension, the reader) as he was bogged down with seemingly endless legal, financial and political misfortunes. for a 900 page biography built entirely of documentation and hard facts (office memos, legal and financial records, interviews with family and personnel, etc) and little if any speculation, it says a lot about the quality of writing here that reading this book was an emotional roller coaster. it's such an in-depth characterization of such a larger than life cultural figure that you feel, very early in the story, an emotional connection with the man and soar when he soars, crash when he crashes. it's also extremely unbiased, depicting him as neither tyrant nor beloved uncle, but as a complex human being whose genius made his life alternately exhilarating and exhausting. i loved the depth and length of the making of snow white especially, and wish the same treatment had been given to the creation of disneyland, walt's other passion project. it's also a really great portrait of the time, and you learn so much about the cultural landscape (worst phrase) as we progress. and lastly, as a disney lover from birth, i was blown away at how much i learned about how completely innovative this man was. the earlier years of his company were, especially, really inspiring. while i'm sure, like any person too brilliant to exist like a normal person, he was a huge pain in the ass to know and work with, i'm walking away from this feeling justified in my disney love and with a much greater understanding of what made this man and his legacy so special. oh, and i cried when he died. like a baby.

  8. 4 out of 5

    lizeindisney

    A detailed, unbiased look at Walt Disney. The good, the bad and the ugly. As a big fan of Walt’s, the ugly parts were hard to read but it’s important that a biography is truthful, and there’s plenty of quotes from imagineers and family to give a balanced look at his life. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through this book due to how small the print was and how many pages it was, but honestly I devoured it. I love books that really go into detail about each event and this book did. I actually A detailed, unbiased look at Walt Disney. The good, the bad and the ugly. As a big fan of Walt’s, the ugly parts were hard to read but it’s important that a biography is truthful, and there’s plenty of quotes from imagineers and family to give a balanced look at his life. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through this book due to how small the print was and how many pages it was, but honestly I devoured it. I love books that really go into detail about each event and this book did. I actually cried at the end because I hadn’t read about his death in that much detail before either. Highly recommend this book! Paperback

