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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There was a profoundly human being behind the "curtain."
Throughout my childhood, films were "magic carpets" which transported me to distant lands, past centuries, and human experiences almost (not quite) too good or too bad to be true. However, I knew that the murders, plane crashes, train wrecks, buildings ablaze, earthquakes, and attacks by Apaches - albeit exciting -- were not "real." One exception: Disney's animated...
Published on 26 Jan 2007 by Robert Morris

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Condition
Quick service from Amazon, but the book pages have not been cut cleanly.
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Published on 3 Nov 2010 by francr0


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There was a profoundly human being behind the "curtain.", 26 Jan 2007
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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Throughout my childhood, films were "magic carpets" which transported me to distant lands, past centuries, and human experiences almost (not quite) too good or too bad to be true. However, I knew that the murders, plane crashes, train wrecks, buildings ablaze, earthquakes, and attacks by Apaches - albeit exciting -- were not "real." One exception: Disney's animated feature films: they touched my young heart in ways and to an extent no other films did.

Decades later, I still vividly recall how upset I was by separations of "children" from their parents (e.g. Dumbo from his mother, Pinocchio from Gepetto) and especially upset when Bambi eagerly awaited the return of his mother from the meadow, and when the seven dwarfs incorrectly assumed (as did I) that Snow White was dead. With all due respect to brilliant musical scores (I saved up from what my paper routes earned to purchase most of the sound track albums) and to the delightful and wholesome humor of characters such as Thumper and the chorus of crows reacting to a flying elephant, there were always darker themes and ominous elements at work in a series of animated feature films.

Now having read Neil Gabler's book which will probably be the definitive biography of Walt Disney, at least for a while, I have a much better understanding of the creative genius who deserves and has received primary credit for the "magic" to be found in so many of the films and to be experienced while visiting the theme parks. I also have a much better understanding of the tormented man whose emotional complexity and ambiguity are reflected in so many of his animated feature films.

There is a scene in another of my favorite films, "The Wizard of Oz," when Toto pulls a curtain back, exposing an obviously embarrassed fraud rather than an authentic wizard. As I worked my way through Gabler's book, I frequently recalled that scene. But there is a significant difference: L. Frank Baum's wizard created no magic whatsoever whereas Walter Elias Disney did in collaboration with hundreds of associates, creating incomparable magic in dozens of feature and documentary films as well as in long-running television programs.

Now a grandfather of ten, I am pleased and reassured that at least the younger ones among them enjoy the Disney "magic" as much as I once did...and still do. Our troubled world seems to need it at least as much today as it did more than 50 years ago when the Great Depression gave way to World War II. Perhaps it needs the Disney magic even more now. In my opinion, that will continue to be Walt Disney's heritage but only so long as the human heart is open to it and is nourished by it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreaming the dream, 22 Feb 2007
By 
Dixie Dee (Abingdon, England) - See all my reviews
Written in a fluent, deeply researched and psychologically rich style, I found Gabler's definitive biography of Disney hugely readable. The complex 20th century icon of entertainment remained an enigma to his closest colleagues and even to himself. Gabler sheds light on the twists and turns of his childhood, his early struggle for success and recognition, and his subsequent triumph in the golden age of animation in the 1930s and 40s. Anyone interested in the emergence of animation as an art form will find some of the central chapters - the Cult, Folly, Parnassus, - full of insight. Anyone who like me has watched fireworks erupt to "When you wish upon a star" at Disneyworld and wondered how one man continues to exercise such a strangely hypnotic power over so many psyches will find some of the answers at least in this life-changing account.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Penetrating Disney bio (not at all Mickey Mouse), 9 May 2007
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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It's hard to imagine a time when Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse weren't household names, but that day, in fact, did exist, up until the 1920s. That's when animators led by Disney drew Mickey Mouse. In this hefty, thoroughly researched profile, historian Neal Gabler draws a deeply detailed picture of Disney and his business, from his work animating silent-movie shorts in a Kansas City garage through his years of international fame - and troubled finances. Gabler persuasively argues that although Disney classics, such as Snow White and Pinocchio, may be considered relics today, they were revolutionary works of art in their time. This biography's biggest drawback is its intimidating length, but it rewards readers who persevere. We recommend this history to anyone seeking to understand popular culture, and the competing demands of making art and making money.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As fine as his best films, 20 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Vintage) (Paperback)
Gabler's biography of Disney is the best I have read and I have read nearly all of them. The product of huge amounts of research, it is a well balanced and even handed review of the man's life and work. The writing is superb, drawing the reader on as Disney and his staff make ever greater leaps into the unknown in the 20s and 30s. The disappointments of the 40s and early 50s are well documented and Disney's move toward the theme parks is covered with impressive detail. More of the man behind the films emerges from this book than any previous biography I have read, (Leonard Maltin's was previously the best in my view) and although he remains a tantalisingly unfathomable subject, something of his personality emerges via the interviews and documentary evidence. The overall impression one gets from this book is of a man driven in everything he did, eventually stretched to point where, at his dealth aged 65, he'd packed in several normal lifetimes. Most highly reccommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars first rate bio on the impresario of the "plausible impossible", 18 May 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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I read a lot of books as research for writing. Every so often, I come across a book that is so excellent, interesting, and deep that I simply have to read it cover to cover carefully, slowly, and more than once. This is such a book, a truly first rate literary masterpiece. I would recommend it to anyone interested in a great story of an entrepreneurial genius as well as the history of entertainment media.

