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Disney 101: Walt Disney
Once you start to learn more about Disney, it won't take long before you find you need to learn more about the man himself - Walt Disney. Whether you're getting deeper into the theme parks or films, all roads lead to Walt. In this edition of Disney 101, I'm going to give you a list of good resources for starting to learn about the one that really started it all - Walt Disney.
The definitive book on Walt Disney is his official biography by Bob Thomas, Walt Disney: An American Original. At nearly 400 pages it will definitely get you familiar with all the basics of Walt Disney's life and career.
In 1999 authors Howard and Amy Boothe Green released Remembering Walt: Favorite Memories of Walt Disney. What makes this book special is it's composed entirely of interviews with those who knew Walt talking about Walt. It's also filled with many wonderful photos. John Frost reviewed the book for us in 1999 and wrote:
I particularly liked how many of the quotes would contradict each other. It really showed how Walt appeared different to everybody. You get the feeling that people saw in Walt what they wanted to see.
The end of the book covers Walt's death. A tearful section it shows how much Walt really touched people.
Walt was always philosophical. He had very definite views of how things were and how things ought to be done. If you want to learn about those views read The Quotable Walt Disney. As you might guest it consists entirely of Walt Disney quotes organized by subject.
When you're ready to learn more about the "man" Walt Disney from those who knew him best - including his family - get a copy of The Man Behind the Myth. Originally aired on ABC around the time of Walt's 100th birthday, it was released on DVD last year. As written in our the 2002 Toon Talk review:
Executive produced by Walter Elias Disney Miller, Walt's grandson, and owing a lot to his mother, Walt's eldest daughter Diane Disney Miller, Walt was produced in part to dispel a lot of the mystery, legend and misconceptions of Walt Disney, the creative genius who virtually invented family entertainment as we know it today. Using recorded interviews with Walt, archival photographs and film footage and, seen here for the first time by the general public, Disney family home movies filmed by Walt himself, the film presents an intimate, fascinating and often thought-provoking look into the life of a man we all thought we knew very well.
A perhaps surprising source of insight on Walt Disney came from the Sherman Brothers' autobiography Walt's Time: From Before to Beyond. The book provides a close look at how Walt dealt with two particular people who worked for him over a number of years, Richard and Robert Sherman. In my 2000 review I noted how Walt often dealt with the brothers:
The Shermans say there were two men that influenced their life, Walt Disney and their father, Al Sherman. As has been told by other contemporaries of Walt Disney, the Shermans say that Walt was not one to heap praise. If the Sherman's played a song for Walt and his response was "that'll doâ€?, they knew they did their job.
And finally, LaughingPlace.com ran a series called Thoughts on Walt for Walt's 100th birthday in December 2001. In it Disney personalities from Alice Davis to Cynthia Harriss to Wayne Allwine told LaughingPlace.com what they felt made Walt special. One of my favorites came from film critic and historian Leonard Maltin who said "He was not going to be beholden to small-minded people who didn't share his vision."
Of course these resources only begin to scratch the surface. Dozens of books have been written about Walt Disney and dozens - if not hundreds - more about the things he created. I hope readers will use the Discuss It link below to share some of their favorite Walt Disney resources, and I hope "young" Disney fans will check them out and learn more about the one and only Walt Disney.
To go along with the today's column, we present some Walt Disney fun facts:
While Walt Disney is thought of as a small-town boy and he often talked about his early years in the town Marceline, Missouri, he was actually born in Chicago. His family moved to Marceline when he was four years old.
Walt Disney was the original voice of Mickey Mouse and he continued to do it until 1946.
On the famous Partners statue at Disney theme parks Walt is wearing a tie with the initials "STR" on it. "STR" stands for Smoke Tree Ranch, a ranch Walt owned in Southern California.
Walt was married to Lillian (maiden name Bounds) and he had two daughters - Diane and Sharon. Sharon, who was adopted, died in 1993. Lilian died in December 16, 1997 - 31 years and one day after Walt died. Walt did not have any sons.
-- Doobie Moseley
-- Posted August 5, 2003