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
"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)
"A monstrous piece of libelous junk. My parents were not the people he creates in this book, and I cannot understand why all of you who aided and abetted Gabler in writing this book, and who praise it and promote it, can do so without suffering serious qualms." - Diane Disney Miller, Walt's oldest daughter.
It's unfortunate that Neal Gabler made so many errors in this book. A partial list of errors can be found online.
Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, History.
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.
I was unsure about listening to a biography but Walt's life was plenty interesting to keep me riveted. I listened all day and also into the night until I finished. It is that good. Of course, the story is most interesting once it gets into his animating and creation of Disneyland. I was completely shocked by the reported reception of his classic animated feature films by the public. My one complaint is that I want more detail in his creating Disneyland. Perhaps, I will need to read another bio or some writings specifically geared toward Disneyland history.
I recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in Walt as a man, leader, business owner, or creative genius. You will also love this if you love his films and Disneyland.
I really enjoyed this book. I have been a Disney Fan all my life and found the story fascinating. This is for hard core Disney or Hollywood history buffs who enjoy the details and the extensive research put into this book. The footnotes were actually interesting to me as they charted the source of each bit of info in the archives. The level of detail documented well befor e-mail and the computer era was impressive. This book had History, Finance, Politics, Art, psycology and endless human drama which came together to create a huge segment of entertainment as we know it today. When you listen to this view it as a college semester of content on the history of American entertainment.
I felt like a fly on the wall as Walt and his artists created the likes of Mickey Mouse, and the first full length animated movie, "Snow White." He evolved w/the medium, pioneering in Television and continually reinventing his special vision of entertainment. My father took us to Disneyland at least once a year when he was a reporter for the L.A. Hearld Examiner. We were there and saw Walt at the opening of "It's a Small World." And I watched the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night. The extensive insight from this bio gives me a whole new appreciation for Walt Disney. It's been too long. I'm going to Disneyland! PS The first hour or three is a bit tedious because it traces the Disney Family back to Europe and also elaborates on Walt's childhood influences and why he gravitated to the field of animation, movies and entertainment. If you stick with it, just like Walt did, you won't be sorry!
Mostly I found this book pleasurable and informative, but the author does love his psycho-babble and long, drawn-out narrations about the bickering of Walt's employees. And the narrator really plods along as well -- I listened to all 3 parts at the ipod's fast reading setting and I still thought he was talking slowly.
If I had it to do over again, I think I would try the abridged version.
From the first sentence, this book hooked me in.
Disney's life and struggle to succeed is fascinating.
What I really appreciated was reading how he ran his company. He pushed his employees, artists and animators, to do more than they thought they could do.
He also started the company with pool tables, fun events, and other diversions.
I was surprised at this. In so many descriptions of how he ran the company, it sounded like the genius and drive of Steve Jobs combined with the fun of Google's offices.
It made me realize that today's pioneers sometimes ride down the same road already paved in the past.
Get the book. Listen to it. You'll never look at "the mouse" the same way again.
Great narrative about a creative focused visionary
I was already a Walt Disney fan but to hear his story from youth to legend was very interesting.
Neal Gabler has one of those voices you could listen to for hours. The story was well written and goes into amazing depth, This is no white wash of Walt's life. This is Walt Disney with all the warts, You will still end up sheding a tear when he dies if you have a heart. This is my favorite audio book and I have listened to it 5 or 6 times. Well worth a listen.
I was totally amazed at how influential Walt Disney was in our society. Of course, I realized his brand name but the scope of his influence was overwhelming. I couldn't stop reading this book as the reader took us through his accomplishments. The background of the sadness of his childhood creates an amazing contrast to his unbelievable prescience about what the future of entertainment will be. I was truly sorry when this book was done.
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