Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
a puff piece, however spectacular the images may be
on 13 May 2011
This book goes through the entire Disney legacy, in what is supposed to be art criticism. As far as it goes, the text is pretty good, but they are mere accompaniments to the photos, which is the bane of many art/design books. Finch makes an effort at being comprehensive, though ultimately - if you read through the whole thing - it comes off as a vanilla milk shake, with virtually no depth and ultimately flattering to just about everything Disney.
Moreover, the beginning of the text is far stronger than the end, reflecting hte fact that this is an update. As such, the author worked much harder and dug deeper on the sections that covered Walt Disney's work and ideas directly - the subject of the first edition and far more interesting than later work - and then feels the rest is pasted on to update it. To cover the post-Walt Disney things, many of which represent great art in and of themselves - would merit an independent work like the first volume.
Futhermore, by separating the book into discrete sections devoted to film, TV, parks, etc., the author misses one of the most important aspects of the Disney company: its work is self-reinforcing through all the media. Thus, though the early TV shows did not get enough commercial sponsorship and hence lost money, Walt Disney viewed the shows as the ultimate tool to implant his brand in the minds of the young. Even the toys were part of this, though they are almost entirely neglected in this book. It all fits together, each part morphing into the others, which Finch fails to see.
The worst failing of this book, though, is its utter lack of analysis beyond crude evocations of historical context. Though purporting to be a critic, Finch does not ponder any of the company's impact on, or as a reflection of, American culture, particularly the dark side. Why do many people (myself not among them as I essentially love the DIsney legacy) despise the way the company transforms culture into its own immediately recognizable brand? What does it say about the American predilection to recreate realities, such as a mock European village, rather than seeking out the real thing (even at similar cost)? These are tough questions.
In the end, this reads like something directly out of a PR department. I enjoyed the images and some of the reconstrctions of the films. But this offers little in the way of true criticism.