  9. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    The book has a powerful introduction. It gives the reader the expectation of an epic biography with an analysis of Disney and his place in our culture and legacy. The book has many good points but does not deliver on this promise. Some of the promised insight is present, but is overwhelmed by facts and chronology. Gabler does a good job on the biographical outline of both Disney and his company. He describes the different pictures, projects, technologies. He relates Walt's enthusiasm, level of in The book has a powerful introduction. It gives the reader the expectation of an epic biography with an analysis of Disney and his place in our culture and legacy. The book has many good points but does not deliver on this promise. Some of the promised insight is present, but is overwhelmed by facts and chronology. Gabler does a good job on the biographical outline of both Disney and his company. He describes the different pictures, projects, technologies. He relates Walt's enthusiasm, level of involvement, and appraisal of each and the role of the main projects in building Disney as a company and a brand. We learn about Walt's insistence on quality and how this was at odds with his brother's job of keeping the cash/credit rolling in. We learn about his family life and something about his remembering people from his youth and childhood. There is a lot of detail on dollar amounts in costs, revenues, bonds, shares, etc. Only rarely were current values stated, and stated relevance was even rarer. One year's revenues on merchandizing (the only successful operation at the time) were $100 million, with profits just over $1 million. Was this an acceptable profit margin for the time? More seriously, is confusion about actual money in the 1930's. Walt's parents are in Oregon, not coping well the depression. Despite all the talk of revenues, salaries etc., its hard to figure out why Walt doesn't have the money to help them. While he's heavily mortgaged, he IS maintaining polo horses at this time. In short, there is a lot of info on Disney's financials, but the dots are not all connected. On the staffing side, I was looking for an answer that wasn't here. Years ago I met a woman (now deceased) who had worked at Disney in the 40's and 50's. She said there was strict segregation of men and women. Women had their own entrance and could be fired for fraternizing with the men. This is not mentioned at all, but there are clues. There is reference to the "women's paint and ink building", the "women's cafeteria" and nude sunbathing on the roof (doubt that this would be coed). If what she said is true, this is a serious omission. Gabler gives us dots, but, again, no connections. Gabler alludes to Walt's nostalgia for the early days of what seemed to be an artist's dream studio with positive energy, creativity and devotion. This is a theme throughout the book, but there are stray sentences about long hours, pay squabbles and people freezing before Walt in these early days. The main flow of the text suggests that the strike comes from nowhere and is life changing for Walt. After it he is difficult to impossible to work for. He fires people frequently. People clam up in his presence and develop strategies for dealing with him. Walt as a boss, and Disney as an organization needs a more cohesive treatment. A bio of Disney is an ambitious project. Here is a man without a high school diploma who pioneered animation, sound, color, TV, and the theme park. He had a great vision, energy and know-how. I know there are other bios, but have not read them, so I'm unaware of how this one fits in. This is an important collection of data arranged in a readable chronology. It gives a starting point for others.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    Whatever your feelings about the man, his legacy, his company, or his movies, you can't deny Walt Disney was an icon. It's an overused word, but it fits him. So does legend. This was a remarkably (sometimes overly) detailed book about the man behind the myth, and I learned a lot I didn't know about him, his movies, and his empire. This book covers Walt's life from birth to death. One thing that I liked was Gabler dealt with the cryrogenic rumors up front. No, Walt Disney isn't frozen somewhere, Whatever your feelings about the man, his legacy, his company, or his movies, you can't deny Walt Disney was an icon. It's an overused word, but it fits him. So does legend. This was a remarkably (sometimes overly) detailed book about the man behind the myth, and I learned a lot I didn't know about him, his movies, and his empire. This book covers Walt's life from birth to death. One thing that I liked was Gabler dealt with the cryrogenic rumors up front. No, Walt Disney isn't frozen somewhere, waiting to come back. As much as that might be an amazing thing. After the story of his childhood and his World War I service (which I didn't know about) pass, you get to his professional career. The recurring theme for everything he did was that Walt Diseny was an idealist, a perfectionist, and a lot of his problems came from the fact that he honestly couldn't seem to see why everyone didn't see things like he did. He rose from struggling artist to cartoonist, and spent a really alarming part of his career hurting for money. He finally formed his own company and his first big hit, the first feature cartoon ever, was Snow White. That, I knew. That so many of his movies, like Fantasia and Pinnochio and even Sleeping Beauty were box office failures, I did not. Aside from his perfectionism, Disney's other big problems were being willfully ignorant of economic needs, and always looking for the next thing. He was obsessed with cartoons, then feature cartoons, then live action movies, and as he mastered each, he got bored and moved on. Disneyland came about through a combination of boredom, wanting a new challenge, and a big obsession with model trains. Not the kind on your table, the kind you can actually ride. Walt was far from perfect. He was a man of his times. He wasn't actively anti-Semitic or racist, but he made comments that sounded a bit like both. He got swept up in the Red Scare of the 50's and did some regrettable things. He had a temper, largely when people didn't live up to his nearly impossible ideas. Disney was a visionary, and a dreamer, and a genius. This is his story, and, along the way, the story of Mickey Mouse, Disneyland, The Mickey Mouse Club, EPCOT, and even a few other characters not as popular now, like Davy Crockett and Zorro. The long time link between Disney and ABC comes clear. And I'll risk pissing a few people off. Disney died earlier than he had to because he got lung cancer. He got THAT from being a chain smoker. A man who helped reshape the world of popular culture died too soon because of a stupid, filthy habit. If there's a better anti-smoking message, I don't know what it is. A good read about Disney, but if you're more a casual fan (like me) than a devout Disney-ite, this might be a bit much. There's a LOT of detail. About everything.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer DuBose

