A Look at Walt: The Man Behind the Myth
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Walt Disneys Family Creates An
Unflinching TV Biography
Airdate: Sept. 16, 2001 ABC Network
Expected to be released later in the year on video and DVD
As a premise, the two-hour feature documentary Walt The Man Behind the Myth is simple: invite family members, friends, colleagues and authors of Disney history to tell what they know or remember about Walt. Add rare home movie footage, Disney Company footage of classic creations, along with period and new footage of various locations such as Chicago, Kansas City and Walts boyhood home, Marceline, Missouri.
However, delivery of the premise was highly complex due to the overwhelming amount of material created. This writers 90-minute interview was edited to a tight 30 seconds. Other interviewees were completely eliminated, such as Rush Johnson and Bill Evans.
The Walt Disney Family Foundation hired Cine Gold Eagle Award winning director Jean-Pierre Isbouts and writers Richard and Katherine Greene, who co-authored The Man Behind the Magic: The Story of Walt Disney. They worked with Executive Producer Walter Elias Disney Miller, Walts fifth grandchild and the second boy born to Ron and Diane Miller, who had named their first-born Christopher, much to her dads chagrin. (In one of the biopics vignettes, Imagineer Sam McKim tells of Walt proudly passing out cigars around the studio with "Walter Elias Disney Miller" printed on the wrapper.)
Along with her seven children, Diane was personally active throughout the production, lending insight and a resolute passion to tell the full story about her famous father.
Recently published books that stray far from the truth when purportedly telling Walts life story have angered many of Walts colleagues and friends and concerned his family who decided it was time to go on the offensive. Even school librarians unknowingly stock scurrilous books that attempt to defame Walt-who remains a favorite subject of student reports.
With experience gained two years ago producing a comprehensive biographical CD-ROM: "Walt Disney: An Intimate History," and developing a website (www.waltdisney.com), designed to provide credible information about Walt, Diane and her family decided that a television documentary was the next logical step to reach as many people as possible with a fact-based biography. The challenge was compacting Walts astonishing 65 years into a two-hour television format with obligatory commercial breaks.
What the audience witnessed was a broad landscape of Walts creativity, humanity, family affection, struggles, brilliance and candor. The anecdotes were told first-hand by those who knew Walt best. Among over 70 interviewees were Diane and Ron Miller, several grandchildren and nephew Roy E. Disney. Among Disney Legends were Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Richard and Robert Sherman, Dick Nunis, Card Walker, Frank Thomas, Joe Grant, Sam McKim and John Hench. Numerous authors and historians contributed their insights and experiences including Leonard Maltin, Paul Anderson, Frank Thomas and this writer. Marty Sklar, Ray Bradbury, Bob Gurr, Buzz Price, Fess Parker, Buddy Ebsen, Art Linkletter, and original Mouseketeers Bobby Burgess and Sharon Baird, provided personal remembrances of Walt. Veteran performer Dick Van Dyke voiced the narrative.
Sensitive issues were addressed such as his constant habit of smoking that resulted in lung cancer; the unfounded charge that Walt was anti-Semitic, and a contentious cartoonists strike in 1941 that crippled the studio and personally wounded Walt, who felt his artists were an extension of his own family. A text wrap at the end noted that Walt was cremated at his request, thus confronting persistent rumors about him being frozen in a cryonic chamber.
Hopefully, Pantheon Productions will release a DVD for those who want the directors cut.
On the eve of celebrating the centennial of Walts birth, its timely for a candid history about the creator of family entertainment. Walt: The Man Behind the Myth presented a refreshingly clear and perceptive portrait of a midwestern farm boy from Marceline, Missouri, who happened to be a genius.
Perhaps even more so, the nation needed a lift after a week of wrenching emotions and nonstop news of the tragic drama of New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania.
After nearly 35 years since his untimely death, the master of magical escapism once again delivered to his audience.
Note: The author of this piece, Michael Broggie, is one of those interviewed in the film.
- More reviews of the film from LaughingPlace.com Discussion Boards
- Pantheon TV (creators of the film)
Pacific Historical Society Official Site
Michael Broggie is the founder of this Society
-- Posted September 17, 2001
--Michael Broggie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
©2001 Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, LLC