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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American…
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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Vintage) (edition 2007)

by Neal Gabler

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6101823,781 (4.11)9
Member:SESchend
Title:Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Vintage)
Authors:Neal Gabler
Info:Vintage (2007), Paperback, 912 pages
Collections:Currently reading, Read but unowned
Rating:****
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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This is a monster of a book, and dense...took me far longer to finish than I expected. Gabler covered pretty much everything and he certainly didn't "Disneyfy" Disney, but he did convey, warts and all, the brilliance that Disney was.

Recommended, even if you aren't a fan...there is much to be learned (or recounted) from the steps he took in his innovations;from animation, to sound animation, to realism, to a theme park unlike any other. Who knows if the vision of EPCOT would have been realized had he lived to see it through? He made all his other dreams comes true. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Good bio. Kind of.

I did have my problems with it. The author, whether for dramatic effect or disenchantment during his research, didn't seem to be on Walt Disney's side very often. In fact it seemed to have a kind of pro-leftist union feel to it. Gabler rarely came to Disney's defense on issues, branding him constantly dissatisfied and naive, especially when it came to politics. Walt was a conservative, not for naivete, but for certain convictions. The author subtly peppers his opinion throughout the more trying times in Walt's life, and more often than not he's a little unfair.

Also, despite Gabler's attempt to soften the issue, it is plainly apparent that the unions, more than once, ruined Disney's vision and were the source of much, if not all, of what went wrong with Walt Disney Productions. Disneyland was also plagued by union labor.

If you can look past the sympathies Gabler offers Walt's enemies and the grumpy asshole he paints Walt as at times, you do actually end up with a good idea of what this great man was like. It will take a careful reader to preen the facts from Gabler's misdirection though.

One more thing. The narrative was infected with if/then clauses and other devices that make long stretches of reading obnoxious. There were other constructions too that just made me cringe when I came to them.

OK. One more thing. The author did, in agreement with other reviews, make jumps in time that were a little confusing. You will read 50 or so pages and think you have a good idea about what was happening at the time, but then he goes back and, in effect, ruins or at least alters the perception you spent the last half-hour building. It's not bad, per se, it was just, well, fucking annoying.

It's a 4-star on account of the information, but on style and delivery a less than solid 2.5

I would have liked A LOT more information on Disneyland.But that's just me. ( )
  DanielAlgara | Sep 26, 2014 |
It was never really about the money... well, almost never. Walt Disney was always more interested in "the next thing," and making money on a venture was usually just a way to finance his projects. Initially drawn to drawing and animation but burned by dishonest partners, he created his own studio to produce animated "shorts" – short Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons shown before regular feature movies. But he was always pushing for better animation and quality, eventually creating "Snow White," the first feature-length animated movie, with the best animation for the time. But even then he wasn't breaking-even financially and eventually had to cut corners just to pay the bills. Even as his fame soared, money was tight and some movies were made just to generate income (like "Dumbo" and some live-action films). As Walt became bogged down in the studio and trying to make too many movies at once and always striving to create something bigger or better (realism in "Bambi" and high-class art in "Fantasia"), plus with WWII forcing him to rely on government work just to keep going, he became discouraged. As a result, the animation that was once the top in the industry lost its edge and Walt turned to other interests like trains and eventually television and Disneyland. But in the end he left a legacy of memorable characters and family-friendly entertainment that still continues.

Neal Gabler'sbook was especially enjoyable to read because Walt Disney is especially familiar to most of us. But I was surprised to learn that Disney was always financially strapped and borrowing anywhere he could until after Disneyland. And it was fascinating while reading to go back and watch some of the movies, like "Three Little Pigs" and "Snow White" (which I never really liked before) and compare the styles, knowing what went into them and what made them great. And visiting Disneyland after reading the book makes you look at the place differently and notice more details. But I was also surprised to learn that the genius behind "the happiest place on earth" usually wasn't a very happy man himself. Mr. Gabler describes Walt's constant need to create "control" in his surroundings that drove his efforts at perfection. Animation, his trains, and Disneyland each in turn gave him an escape from reality into an environment where he had near-total control.

Books about Walt Disney either paint him as a saint or an evil tyrant, and I guess he could be both depending on the perspective. Gabler is careful to point out where the "legends" were embellished, and that "Walt Disney" became more of a brand than a man, but I thought he portrayed him fairly and honestly. Gabler tells Disney's faults, ego, and the complaints many of his employees had, but also why he did what he did and what motivated him. It sometimes bogs down in too much detail about finances, but it not only shows why he was so culturally influential but also that he was as human as all of us.