    This was a well written and exceptionally well researched book about "America's Uncle" - the great Walt Disney. I learned that Disney wasn't just a passionate perfectionist; he was obsessive, zealous, even, about his visions for animation and entertainment. If he had not been this way, we wouldn't have what Disney is today. The legacy and creations and even the spirit of all things Disney would not be what they are without his drive for a perfection that was beyond perfection. He didn't want to This was a well written and exceptionally well researched book about "America's Uncle" - the great Walt Disney. I learned that Disney wasn't just a passionate perfectionist; he was obsessive, zealous, even, about his visions for animation and entertainment. If he had not been this way, we wouldn't have what Disney is today. The legacy and creations and even the spirit of all things Disney would not be what they are without his drive for a perfection that was beyond perfection. He didn't want to just create good movies; he wanted to change animation all together. He didn't just want a theme park; he wanted to change the definitions of theme parks altogether. Get where I'm going with this? I also appreciated how this book showed the positive and the negative about Disney. Yes, he was a warm, creative visionary but he was also a moody chainsmoker who didn't approve of workers' unions. I also liked the way Gabler addressed the notorious, (and still around today!), allegations that Disney was anti-semitic. Gabler's opinion is that he was not, but being a white man of his time, Disney would not completely dissociate with those who were, be they neighbors or coworkers. He also lived in a neighborhood with a high population of anti-semitic people. The rumor that he was anti-semitic started from a disgruntled ex-employee (disgruntled about Disney's handling of workers unions) and just stuck around, much in the same way Marie Antoinette never actually said "let them eat cake". My opinion? I think he didn't hate the Jews, but he could've done a better job of sticking up for them instead of turning a blind eye to those around him who were anti-semitic. Now, was he racist? Yes, obviously. Even though he tried not be, he just couldn't get past the kind of ignorance that was lived and breathed in that time period. He would often have his studios collaborate with the NAACP for suggestions about how to correctly portray black characters, but he wouldn't always accept all of their suggestions. Watch Song of the South for more details. I view Walt Disney as I view many of America's founding fathers: with the understanding that goodness is not black and white. I cannot deny Thomas Jefferson's contribution to American government, but I cannot ignore his ownership of slaves. While not as severe, It's the same with Disney. I love the worlds he created both in his movies and in the amusement parks. I respect him for his work ethic and obsession with perfection, and for what he contributed to American culture and ideals. But, I also acknowledge that there were sides to him that warranted improvement. Maybe if he had lived longer, he would've corrected some things. All in all, I do consider him one of my favorite people from history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This was a really good book. As anyone who knows me and my family, we love all things Disney. So when this book was published I thought I would give it a try. At over 800 pages (over 200 of which are bibliography information) I wasn’t sure I’d get through it. But it kept me intrigued. It was written really well with a good narrative. The book delves into Walt Disney’s upbringing, and all of the milestones along his life path until his death. It was interesting to read about how he was continually This was a really good book. As anyone who knows me and my family, we love all things Disney. So when this book was published I thought I would give it a try. At over 800 pages (over 200 of which are bibliography information) I wasn’t sure I’d get through it. But it kept me intrigued. It was written really well with a good narrative. The book delves into Walt Disney’s upbringing, and all of the milestones along his life path until his death. It was interesting to read about how he was continually trying to out do himself. Nothing was ever “done”, he was always trying to “plus” things. And for that reason, Disneyland was his greatest accomplishment, his greatest triumph. It was something that he could continually update. His plans for Walt Disney World were also very interesting to read. I believe that if Disney hadn’t have died when he did, Walt Disney World would be something much different than what it is today - and I’m not sure if that would be good or bad. So, if you’re a Disney fan at all, you should read this book. And if you’re only a minor fan, it is still very interesting and a good read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    I don't know if this is the best biography out there of Walt Disney, but it certainly seemed thorough, balanced and respectful of its subject. Gabler starts with Disney's humble upbringing in the Midwest, and describes how his fierce determination and genius to succeed as an animator drove him ultimately to Hollywood where he became legendary. The most fascinating parts were Gabler's account of how Disney radically altered animation. He was the first to provide color, more cells of drawing per sec I don't know if this is the best biography out there of Walt Disney, but it certainly seemed thorough, balanced and respectful of its subject. Gabler starts with Disney's humble upbringing in the Midwest, and describes how