Gabler starts with the standard bio, that of Walt Disney living first in a rural near-paradise, and then, when his father fails at farming and the family descends into poverty, as a hard-working boy that lost his childhood to several paper routes in support of the family; he was a child laborer. While I do not know if we can ever prove whether Disney's search for a heartland ideal explains the worlds that he later portrayed and then built, Gabler makes a strong and irrefutable argument that he did. It is told with wonderful detail and narrative power.

Whatever the reason, Disney was afflicted with that bug you find in the greatest artists: ever dissatisfied with what he had just accomplished, he felt impelled to enter into new domains. Each time he turned his full attention and energy onto an area, he fundamentally transformed it, forever changing the conditions for anyone who followed him. In this respect, Walt Disney has many of the same personality traits that Miles Davis, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Alessi, and other innovators of genius had: they could not stand still, but always lived in the present, in their effort to create/conquer the next big thing. Gabler shows how Disney's personal interests often became the next area he entered and changed, such as the way he transformed his interest in model trains and miniature worlds into his theme parks - as such, his principal motive was not to make money, but to express something, according to Gabler, that would make people happy for a time in a controlled and painstakingly conceived environment. His was a unique and rare form of creative leadership.

Regarding the details of his innovations - and I cannot do justice to them here - he started in simple animation, when cartoons were little more than strings of crude gags, without personalities of any consistency or depth, without themes, or even plots. In his cartoon shorts, he was the first to incorporate sound and music, a level of realism (the "plausible impossible"), and color. At a deeper level, he did not see these techniques and features as simple add-ons to disjointed slap stick scenes, but as basic elements of the kind of stories he wanted to tell, as part of an integrated whole; every single detail had to fit, with purpose, into a seamless narrative. This was the age of Three Little Pigs (with its hit song, "Big, Bad Wolf") and Mickey Mouse. Interestingly, this was also where Disney began to branch into the toy market (and later on TV), making him a kind of pioneer of multi-media marketing. It was a self-reinforcing marketing strategy that established his name as one of the world's most recognizable brands. He then went on to full length cartoon features, also a first, with the largest grossing film of its time, Snow White. Towards the end of his career, he developed the theme park, replacing the dirty amusement ride parks with an experience that brought the customer into an entire environment that reflected consciously chosen frames from films. Even one of these innovations would have earned Disney a place in entertainment history, but this string is virtually unprecedented, in my view in the same league as Picasso.

While Gabler clearly likes Disney, he is well aware of his dark side: from the early family-style atmosphere of his early animation studio, he became imperious and autocratic in his later years, alienating many with his anti-union activities and his appearence as a friendly witness before the notorious Committee on Un-American Activites. He was a personally remote man and had few friends as his life was almost wholly devoted to work, though he was a deeply devoted father and husband. Gabler also addresses cultural questions regarding Disney's transmogrification of age-old mythology into a Disney mold, which many feel (myself not included) debases the original sources with syrupy sentimentality.

One thing that surprised me was how the company was often teetering on the edge of financial collapse, one flop away from bankrupcy. This is the source of a great deal of his search for new forms, such as his pioneering work in nature films and entry into live action film, for which Disney bet the whole company repeatedly. Indeed, many of his most famous films - Bambi, Pinocchio, and Fantasia - were box office failures, though they later paid for themselves in other applications (re-runs, video sales, action figures, etc.). Nonetheless, everything he did was a great risk.

Gabler also examines Walt Disney's business method. While producing content, his opus was self-reinforcing across all the media channels that played it, with the greatest attention paid to details, which he personally and compulsively checked. Thus, while the TV shows usually lost money in terms of advertising revenues, Disney knew that it was also a long commercial for his brand image, himself as the best entertainer for families, which established him and his work in the minds of the world's children. It also sold his toys, which was one of the most profitable of his businesses. For example, when seeking funding for his first park in Anaheim, he got an investment from ABC, which ensured the network would want to promote it upon opening; this led ABC to cover its opening live, one of the most watched events in American TV history, which attracted more people to the parks, reinforced the film images, and sold toys. It was all of a piece, a long-term profitability based on content and brand that might not have been a conscious strategy, but certainly worked as if it were. Then there is the long-suffering Roy, who was a worrier and the behind-the-scenes manager of his visionary and difficult brother, Walt. They were a balanced team. Finally, Gabler dissects his working method of total involvement to the point of obsession: there are wonderful descriptions of how Disney's presentation of his vision of Snow White was done by his own acting of the entire story with every single character and incident, over three hours with manic energy. It was the same with his theme parks, where he often lived, tuning (and attempting to control) every detail of the experience for guests.

This book is one of the best bios of a man and his ideas that I have ever read. Warmly recommended. It is an inspiration.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 30 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Vintage) (Paperback)
Walt was such an interesting man nice to see a fair biography of the great man himself. I would highly recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 19 May 2010
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Rhona Mckenzie "Walter" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This product was in great condition when it arrived and the time it took to arrive was excellent. Thank you Amazon!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Condition, 3 Nov 2010
Quick service from Amazon, but the book pages have not been cut cleanly.
Why send out a book in this condition?
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