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Disneyland combined nostalgia for a halcyon, nonexistent past with utopian fantasies of Tomorrowland. Most amusement parks, in fact, were like the Warner Brothers cartoons of the late s — noisy, chaotic, bombastic, subversive. Walt Disney, the purveyor of comfort, intended his park to provide just the opposite — not freedom but control and order. The portrait of Disney that Mr. Gabler draws in this book is one of a lonely, eccentric, immensely gifted man: an ambitious workaholic, driven more by perfectionism than by dreams of entrepreneurial power; a dreamer, obsessive about whatever project captured his imagination, be it a cartoon mouse, animatronic robots, miniature trains he installed a small railroad that ran around his property in Holmby Hills , or the elaborate, kitschy dreamscape of Disneyland.

Though Mr. View all New York Times newsletters. And he chronicles how Disney began, in the late s, to feel he had lost his way — a sense of drift that would be exorcised only with the passion he conceived for constructing Disneyland. In the end Mr. Advanced embedding details, examples, and help! Topics Disney , Gabler.

Few men could be said to have as pervasive an influence on American culture as Walt Disney, and Gabler Winchell scours the historical record for as thorough an explanation of that influence as any biographer could muster. Every period of Disney's life is depicted in exacting detail, from the suffering endured on a childhood paper route to the making of Mary Poppins.

The core of Gabler's story, though, is clearly in the early years of Disney's studio, from the creation of Mickey Mouse to the hands-on management of early hits like Fantasia and Pinocchio. It was Disney at his finest and most exacting. Gabler shows that Disney was nowhere near the genial "Uncle Walt" persona that he so carefully tried to cultivate as he grew older. He was tyrannical towards his employees, and also towards his family at times. His wife and his two daughters usually took a backseat to those things, although by his daughters' accounts, when Disney was home, he was an exceptionally devoted and caring father.

It seems ironic that the person responsible for entertaining millions and millions of people around the world, was also a very lonely, isolated man who had few real friends and always seemed distant from everyone else. I think this is one of the best biographies that I have ever read. Grade: A Jan 17, Andrew rated it it was amazing.

This was a really good book.

ISBN 13: 9780679438229

As anyone who knows me and my family, we love all things Disney. So when this book was published I thought I would give it a try. But it kept me intrigued. It was written really well with a good narrative. It was interesting to read about how he was continually This was a really good book. It was interesting to read about how he was continually trying to out do himself. And for that reason, Disneyland was his greatest accomplishment, his greatest triumph. It was something that he could continually update.

His plans for Walt Disney World were also very interesting to read. Jul 29, Wayland Smith rated it liked it Shelves: reading-challenge. Whatever your feelings about the man, his legacy, his company, or his movies, you can't deny Walt Disney was an icon. It's an overused word, but it fits him. So does legend. This was a remarkably sometimes overly detailed book about the man behind the myth, and I learned a lot I didn't know about him, his movies, and his empire.

This book covers Walt's life from birth to death. One thing that I liked was Gabler dealt with the cryrogenic rumors up front. No, Walt Disney isn't frozen somewhere, Whatever your feelings about the man, his legacy, his company, or his movies, you can't deny Walt Disney was an icon. No, Walt Disney isn't frozen somewhere, waiting to come back.

As much as that might be an amazing thing. After the story of his childhood and his World War I service which I didn't know about pass, you get to his professional career. The recurring theme for everything he did was that Walt Diseny was an idealist, a perfectionist, and a lot of his problems came from the fact that he honestly couldn't seem to see why everyone didn't see things like he did.

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler -

He rose from struggling artist to cartoonist, and spent a really alarming part of his career hurting for money. He finally formed his own company and his first big hit, the first feature cartoon ever, was Snow White. That, I knew. That so many of his movies, like Fantasia and Pinnochio and even Sleeping Beauty were box office failures, I did not.

Aside from his perfectionism, Disney's other big problems were being willfully ignorant of economic needs, and always looking for the next thing. He was obsessed with cartoons, then feature cartoons, then live action movies, and as he mastered each, he got bored and moved on. Disneyland came about through a combination of boredom, wanting a new challenge, and a big obsession with model trains. Not the kind on your table, the kind you can actually ride. Walt was far from perfect. He was a man of his times.

He wasn't actively anti-Semitic or racist, but he made comments that sounded a bit like both. He got swept up in the Red Scare of the 50's and did some regrettable things. He had a temper, largely when people didn't live up to his nearly impossible ideas. Disney was a visionary, and a dreamer, and a genius. The long time link between Disney and ABC comes clear. And I'll risk pissing a few people off.


Disney died earlier than he had to because he got lung cancer. He got THAT from being a chain smoker. A man who helped reshape the world of popular culture died too soon because of a stupid, filthy habit. If there's a better anti-smoking message, I don't know what it is.

A good read about Disney, but if you're more a casual fan like me than a devout Disney-ite, this might be a bit much. There's a LOT of detail. About everything. Sep 10, Jennifer DuBose rated it it was amazing. This was a well written and exceptionally well researched book about "America's Uncle" - the great Walt Disney. I learned that Disney wasn't just a passionate perfectionist; he was obsessive, zealous, even, about his visions for animation and entertainment.

If he had not been this way, we wouldn't have what Disney is today. The legacy and creations and even the spirit of all things Disney would not be what they are without his drive for a perfection that was beyond perfection. He didn't want to This was a well written and exceptionally well researched book about "America's Uncle" - the great Walt Disney.

