Monday, March 19, 2012

Between Books - Walt Disney: An American Original

Bob Thomas in Walt Disney: An American Original chronicles the life and legacy of Walt Disney.  Thomas discusses briefly the Disney ancestors and then details Walt Disney’s birth in 1901 and childhood.   The book charts the moves of Walt Disney’s formative years from his birthplace in Chicago, to Disney’s idealized Marceline, Missouri, to Kansas City, back to Chicago, France and finally his return to Kansas City.  In this final relocation to Kansas City, Disney took his first steps into animation forming his own animation studio.  After setbacks and failures in the Midwest, Disney moves to California in 1923 asking his older brother Roy O. Disney to partner with him in a new animation studio.  Thomas covers the successes and failures of the Disney brothers including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the birth of Mickey Mouse and the production of a full length feature in Snow White released in 1937.  Thomas details Walt Disney’s steps into new endeavors including live action movies, television productions, and theme parks with the opening and growth of Disneyland.  Finally, Thomas discusses Disney’s final days and death in 1966 followed by the Walt Disney legacy with his unfinished dreams including the Walt Disney World Resort and EPCOT.  Along with chronicling the business and intellectual career of the historical figure, Thomas also discusses extensively Walt Disney the son, brother, husband and father. 
Walt Disney: An American Original is a Disney library must have.  It balances a comprehensive biography on Walt Disney with a readable narrative.  It is small enough to fit into a backpack for a Disney vacation, hint hint, while still being comprehensive enough to give the reader a good overview of Walt Disney’s life.  Thomas interviewed many individuals who knew Walt Disney personally and had the support of the Walt Disney Archives in providing content and sources.  However, I do wish as a historian that there were footnotes, as they would help guide further reading.  The text itself is highly readable and enjoyable, in fact it is more readable than most historical narratives that I have run across. 
This was one of the first Walt Disney biographies I ever read.  I found it not too short, not too long but just right!  It was a story, a true life one at that, which grabbed me and made me even more interested in Disney history.  When you read of the setbacks Walt Disney experienced one cannot help but be inspired.  You find a Walt Disney that really does embody the “Keep Moving Forward” spirit of Meet the Robinsons.  Additionally, I found myself becoming interested in expanding into other topics.  One topic that I was left wanting to know more about was Walt Disney’s vision for EPCOT, the Experimental City of Tomorrow and not the Epcot Park.  And I instantly wanted to find more information about Roy O. Disney, the older brother who stood beside Walt Disney and gave him the support needed to be the creator and innovator that he was.  Walt Disney: An American Original is a story that makes you want to know more!      

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