While the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco is closed, the museum has been offering many different virtual offerings for fans and members to enjoy. One of those offerings took place earlier today, a virtual story time featuring a reading of I Am Walt Disney by Author Brad Meltzer.
Brad Meltzer is the New York Times bestselling author of Heroes for My Son, Heroes for My Daughter, and a number of suspense novels like The Escape Artist. He is also the host of the History Channel television shows Brad Meltzer's Decoded and Brad Meltzer's Lost History wherein he helped find the missing 9/11 flag. He lives in Florida with his wife and their three children.
Brad Meltzer began writing the “Ordinary People Change The World” series of books as a gift to his children who he felt needed real heroes. He believes that the world is populated with people who are famous for simply being famous and popularity doesn’t make a true hero. He later added during the Q and A portion of the virtual program that he tells his kids three things every day: Dream big, work hard, and stay humble. These children’s books are also fully illustrated and the art is done by artist Chris Eliopoulos, who also provides suggestions for historical figures to base their books on.
The “Ordinary People Change The World” series of books feature iconic personalities, such as Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Leonardo Da Vinci, Neil Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Jim Henson and others. I am Walt Disney is the 18th in the series.
Meltzer read his popular children’s book with personal notes thrown in. The book puts a heavy focus (as much as can be done for a children’s book) into Walt’s formative years, with anecdotes about painting with tar on the side of the house with his sister, and how his aunt encouraged him to draw even though his father didn’t approve of it as it wouldn’t make him money in the future.
Keeping with tradition, Meltzer and Eliopoulos placed “Hidden Mickeys” throughout the book, as well as hidden versions of themselves. Meltzer also told the story that as he was researching more, he decided they should put them throughout the book and told Eliopoulos this, to which his illustrator replied “Dummy. I already did that. You didn’t find them.”
When asked about what Meltzer thought was the most fascinating thing he discovered about Walt Disney as he did his research, Meltzer replied that he loved that Walt failed, that there were teams when he’d sleep in his office and shower at a bus station. He loved that he had the opportunity to teach this to kids, that it was okay to fail, but that you need to pick yourself up again and keep going.
He also mentioned that he loved the Utilidors at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, an “underground” tunnel system with the idea that you can’t dig in Florida, so essentially the park is just a giant, massive building with a layer of dirt.
Meltzer also told us that I am Walt Disney was one of the books in his series that took longest to create and publish from start to finish because of the rights process. He had to go through different levels of approval, including the illustrations since they had to have the correct look. This wasn’t just limited to the characters that appear in the book, but also Walt Disney himself. He also said this process is why it would be so difficult to have Walt Disney appear on his PBS Kids series Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, and encouraged all the families who want to see it to message both PBS and Disney that they want to see that.
While Meltzer read the book I am Walt Disney, he also took the time to remind us that his newest entry in the series, I am Anne Frank was recently released and also announced the next in the series will be I am Friday Kahlo.