his fierce determination and genius to succeed as an animator drove him ultimately to Hollywood where he became legendary. The most fascinating parts were Gabler's account of how Disney radically altered animation. He was the first to provide color, more cells of drawing per second and also was the first to create animation shorts with sound. He pioneered all of this when they were barely concepts in regular movies, much less cartoons. Gabler describes Disney's tyrannical and perfectionist nature that forced him to do anything and everything to make his vision a reality. As an animator, this involved scouting out the best talent, even creating an animation school to provide continual training for the animators he hired. This part, the process of creating such phenomenal movies as Snow White is extremely interesting and I would advise all aspiring movie makers and animators to read this. Not only because it provides the history of animation, of course it's all on computer now, but the techniques used to create convincing movement and character. Disney would have the cartoonists go out and watch deer and other animals. They would dance about in the studio and base facial expressions on each other. Disney was all about realism in the beginning. This gradually changed, largely because the audience changed and also the financial requirements were prohibitive. That is the second most invaluable part of this book for aspiring movie makers: just what everything costs. I couldn't believe how just creating a Disney short could be so expensive. Walt's brother Roy was the business side of it. It was his job to beg, borrow and in every way above the law acquire the money to support Disney's dream. Later Walt's dreams expanded into live action TV and movies and finally culminated into Disneyland. The process by which these were accomplished was also enlightening. My only grievance against the book was the author's denigrating of most of Disney's movies. According to Gable, the only good movie Disney made was Snow White. Every other animated movie was a failure. I think he bases this largely because the other movies barely recovered the costs to make them. Maybe I'm looking through the rose glasses of childhood memories, but I LOVED the Disney movies. Bambi was one of my all time favorites and so was Pinocchio. The other grievance, if I can call it that, is Gabler's habit of presuming Disney's motives, which I think no one but Disney can really know. Also to make sweeping generalizations about the American populace and what everyone was feeling or thinking during particular world events (World Wars, Depression, etc.) is rather presumptuous. Who knows why people liked certain types of movies at one time and didn't at another. I think most people don't think much about it and just go with the flow. A scary thought, to be sure, when one considers what kind of power that gives Hollywood and I think there is plenty of evidence in our culture that they have wielded that power. Those complaints aside, this is an excellent biography and one for those who would like to put an actual person behind the famous name.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Walt Disney is one of those figures that everyone knows without really knowing at all. One of the primary themes of this biography is that even the people in his life who had daily contact with him, who lived with him, worked with him, even grew up with him, would have said the same thing. He was an intensely private person, and one wonders how much of the carefully cultivated image of himself that was created and wrapped up with his films was a deliberate attempt to hide that private self. Disne Walt Disney is one of those figures that everyone knows without really knowing at all. One of the primary themes of this biography is that even the people in his life who had daily contact with him, who lived with him, worked with him, even grew up with him, would have said the same thing. He was an intensely private person, and one wonders how much of the carefully cultivated image of himself that was created and wrapped up with his films was a deliberate attempt to hide that private self. Disney, as an individual, a company and a cultural influence, has had a lot of criticism over the years, but for better or worse you cannot deny that there are few people who have had the same level of influence on popular culture as Walt Disney. And I for one like that influence! This is an exceptionally well-written book, lively and engaging, fair and balanced, and very readable. The descriptions of the creation of some of the films, most particularly 'Snow White', are incredibly detailed, and it's made me want to go back and revisit some of those films. And go to Disneyland!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    As fascinating as this man was, I just couldn't get through this book. It was about 700 pages of every biographical note about Walt Disney -- very in depth even down to what his resting heart rate was on Tuesdays (joking). I made it into the 200's (barely) and just couldn't trudge on. If you're looking for something to sink your teeth into -- go for it! Maybe I'll look for another version/author. Whew! As fascinating as this man was, I just couldn't get through this book. It was about 700 pages of every biographical note about Walt Disney -- very in depth even down to what his resting heart rate was on Tuesdays (joking). I made it into the 200's (barely) and just couldn't trudge on. If you're looking for something to sink your teeth into -- go for it! Maybe I'll look for another version/author. Whew!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Malorie

