Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Review: Walt Disney, An American Original by Bob Thomas

Title: Walt Disney: An American Original
Author: Bob Thomas
Publication Date: May 31, 1994
Publisher: Disney Editions
Pages: 379
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I've always steered clear of biographies for fear of being bored to tears, but I knew I had to give it a shot when my Disney book club decided to read a Walt Disney biography. While I have a borderline-obsessive love for Walt Disney World and a healthy appreciation for the man himself, I didn't know nearly as much as I'd prefer, so in I dived. The book selection was Walt Disney: An American Original.

The book began at the beginning, telling the story of Walt's childhood and the difficulties of his adolescent life. His father was a hard man to please and Walt learned about hard work early on. Like his other brothers, he found a way out early in life and ran off to help the War effort overseas. Upon his return he ventured into cartooning and his life truly began.

Walt believed in progression. He was never satisfied with the status quo. When people (including his brother, Roy) came to him with a price tag, he didn't have any interest. He is quoted as saying, "I have a theory that if it's good enough, the public will pay you back for it," in reference to Disneyland. Because of a psychic reading during childhood, Walt always feared that he would die before he could complete his work, and so he always strived for perfection - he wanted everything to be completed (and perfectly) before he died.

This book chronicles the Disney films from the first one until Walt Disney's (*spoilers*) death in detail. We also learn of his love for railroads and miniatures, as well as the personality traits you could never pick up on just from loving the Disney films or parks. One thing that stuck out in my mind was when Walt Disney said in a meeting, regarding a particular feature film, that giraffes could not talk because they had no vocal cords. Meanwhile, all the other animals in the feature talked! Ultimately, despite some strange quirks, he clearly knew what he was doing.

The most depressing part of this book (besides Walt's untimely death, of course) was the descriptions Walt gave of EPCOT as he saw it. I have always known that he never intended it to be an amusement park, but his passion for the experimental city was almost tangible and knowing what it became makes me sad, despite my love for Epcot as it exists today.

An American Original was a pleasure to read and left me feeling like I had a much deeper understanding of Walt Disney and his accomplishments. When reading about his walk throughs of Disneyland, I couldn't help but feel a strong desire to get there as soon as possible (and I'm planning to visit next summer)!

I highly recommend this book to any Disney fan who wants to know more about Disney the man and everything he produced. Following the joy of reading this book, I can definitely see more biographies in my future.