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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination | [Neal Gabler]

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

The author also reveals a wounded, lonely, and often disappointed man, who, despite worldwide success, was plagued with financial problems, 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, and an embittered alcoholic. Yet whatever his personal failings, Disney appealed to millions by demonstrating the power of wish fulfillment and the triumph of the American imagination.

©2006 Neal Gabler; (P)2006 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"Thorough...[and] engrossing." (Publishers Weekly)
"A balanced treatment of the man and his achievements, realistically assessing Disney's considerable impact and offering insight into the hidden, restless soul who constantly challenged himself." (Booklist)
"We've all been waiting for the perfect book on Walt Disney; it has finally arrived and Neal Gabler's done it. Wonderful!" (Ray Bradbury)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (352 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.5 (208 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (206 )
5 star
 (116)
4 star
 (57)
3 star
 (24)
2 star
 (7)
1 star
 (2)
Performance
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  •  
    Nate 06-02-14
    Nate 06-02-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Life Lessons as well as a Biography"
    Where does Walt Disney rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is the best audiobook I have listened to, it is an extremely well written book and narrated very well. I retain information better if I hear it and with all the information in this book I remember it a lot more than when I read the book a few years ago.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It is full of life lessons of perseverance, triumph, success, and inspiration. It is a must read for any Disney fan as well as a must read for anyone considering starting their own business. Walt Disney's life was full of trials and success and is an inspiration for anyone.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 05-09-14
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 05-09-14 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Biography, Terrible Narrator"
    Where does Walt Disney rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Average to less than average


    What did you like best about this story?

    Learning about how WB built his entertainment empire


    Would you be willing to try another one of Arthur Morey’s performances?

    No, his narration was mono-tone, and boring


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Learning about how hard, the Disney Corporation had to work to make movies. We think of Walt Disney as a billionaire with the Midas touch. However even after making Mickey Mouse and Snow White his company had many rough years ahead.


    Any additional comments?

    I was happy to learn the truth about WD, not just in business, but also personal. Media has always portrayed Disney as a terrible anti-Semite, however after reading this, he was not as bad as he was made out to be. He seemed a tough boss, and difficult person to work with especially later in life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Felipe Plets Brazil / Porto Alegre area 04-30-14
    Felipe Plets Brazil / Porto Alegre area 04-30-14 Member Since 2011

    SAP developer, design thinker, innovator, blogger and speaker

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the greatest minds ever"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I recommend it. The story is very well connected and written so you get to know the history of one of the major personalities from the last century. An innovator, a maker and a dreamer.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Walt Disney is not only a great innovator and maker, he is also one of the main characters from Disney.


    Have you listened to any of Arthur Morey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This was the first time I listened a performance from Arthur Morey's, but he is a great performer and I would listen other books read by him.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The moment in which Walt start to play with trains and this lead him to build the amusement park idea is great and inspiring.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann United States 03-08-14
    Ann United States 03-08-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    14
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    Story
    "interesting, but a bit long"
    Would you try another book from Neal Gabler and/or Arthur Morey?

    The subject matter was well researched and relatively engaging. However, I feel the story could have benefitted from some editing for pace. The book was a bit long overall and I caught myself checking several times how many chapters were left.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barnet Mooresville, NC 02-25-14
    Barnet Mooresville, NC 02-25-14 Member Since 2010
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    2
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    Story
    "Thrilling, Interesting, Compelling."
    What made the experience of listening to Walt Disney the most enjoyable?

    An interesting story of an amazing life. Disney was a transformative creative spirit. Driven, brilliant, driven, determined--and all too human.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Walt overcame numerous adversities. Even after his unambiguous movie success, he still had to fight the dim-witted and vision-less to get his dreams accomplished. Spoiler alert: Walt was a real person, had his faults, stresses and disappointments, could be cranky and short, got angry and sad, was funny and witty, and all the other facets that makes us all human. If you want this to be a gum-drop and lolly-pop book about "Uncle Walt", you'll be disappointed. If you want to respect a man who never stopped working to get his live his dreams, this book sets this out clearly.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    By speaking. Boring recitation of an otherwise thrilling, interesting and compelling story. What does he do for fun, read textbooks?


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    N/A


    Any additional comments?