(This review is modified from my 5/26/12 blog review at bookworm-dad.blogspot.com) ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
It was never really about the money... well, almost never. Walt Disney was always more interested in "the next thing," and making money on a venture was usually just a way to finance his projects. Initially drawn to drawing and animation but burned by dishonest partners, he created his own studio to produce animated "shorts" – short Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons shown before regular feature movies. But he was always pushing for better animation and quality, eventually creating "Snow White," the first feature-length animated movie, with the best animation for the time. But even then he wasn't breaking-even financially and eventually had to cut corners just to pay the bills. Even as his fame soared, money was tight and some movies were made just to generate income (like "Dumbo" and some live-action films). As Walt became bogged down in the studio and trying to make too many movies at once and always striving to create something bigger or better (realism in "Bambi" and high-class art in "Fantasia"), plus with WWII forcing him to rely on government work just to keep going, he became discouraged. As a result, the animation that was once the top in the industry lost its edge and Walt turned to other interests like trains and eventually television and Disneyland. But in the end he left a legacy of memorable characters and family-friendly entertainment that still continues.

Neal Gabler'sbook was especially enjoyable to read because Walt Disney is especially familiar to most of us. But I was surprised to learn that Disney was always financially strapped and borrowing anywhere he could until after Disneyland. And it was fascinating while reading to go back and watch some of the movies, like "Three Little Pigs" and "Snow White" (which I never really liked before) and compare the styles, knowing what went into them and what made them great. And visiting Disneyland after reading the book makes you look at the place differently and notice more details. But I was also surprised to learn that the genius behind "the happiest place on earth" usually wasn't a very happy man himself. Mr. Gabler describes Walt's constant need to create "control" in his surroundings that drove his efforts at perfection. Animation, his trains, and Disneyland each in turn gave him an escape from reality into an environment where he had near-total control.

Books about Walt Disney either paint him as a saint or an evil tyrant, and I guess he could be both depending on the perspective. Gabler is careful to point out where the "legends" were embellished, and that "Walt Disney" became more of a brand than a man, but I thought he portrayed him fairly and honestly. Gabler tells Disney's faults, ego, and the complaints many of his employees had, but also why he did what he did and what motivated him. It sometimes bogs down in too much detail about finances, but it not only shows why he was so culturally influential but also that he was as human as all of us.

(This review is modified from my 5/26/12 blog review at bookworm-dad.blogspot.com) ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
It was never really about the money... well, almost never. Walt Disney was always more interested in "the next thing," and making money on a venture was usually just a way to finance his projects. Initially drawn to drawing and animation but burned by dishonest partners, he created his own studio to produce animated "shorts" – short Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons shown before regular feature movies. But he was always pushing for better animation and quality, eventually creating "Snow White," the first feature-length animated movie, with the best animation for the time. But even then he wasn't breaking-even financially and eventually had to cut corners just to pay the bills. Even as his fame soared, money was tight and some movies were made just to generate income (like "Dumbo" and some live-action films). As Walt became bogged down in the studio and trying to make too many movies at once and always striving to create something bigger or better (realism in "Bambi" and high-class art in "Fantasia"), plus with WWII forcing him to rely on government work just to keep going, he became discouraged. As a result, the animation that was once the top in the industry lost its edge and Walt turned to other interests like trains and eventually television and Disneyland. But in the end he left a legacy of memorable characters and family-friendly entertainment that still continues.

Neal Gabler'sbook was especially enjoyable to read because Walt Disney is especially familiar to most of us. But I was surprised to learn that Disney was always financially strapped and borrowing anywhere he could until after Disneyland. And it was fascinating while reading to go back and watch some of the movies, like "Three Little Pigs" and "Snow White" (which I never really liked before) and compare the styles, knowing what went into them and what made them great. And visiting Disneyland after reading the book makes you look at the place differently and notice more details. But I was also surprised to learn that the genius behind "the happiest place on earth" usually wasn't a very happy man himself. Mr. Gabler describes Walt's constant need to create "control" in his surroundings that drove his efforts at perfection. Animation, his trains, and Disneyland each in turn gave him an escape from reality into an environment where he had near-total control.

Books about Walt Disney either paint him as a saint or an evil tyrant, and I guess he could be both depending on the perspective. Gabler is careful to point out where the "legends" were embellished, and that "Walt Disney" became more of a brand than a man, but I thought he portrayed him fairly and honestly. Gabler tells Disney's faults, ego, and the complaints many of his employees had, but also why he did what he did and what motivated him. It sometimes bogs down in too much detail about finances, but it not only shows why he was so culturally influential but also that he was as human as all of us.

(This review is modified from my 5/26/12 blog review at bookworm-dad.blogspot.com) ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
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Once again, for my beloved daughters, Laurel and Tänne, who make all things worthwile, and for all those who have ever wished upon a star
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Elias Disney was a hard man.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067943822X, Hardcover)

Neal Gabler's meticulously researched biography, Walt Disney offers the full story (Gabler is the first writer to gain complete access to the Disney archives) of the American icon. Readers will discover the whole story, witnessing Disney's invention of a "synergistic empire that combined film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandise." What fans don't know could fill a book (this book in fact), and we asked Gabler to point out a few of the juicy bits. Read our interview with him, and his "10 Things That May Surprise You" list below. --Daphne Durham

10 Second Interview: A Few Words with Neal Gabler

Q: Why Walt Disney?
A: When you write about someone as grandiose as Walt Disney, you may tend to get a little grandiose yourself, so forgive me. But I had always set the task for myself to examine the forces that helped define American culture in the twentieth century and those individuals who might be regarded as the architects of the American consciousness. Walt Disney was certainly one of those forces and one of those architects. His visual sensibility is arguably one of the two most important in the last century, along with Picasso's, yet Picasso has received dozens of biographies and Walt Disney had, when I began, not received a single full-scale, fully-annotated biography. I wanted to fill that gap in our cultural studies. I thought that if one could understand Walt Disney, one could go a long way to understanding American popular culture.

