As I looked at the cover of The Adventures of Young Walt Disney and saw that the book was the Official Companion to As Dreamers Do, I got a little worried. I had heard enough about the Walt Disney biopic that I knew that the producers admitted that some stories found in the movie could be closer to myth and legend than history, since they took Walt at his word. And I was concerned that this book could have a similar philosophy of storytelling. Also, with a title like this the first thing that came to mind was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Which again is fiction, not fact.
The Adventures of Young Walt Disney by William Silvester is a historical chronicle of Walt Disney's years before Hollywood. Silvester covers Disney's early life including why his parents left Chicago, the Marceline years, Kansas City, France and back to Kansas City again. The story that Silvester presents is the account of a driven young man who often hit on rough times. Due to illness and a poor crop, his family left his beloved Missouri farm for opportunity in the city. As a young businessman though he had a contract, young Walt Disney struggled to keep his studio running as he was never paid. And when the money ran out and he could no longer afford staff, Disney lived in his Kansas City Laugh-O-Gram studio...perhaps with a mouse. What the reader discovers is that during all of Disney's roughest moments he still had people that believed in him and his talent.
I really enjoyed The Adventures of Young Walt Disney. Silvester writes clearly and keeps the reader's attention by telling a fact based story. He makes sure to point out in his text what is fact and what is legend. And at times he makes sure to note stories which may not be true. Therefore it works well as a historical biography. And it has the benefit of being short! With a page count of under 130 pages, it is a obtainable biography on Disney's pre-California years. I am sitting next to another biography covering the same years which is twice the size and something that I could never give to a young adult or someone with a passing interest in Walt Disney. this work is an enjoyable and educational read that non-Disney fans can enjoy just by following the interesting story of young Walt Disney.
I did take the time to watch, finally, As Dreamers Do, after reading the book. I can see how someone who had seen the movie would want to pick up a biography like this to fill in gaps and confirm stories found in the movie. The book and the movie do differ in some key themes, with the book being distinctly less spiritual than the movie. As someone who saw the movie after reading the book, I did find myself comparing the film and preferring the book. But I am a history guy who likes the printed word, so "not as good as the book" is a phrase I have used in several situations. One should note that the movie is not based on the book, and the book is not an adaptation of the movie. They are related in the content they cover. While they do have some stories that overlap, each is a stand-alone experience.
I really enjoyed The Adventures of Young Walt Disney. Sure Walt Disney was no Indiana Jones. But both did spend time in France! William Silvester has put together a useful and entertaining biography of Walt Disney. And one that a young person or semi-interested history buff can enjoy just as much as the intense Disney fan.
Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press