    I'll be honest, I didn't actually finish the book. I couldn't make myself. I was disgusted by Walt Disney. I wanted to read about a creative man who was responsible for creating some of the best loved memories from my childhood. Instead, I read about a man who was a tyrant, who terrorized his employees, who took credit for art that he was incapable of creating. Yes, he came up with ideas and okayed everything, but he was not the end-all be-all. I guess I couldn't handle the disillusionment. I'll be honest, I didn't actually finish the book. I couldn't make myself. I was disgusted by Walt Disney. I wanted to read about a creative man who was responsible for creating some of the best loved memories from my childhood. Instead, I read about a man who was a tyrant, who terrorized his employees, who took credit for art that he was incapable of creating. Yes, he came up with ideas and okayed everything, but he was not the end-all be-all. I guess I couldn't handle the disillusionment.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Salzer

    Good biography about one of the great and most influential minds of the 20th century. Very informative, but maybe not the most captivating writing. Luckily, the life of Walt and especially his Mickey Mouse empire provides much amazement. Walt Disney changed the game and we are all sharing the benefits through our childhood memories. It's amazing to think that Snow White was the first ever animated full-length feature film and was first introduced to the cinema screen 80 years ago. True success fo Good biography about one of the great and most influential minds of the 20th century. Very informative, but maybe not the most captivating writing. Luckily, the life of Walt and especially his Mickey Mouse empire provides much amazement. Walt Disney changed the game and we are all sharing the benefits through our childhood memories. It's amazing to think that Snow White was the first ever animated full-length feature film and was first introduced to the cinema screen 80 years ago. True success for me means creating something that provides value long after your death, and by that measure, Walt Disney must be one of the most successful people of our time. Having been born almost 30 years after his passing, I feel fortunate to have received so much laughter and joy from his creations.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Interesting read about a complicated figure of american history. As someone who loves disney, both media and the parks, it was interesting to read about the man who created it. Rated 3* not 4* simply because at times I feel it got a bit heavy handed with names and prices and ran away from the point a bit.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg Bodwell

    This was a fun read on the history of film, animation, and one of the most recognizable names in the world. But it could gain from being a couple hundred pages shorter. I’m intrigued by reading about visionaries and I found many similarities (both good and bad) between Disney and Steve Jobs. Overall it is a well-written, fair biography.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leandro Nogueira

    Really inspiring reading, even if you're sympathetic or not for Disney's projects (animation, movies, theme parks, advertising, music, politics, engineering) this book provides a deep journey into Walt Disney's career, his hunger for a new challenge, preferable if it comes as apparently impossible and and the ways he always found to run over the financial obstacles. Actually his brother Roy was responsible for that part, but, anyway, What Walt did and how He did it is covered in all the negative Really inspiring reading, even if you're sympathetic or not for Disney's projects (animation, movies, theme parks, advertising, music, politics, engineering) this book provides a deep journey into Walt Disney's career, his hunger for a new challenge, preferable if it comes as apparently impossible and and the ways he always found to run over the financial obstacles. Actually his brother Roy was responsible for that part, but, anyway, What Walt did and how He did it is covered in all the negative and positive aspects in this book. This book has a special flavor to me, once I'm addicted on Disney features and used to watch them before even learning how to speak. In the first half of it I could feel like If I would be in an ancient animation studio, watching the arising technology, the imposed difficulties to produce animated movies in the early 1930's to 50's and understanding how much sacrifices are required in order to make a dream come true. It sounds naive and common place, actually really Disney, but it does not mean it's deeply true.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Neal Gabler, who penned a well-received biography of journalist Walter Winchell and An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, among other books, is the first writer to have complete access to the Walt Disney archives. Much of that wealth of information makes its way into this hefty tome. At nearly 900 pages (including 200 pages of notes), the author risks losing all but the most devoted Disney fans. Gabler uses engaging prose, numerous anecdotes, and firsthand accounts of the even Neal Gabler, who penned a well-received biography of journalist Walter Winchell and An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, among other books, is the first writer to have complete access to the Walt Disney archives. Much of that wealth of information makes its way into this hefty tome. At nearly 900 pages (including 200 pages of notes), the author risks losing all but the most devoted Disney fans. Gabler uses engaging prose, numerous anecdotes, and firsthand accounts of the events of Disney's life, however, to balance the more mundane details about production budgets and the day-to-day workings of Disney's empire. For the most part, Gabler succeeds. The book works best when he focuses on Disney's often contradictory and mercurial characterThis is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I have a list of 10 people (living or dead) that I would like to meet and Walt Disney is on my list. How different America would be without Walt Disney! "Wish fulfillment" is a good term for this amazing man. (That term taken from the book). Lots of things in this book you didn't know about this man....dropped out of High School as a Freshman and never went back....had his camera repossessed at 16....lied about his age to serve with the Red Cross during WWI....1st person to ever film "wildlife d I have a list of 10 people (living or dead) that I would like to meet and Walt Disney is on my list. How different America would be without Walt Disney! "Wish fulfillment" is a good term for this amazing man. (That term taken from the book). Lots of things in this book you didn't know about this man....dropped out of High School as a Freshman and never went back....had his camera repossessed at 16....lied about his age to serve with the Red Cross during WWI....1st person to ever film "wildlife documentaries" and the book goes on and on with interesting facts and information about his many achievements. Mickey Mouse Club and Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color were "not to be missed" TV ! (Did you know those shows are how Walt raised the money to build Disneyland?) Ok...I'll stop now......