Q: One thing that strikes you when reading the book is that Walt Disney never had any money. With all his success how is that possible?
A: It is astonishing that Walt Disney was always--and I do mean always--in dire financial straits until the opening of Disneyland. The primary reason wasn't that his cartoons weren't making money, because they were--at least until the war in Europe when the loss of that market meant disaster for the features. But even as they were making money, the studio was losing money because Walt was constitutionally incapable of cutting corners, enforcing economies, laying off staff. The only thing about which Walt Disney cared was quality. He thought that quality was the way to maintain his preeminence, though quality also had the psychological advantage of letting him perfect his world. The problem was that quality was expensive. To cite just one example, Walt spent more than a hundred thousand dollars setting up a training program for would-be animators, though even then the return was small because Walt was so picky that very few of the candidates actually qualified to work at the studio. Money meant very little to Walt Disney. It was only a means to an end, never an end in itself.

Q: When did Walt first conceive of the idea for Disneyland and what were the initial reactions to the idea?
A: It is very difficult to determine exactly when Walt hatched the idea for Disneyland, though he seems to have been thinking about it for a long time, at least since the early 1930s. Certainly by the time he was taking his daughters, Diane and Sharon, to amusement parks on Sunday afternoons in the late 1940s, he had formulated the idea to establish a park that was clean and wholesome and where parents wouldn't be afraid to take their children. The original plan was to build the park on a plot adjacent to the studio in Burbank, where there would be a train, a town square, an Indian village and kiddieland rides, but as Walt's ideas expanded, so did the need for a bigger plot. As for the reactions to his idea, Roy was initially reluctant, as usual, and Walt's wife, Lillian, was firmly opposed, though she had also been opposed to his making Snow White. Still, Walt exaggerated the opposition as a way, I think of elevating his own foresight and determination. In fact, as the plan grew closer to realization, corporations sought to be included as lessees, and even banks, that had been skeptical, became more receptive. When the park opened, it was an instant success.

Q: What do you think has been Walt's most lasting impact/legacy on American culture?
A: One could answer this question in a dozen different ways depending on one's priorities, but I think his largest bequest is a matter of the American mind. Walt Disney helped change the national consciousness. He got people to believe in the power of wish fulfillment--in their own ability to impose their wills on a recalcitrant reality. That's what Walt Disney did all his life. He managed to replace reality with his illusions--what some people now refer to disparagingly as Disneyfication. He sold us on the idea of control because Walt Disney was himself a master of control. We see the results everywhere--from film to theme parks to virtual reality to virtual politics.

You Don't Know Disney: 10 Things That May Surprise You

1. He is not frozen. His body was cremated, and his ashes are interred at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, near his studio.
2. Mickey Mouse's original name allegedly was Mortimer but Disney's wife Lillian objected because she thought it too "sissified."
3. Some of the names originally considered for the dwarfs in Snow White were: Deafy, Dirty, Awful, Blabby, Burpy, Gabby, Puffy, Stuffy, Nifty, Tubby, Biggo Ego, Flabby, Jaunty, Baldy, Lazy, Dizzy, Cranky and Chesty.
4. Walt Disney suffered a nervous breakdown in 1931 and descended into depression after the war, concentrating his attention on model trains rather than on motion pictures.
5. Fantasia was the result of a chance meeting between Walt Disney and symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski at Chasen's restaurant.
6. During World War II the Disney studio became a war factory with well over 90% of its production in the service of government training, education and propaganda films.
7. The studio stopped production for six months on Pinocchio because Walt felt the title character wasn't likable enough. During this time he devised the idea of introducing Jiminy Cricket as Pinocchio's conscience.
8. Walt Disney received more Academy Awards than any other individual--32.
9. Disney modeled Mickey Mouse on Charlie Chaplin and that Chaplin later assisted the Disneys by loaning them his financial books so they could determine what kind of proceeds they should be getting from their distributor on Snow White.
10. MGM head Louis B. Mayer once rejected the opportunity to distribute Mickey Mouse cartoons shortly after Walt had invented the character because Mayer said that pregnant women would be frightened by a giant mouse on screen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:48 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A portrait of the private life and public career of Walt Disney ranges from his deprived youth, to his contributions to the art of animation, to his visionary creation of the first synergistic entertainment empire, to his reclusive and lonely private world.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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