The word Disney has come to represent many things – fun childhood memories of imaginative tales for those who like his work, and corrupted, morally disgusting films for those who dislike it. But what was the man Walt Disney really like? What caused him to create the characters and worlds that have enchanted generations?
Walt always loved art. Even as a young boy, though his father disapproved of his wasteful hobby, Walt was able to earn a nickel here and there for his sketches. But Walt was rarely able to enjoy the proceeds of his labor, as his father always collected and invested his wages.
Walt’s father was always on the move – and always moving his family. Walt became used to moving from city to city to farm to city. But his favorite place was their country farm, because there Walt came to love animals. This love would manifest itself later in Walt’s life.
After working for the Red Cross in France during World War I, Walt moved to Chicago where he forged a partnership with fellow animation artist, Ub Iwerks. Together they produced animation ads until debts forced them to close their company. It was then that Walt made the decision to move to Hollywood.
It was at this juncture in his life that Walt joined his brother Roy in founding Disney Brothers Studios. With this new venture, Walt pursued the course he had always pursued – animation. But during the early stages of Disney Brothers Studios, Walt made a key decision; he determined never to work for someone else again. Instead of hiring himself out to animate commercials, Walt created film shorts based on his own characters – characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. When talkie film technology came along, Walt immediately incorporated it into his shorts.
In 1937, Walt created his first feature length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was an immediate success. During World War II, the Secretary of the Treasury hired Walt to make patriotic shorts. Walt obliged, and used Donald Duck to extol paying taxes and buying war bonds. After the war, Walt made several films which combined live action with cartoon scenes (So Dear to My Heart, Song of the South). In 1950, Walt produced Treasure Island, his first entirely live action film. After that his creativity had no bounds.
During his lifetime, Walt directed one hundred fourteen films and produced six hundred forty-one. Many of these films are just as popular now as they were at their first release. He also created the immensely popular Californian theme park Disneyland which has received more than six hundred million visitors since its opening. Walt Disney, with all his faults, is rightly viewed as one of the most successful entrepreneurs and filmmakers that the world has ever seen.
As a simple children’s biography, The Story of Walt Disney does not address whether the films that Disney created are morally acceptable. References are made to many of his productions, but Ms. Selden never express an opinion of them. This paragraph which closes out the story is couched in edgy terms.
“What was it that made Walt Disney different from other cartoonists or other business people? Perhaps it was that Walt Disney was like a great magician. His work was like a mirror that gave all people, young and old alike, the chance to see the fantasy and enchantment in their lives.
And his magic lives on.” [pg. 87]
Sadly, Walt’s father was a very harsh man who would whip his children for the tiniest mistakes. Regardless of their efforts to please him, their father was never quite satisfied with their performances. Because of this, Walt and the rest of his family would often practice deceptions upon him to avoid unpleasant scenes. One day, as a grown boy, Walt tells his father that he can no longer beat him. He was never again spanked. Unfortunately, the influence of his father’s behavior affected Walt’s own temperament. As he grew older he became more critical and distant.
After leaving home, Walt tried to join the army; however, being only sixteen, he employed deception to ensure acceptation (i.e. he lied about his age). Later it is commented that one of his fellow soldiers taught him how to play poker.
It is commented that Walt took his children to amusement parks on Sunday mornings.
‘Gee’ is used once.
Conclusion. A good, introductory account of Walt Disney’s life, The Story of Walt Disney will especially interest young artists.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret