Walt Disney: Through the Eyes of an Adult

Walt Disney: He Made Believe
Walt Disney’s birthday, December 5th, tends to initiate Disney-themed gatherings at libraries, malls, and bookstores for children. Exploring Walter Elias Disney as an adult, however, can provide an entirely new perspective on the man behind the magic. From Bob Thomas’ biography, Walt Disney: An American Original (the first extensive Disney biography, written with the Disney family’s authorization), to Marc Eliot’s “unauthorized” biography, Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, adults can start to uncover much more than the origins of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland. Whether you are intrigued by his art, animation, personal life, or business practices, sources outlining Disney’s imagination and creativity - beyond the traditional biography - are accessible to you via a variety of books and DVDs available at Mercer County Libraries.

The Art of Walt Disney (Non-Fiction) by Christopher Finch
Based on hundreds of interviews with Disney staff members past and present, this story of Walt Disney and his company's vast artistic achievements through the decades contains more than 800 illustrations ranging from concept art to film stills to views of theme park attractions.

Saving Mr. Banks. Directed by John Lee Hancock
Saving Mr. Banks (Blu-Ray, DVD, Feature Film). Directed by John Lee Hancock
When P.L. Travers travels from London to Hollywood in 1961 to finally discuss Walt Disney's desire to bring her beloved character, Mary Poppins, to the motion picture screen (a quest he began in the 1940s as a promise to his two daughters), Disney meets a prim, uncompromising sexagenarian not only suspect of the impresario's concept for the film, but a woman struggling with her own past. During her stay in California, Travers reflects back on her difficult childhood in 1906 Australia.

Walt & El Grupo: The Untold Adventures (DVD, Documentary). Directed by Theodore Thomas
For ten weeks in 1941, Walt Disney, his wife, and sixteen colleagues from his studio visited nations in South America to gather story material for a series of films with South American themes. The documentary uses this framing device to explore inter-American relations as Nazi influence was growing in South America, provides a rare glimpse into the artists who were part of the magic of Disney's 'golden age,' and gives an unprecedented look at the 39-year-old Walt Disney during one of the most challenging times of his life.

Walt Disney: Conversations by Kathy Merlock Jackson
Walt Disney: Conversations (Non-Fiction) by Kathy Merlock Jackson
The imagination of Walt Disney (1901-1966) is still seen in theme parks throughout the world bearing his name, in numerous live-action films and television specials, on toys and assorted merchandise, and on an international corporation known both for the high quality of its creative output and its ubiquity. Walt Disney: Conversations collects interviews and profiles of the man who created Mickey Mouse, and produced such full-length animated classics as Snow White, Cinderella, Fantasia, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio, along with countless short cartoons. Bringing together over twenty pieces from the late 1920s to the late 1960s, this book traces Disney's career from the early classic Steamboat Willie to the construction of Disneyland, and the live-action ventures The Mickey Mouse Club and Mary Poppins. Walt Disney: Conversations shows how Disney saw his productions as shapers of popular culture and reveals how firmly he understood the issues of his time. Featuring an interview conducted by producer Cecil B. DeMille, Disney's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and rarely seen pieces from the Disney corporation's archives, Walt Disney: Conversations reveals a complex visionary whose impact on animation, live-action film, television, and theme parks has never been equaled.

Walt Disney: He Made Believe (DVD, Documentary). Directed by Sarah Colt
Walt Disney was uniquely adept at art as well as commerce, a master filmmaker who harnessed the power of technology and storytelling. This new film examines Disney's complex life and enduring legacy. Features rare archival footage from the Disney vaults, scenes from some of his greatest films, interviews with biographers and animators, and the designers who helped turn his dream of Disneyland into reality.

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler
Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Biography) by Neal Gabler
From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history. Seven years in the making and meticulously researched--Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives--this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose life has largely been enshrouded in myth. Gabler shows us the young Walt Disney breaking free of a heartland childhood of discipline and deprivation and making his way to Hollywood. We see the visionary, whose desire for escape honed an innate sense of what people wanted to see on the screen and, when combined with iron determination and obsessive perfectionism, led him to the reinvention of animation. It was Disney, first with Mickey Mouse and then with his feature films--most notably Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi-- who transformed animation from a novelty based on movement to an art form that presented an illusion of life. We see him reimagine the amusement park with Disneyland, prompting critics to coin the word Disneyfication to describe the process by which reality can be modified to fit one's personal desires. At the same time, he provided a new way to connect with American history through his live-action films and purveyed a view of the country so coherent that even today one can speak meaningfully of "Walt Disney's America." We see how the True-Life Adventure nature documentaries he produced helped create the environmental movement by sensitizing the general public to issues of conservation. And we see how he reshaped the entertainment industry by building a synergistic empire that combined film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandise in a way that was unprecedented and was later widely imitated. Gabler also reveals a wounded, lonely, and often disappointed man, who, despite worldwide success, was plagued with financial problems much of his life, suffered a nervous breakdown, and at times retreated into pitiable seclusion in his workshop making model trains. Gabler explores accusations that Disney was a red-baiter, an anti-Semite, an embittered alcoholic. But whatever the characterizations of Disney's personal life, he appealed to the nation by demonstrating the power of wish fulfillment and the triumph of the American imagination. Walt Disney showed how one could impose one's will on the world. This is a masterly biography, a revelation of both the work and the man--of both the remarkable accomplishment and the hidden life.

-Anna Van S.


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