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Walt Disney was an incredible man - and after reading this book, I feel like I have a real idea of who he was, the good and the bad. The book goes beyond "The Happiest Place On Earth" to see the wonderful and not so wonderful parts of Disney's life and character. Next time I watch one of his movies, I'll be thinking about what he was trying to accomplish and how he felt about the film in its conception and release. Walt Disney was an incredible man - and after reading this book, I feel like I have a real idea of who he was, the good and the bad. The book goes beyond "The Happiest Place On Earth" to see the wonderful and not so wonderful parts of Disney's life and character. Next time I watch one of his movies, I'll be thinking about what he was trying to accomplish and how he felt about the film in its conception and release.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    If you're a Disney fan, this is a must-read. His impact on culture is explained in a very tangible, powerful way. I must say I was surprised to learn how Disney treated his employees. I always thought it was a happy place to work. His passion for excellence drove him. The story of the development of Snow White and Disneyland are both fascinating. In the end, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Walt Disney. If you're a Disney fan, this is a must-read. His impact on culture is explained in a very tangible, powerful way. I must say I was surprised to learn how Disney treated his employees. I always thought it was a happy place to work. His passion for excellence drove him. The story of the development of Snow White and Disneyland are both fascinating. In the end, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Walt Disney.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    One might complain that there is an overabundance of information, but for the not-so-casual reader, nothing more could be wished. The book outlines Disney's cultural influence of social issues as diverse as patriotism, politics, economics and technology, in a manner at once entertaining and authoritative One might complain that there is an overabundance of information, but for the not-so-casual reader, nothing more could be wished. The book outlines Disney's cultural influence of social issues as diverse as patriotism, politics, economics and technology, in a manner at once entertaining and authoritative

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sherrie

    My favorite part of this book was learning that Walt Disney wasn't an anti-Semite and how that rumor got going (tl;dr haters gonna hate when you make all that $$$). Overall, this book was good...but it kinda got bogged down in the middle. There's a lot of information on business and trades and numbers because that was the driving force in Disney's life...it's just not always fun to read about. My favorite part of this book was learning that Walt Disney wasn't an anti-Semite and how that rumor got going (tl;dr haters gonna hate when you make all that $$$). Overall, this book was good...but it kinda got bogged down in the middle. There's a lot of information on business and trades and numbers because that was the driving force in Disney's life...it's just not always fun to read about.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Hardy

    This is a excellent book for those who really want to know who Walt Disney was.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kit Fox

    Dang. Had to return this to the library before I could finish it. And just as I was getting to the portion on my favorite Disney flick, Fantasia. That, as Donald Duck would say, totally blows.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David J.

    Tremendous biography of someone who has always intrigued me. The detail is thorough, the narration smooth-flowing, and the insights were plentiful. Excellent read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bryce

    I usually hate biographies, but this one was all about Walt Disney. I haven't had such a great respect for him until now. He's amazing, and so is his biography. I usually hate biographies, but this one was all about Walt Disney. I haven't had such a great respect for him until now. He's amazing, and so is his biography.

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