I am a massive Disney fan. I’m lucky enough to have gone to Disneyland and Disney World (and I am counting down until I can go back to Disney World). I’ve read all sorts of insider posts about the parks and watched all the documentaries that I could get my hands on. Of course, I’ve also done a ton of reading about the man himself. I love the fact that he was a self made man who worked hard to become one of the biggest names in entertainment. I had been wanting to read a biography about him for ages, but there were so many of them that I wanted to be sure I chose the right one for me. This book paints a beautiful picture of Walt Disney: it’s honest and doesn’t sugar coat his failures, and it doesn’t over exaggerate his successes. It’s the definitive biography for any fan who wants to know more about who Walt Disney was not only as a filmmaker, but also as a person.
“After I die, I would hate to look down at this studio and find everything in a mess,” Hazel retorted “What makes you think you won’t be using a periscope?”
This book follows Walt Disney’s life from his early life in rural America to his final day. It follows Disney through his earliest experimentation with newspaper cartoons, to his first animated short, to the failure of his first cartoon business to the very first office of the Walt Disney Company that we all know and love today. He was relentless in pursuing his passions and dreams. This book documents that fact that he never left himself become comfortable or complacent. Often as he mastered one craft, he leapt to another. He took risks that didn’t always pan out, but he never let his failures dissuade him. I had done a lot of reading about Disney and the Walt Disney Company before, but this book is laden with little know anecdotes and quotes from his friends and family. One I particularly loved was a conversation with his his nurse and confidant Hazel George: Disney said “After I die, I would hate to look down at this studio and find everything in a mess,” Hazel retorted “What makes you think you won’t be using a periscope?”. It’s little tidbits like that that really added to this book (also, any time Hazel George comes up is delightful).
I really loved learning more about the dynamic between Walt and Roy Disney. Their relationship wasn’t perfect, they disagreed about business decisions all the time (notably, Disneyland before Walt and the investors convinced him). There was one story about how he and Walt sat together and discussed the fact that they had almost 20 million of debt. Instead of getting angry, Roy and Walt laughed and reminisced about the times when they could hardly get a thousand dollar loan and how incredible that they were in a position of success that they could accrue so much debt.
Walt Disney is unarguably one of the most iconic figures in not only film but also in pop culture. This book is a unique account of his life: it’s based on Bob Thomas’s meticulous research and personal interviews with some of the people closest to Walt. It’s this personal touch that really made this book seem more like someone telling stories and anecdotes about Disney than a list of facts and details. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Disney, it’s a beautiful tribute to a man who has had an incredible impact on so many lives. This is the easiest 5/5 rating I’ve given in a long time.