He didn't want to just create good movies; he wanted to change animation all together. He didn't just want a theme park; he wanted to change the definitions of theme parks altogether. Get where I'm going with this? I also appreciated how this book showed the positive and the negative about Disney. Yes, he was a warm, creative visionary but he was also a moody chainsmoker who didn't approve of workers' unions. I also liked the way Gabler addressed the notorious, and still around today! Gabler's opinion is that he was not, but being a white man of his time, Disney would not completely dissociate with those who were, be they neighbors or coworkers.

He also lived in a neighborhood with a high population of anti-semitic people. The rumor that he was anti-semitic started from a disgruntled ex-employee disgruntled about Disney's handling of workers unions and just stuck around, much in the same way Marie Antoinette never actually said "let them eat cake".

My opinion? I think he didn't hate the Jews, but he could've done a better job of sticking up for them instead of turning a blind eye to those around him who were anti-semitic. Now, was he racist? Yes, obviously. Even though he tried not be, he just couldn't get past the kind of ignorance that was lived and breathed in that time period.

He would often have his studios collaborate with the NAACP for suggestions about how to correctly portray black characters, but he wouldn't always accept all of their suggestions. Watch Song of the South for more details. I view Walt Disney as I view many of America's founding fathers: with the understanding that goodness is not black and white. I cannot deny Thomas Jefferson's contribution to American government, but I cannot ignore his ownership of slaves.

While not as severe, It's the same with Disney. I love the worlds he created both in his movies and in the amusement parks. I respect him for his work ethic and obsession with perfection, and for what he contributed to American culture and ideals. But, I also acknowledge that there were sides to him that warranted improvement. Maybe if he had lived longer, he would've corrected some things.

All in all, I do consider him one of my favorite people from history. Jul 13, Louise rated it really liked it Shelves: entertainment-industry , haiti-fic-lit , biography , film-directors. The book has a powerful introduction. It gives the reader the expectation of an epic biography with an analysis of Disney and his place in our culture and legacy. The book has many good points but does not deliver on this promise. Some of the promised insight is present, but is overwhelmed by facts and chronology. Gabler does a good job on the biographical outline of both Disney and his company.

He describes the different pictures, projects, technologies. He relates Walt's enthusiasm, level of in The book has a powerful introduction. He relates Walt's enthusiasm, level of involvement, and appraisal of each and the role of the main projects in building Disney as a company and a brand. We learn about his family life and something about his remembering people from his youth and childhood. There is a lot of detail on dollar amounts in costs, revenues, bonds, shares, etc.

Only rarely were current values stated, and stated relevance was even rarer. Was this an acceptable profit margin for the time? More seriously, is confusion about actual money in the 's. Walt's parents are in Oregon, not coping well the depression. Despite all the talk of revenues, salaries etc. While he's heavily mortgaged, he IS maintaining polo horses at this time.

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In short, there is a lot of info on Disney's financials, but the dots are not all connected. On the staffing side, I was looking for an answer that wasn't here. Years ago I met a woman now deceased who had worked at Disney in the 40's and 50's.

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She said there was strict segregation of men and women. Women had their own entrance and could be fired for fraternizing with the men. This is not mentioned at all, but there are clues. There is reference to the "women's paint and ink building", the "women's cafeteria" and nude sunbathing on the roof doubt that this would be coed. If what she said is true, this is a serious omission. Gabler gives us dots, but, again, no connections. Gabler alludes to Walt's nostalgia for the early days of what seemed to be an artist's dream studio with positive energy, creativity and devotion.

This is a theme throughout the book, but there are stray sentences about long hours, pay squabbles and people freezing before Walt in these early days. The main flow of the text suggests that the strike comes from nowhere and is life changing for Walt. After it he is difficult to impossible to work for.

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He fires people frequently. People clam up in his presence and develop strategies for dealing with him. Walt as a boss, and Disney as an organization needs a more cohesive treatment. A bio of Disney is an ambitious project. Here is a man without a high school diploma who pioneered animation, sound, color, TV, and the theme park.

Neal Gabler on 'Walt Disney The Triumph of American Imagination'

He had a great vision, energy and know-how. I know there are other bios, but have not read them, so I'm unaware of how this one fits in. This is an important collection of data arranged in a readable chronology. It gives a starting point for others. Walt Disney is one of those figures that everyone knows without really knowing at all. One of the primary themes of this biography is that even the people in his life who had daily contact with him, who lived with him, worked with him, even grew up with him, would have said the same thing. He was an intensely private person, and one wonders how much of the carefully cultivated image of himself that was created and wrapped up with his films was a deliberate attempt to hide that private self.

Disne Walt Disney is one of those figures that everyone knows without really knowing at all. Disney, as an individual, a company and a cultural influence, has had a lot of criticism over the years, but for better or worse you cannot deny that there are few people who have had the same level of influence on popular culture as Walt Disney. And I for one like that influence! This is an exceptionally well-written book, lively and engaging, fair and balanced, and very readable. The descriptions of the creation of some of the films, most particularly 'Snow White', are incredibly detailed, and it's made me want to go back and revisit some of those films.

And go to Disneyland! Aug 10, Samuel Salzer rated it really liked it Shelves: biography. Good biography about one of the great and most influential minds of the 20th century. Very informative, but maybe not the most captivating writing. Luckily, the life of Walt and especially his Mickey Mouse empire provides much amazement. Walt Disney changed the game and we are all sharing the benefits through our childhood memories.

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  6. It's amazing to think that Snow White was the first ever animated full-length feature film and was first introduced to the cinema screen 80 years ago. True success fo Good biography about one of the great and most influential minds of the 20th century. True success for me means creating something that provides value long after your death, and by that measure, Walt Disney must be one of the most successful people of our time.