    The author tries, unsuccessfully, to make this out to be more of an academic treatise than it really is. I could have lived without the footnotes, randomly inserted for effect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Barney United States 02-08-13
    Jeff Barney United States 02-08-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Great story... could have been read better."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this to anyone who loves Walt Disney and his history.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Walt


    Did Arthur Morey do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Yes


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Walt: A History


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher SPRING HILL, FL, United States 01-29-13
    Christopher SPRING HILL, FL, United States 01-29-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A very good book"

    Overall I really enjoyed this book, however for my tastes it was very slow going at the beginning. I don't mind long books, I've listened to books much longer than this but the beginning of the book is a bit to detailed and the story doesn't really start moving until you're about 8 1/2 hours in. With that said once the story starts moving it proves to be extremely interesting and seemingly well researched.

    As for the other comments the authors need to tell you what "intellectuals" thought about things is frustrating. Intellectuals of this era are some of the most irrelevant people that ever existed and for the author to keep bringing up their thoughts just slows down the book. Also it wouldn't appear that the author ever meet a communist he didn't like. Communism was a real threat to America during the time of Walt Disney-- see the country called the USSR. For the author to label anyone that is an anti-communist a reactionary is silly and seemingly shows a complete lack of education or a political bias. I'll go with bias.

    With those negative comments just note that I'm still giving it 4 stars. While the book will slow down the author mostly does a good job of isolating these parts of the book to their own sections, so it's not throughout everything you're reading.

    The story of Disney really is a fantastic adventure that ended much too soon, I only wish he had lived to build Epcot in his vision.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Johnson Kansas, USA 12-19-12
    E. Johnson Kansas, USA 12-19-12 Member Since 2012

    just a reader

    ratings
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    17
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    "Accurate facts, lots of pop psychology"
    What did you love best about Walt Disney?

    I enjoyed hearing all the stories I have heard about the early days of Disney (plus some others) put together in a coherent whole.


    What did you like best about this story?

    That it's real.


    Which character – as performed by Arthur Morey – was your favorite?

    n/a


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It makes me truly glad that I never met Walt Disney himself to let him ruin my appreciation for his work.


    Any additional comments?

    There is a tremendous amount of pop psychology in this book. There's nothing that Walt Disney ever did that Gabler can't come up with some dark psychological reason for, as opposed to just letting the reader/listener figure out motivations for themselves. Sometimes we just need to accept that people do things because it seems like the right thing at the time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 10-25-11
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 10-25-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dry in places, but overall fascinating"

    Like a lot of people my age, I grew up on Walt Disney; in my case, it went way past childhood. I got a lot of ribbing in high school because I continued to insist that he was a genius. I still think that, even though there is, undeniably, a saccharine quality to a lot of his work. Disney always considered himself more a "story man" than a master animator, and the grace and strength of the story structure in his best features is one of his most enduring monuments.

    Gabler's biography is a fascinating look at Disney's life and work - especially his work. The emphasis here in on the professional, and Gabler provides totally absorbing accounts of the studio's process in creating some of the great features of the 30s and 40s. Disney did go wrong at certain points in his career, some of it financial and some of it political, and the fact that he was able to oversee the creation of so many masterpieces in spite of these wrong turns is astonishing. In the 50s, with the advent of Disneyland and the weekly TV show, Disney began once again to hit his stride.

    When Disney is totally committed to what he's doing, Gabler is wonderful. When Disney is bored, Gabler becomes much less interesting. The biggest weakness in the book is the overly-detailed account of the financial dealings. It's an essential part of the story, but (as Gabler himself makes clear) it's not really what Disney was about.

    The book is a useful corrective to the only other biography of Disney I've read - "The Disney Version" by Richard Schickel. That was clearly hostile; Gabler takes a much more balanced and nuanced approach. While I understand from browsing the web that not everyone agrees with me, I get the sense from the book that Gabler actually likes Disney. The book isn't the celebration some would prefer, but neither is it an indictment. It's a portrait of a man who smoked too much and drank too much and never lost a yearning for the turn-of-the-century small town perfection he'd known as a child: a man with a brilliant vision of what animation could do and the ability to motivate others to join him in the pursuit of the insanely great.

    I enjoyed Arthur Morey's narration (as I always do). He maintains a steady, straightforward tone that matches the material.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colin Glendale, CA, United States 08-31-11
    Colin Glendale, CA, United States 08-31-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Detailed is good"

    Must read for animation and Disney fans. A truly inspiring life story, I hate what the Disney Corporation has become, but this guy was seriously ground breaking and our lives our different because of him. Loads of good details about his life and how he became the king of animation revolutionizing the industry and changing the way we think.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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