Monday, April 19, 2021

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

 Here is some "Peaceful Lute Music."

 Here is a painting of Fred.  Fred is my friend's rooster.  He is such a sweetheart and so protective of his "girls".  I've painted several Acrylics of big, beautiful Fred.



 I don't know if this is the best biography out there of Walt Disney, but it certainly seemed thorough, balanced and respectful of its subject.

Gabler starts with Disney's humble upbringing in the Midwest, and describes how his fierce determination and genius to succeed as an animator drove him ultimately to Hollywood where he became legendary.

The most fascinating parts were Gabler's account of how Disney radically altered animation. He was the first to provide color, more cells of drawing per second and also was the first to create animation shorts with sound. He pioneered all of this when they were barely concepts in regular movies, much less cartoons.

Gabler describes Disney's tyrannical and perfectionist nature that forced him to do anything and everything to make his vision a reality. As an animator, this involved scouting out the best talent, even creating an animation school to provide continual training for the animators he hired.

This part, the process of creating such phenomenal movies as Snow White is extremely interesting and I would advise all aspiring movie makers and animators to read this. Not only because it provides the history of animation, of course it's all on computer now, but the techniques used to create convincing movement and character.

Disney would have the cartoonists go out and watch deer and other animals. They would dance about in the studio and base facial expressions on each other. Disney was all about realism in the beginning.

This gradually changed, largely because the audience changed and also the financial requirements were prohibitive. That is the second most invaluable part of this book for aspiring movie makers: just what everything costs. I couldn't believe how just creating a Disney short could be so expensive.

Walt's brother Roy was the business side of it. It was his job to beg, borrow and in every way above the law acquire the money to support Disney's dream.

Later Walt's dreams expanded into live action TV and movies and finally culminated into Disneyland. The process by which these were accomplished was also enlightening.

My only grievance against the book was the author's denigrating of most of Disney's movies. According to Gable, the only good movie Disney made was Snow White. Every other animated movie was a failure. I think he bases this largely because the other movies barely recovered the costs to make them.

Maybe I'm looking through the rose glasses of childhood memories, but I LOVED the Disney movies. Bambi was one of my all time favorites and so was Pinocchio.

The other grievance, if I can call it that, is Gabler's habit of presuming Disney's motives, which I think no one but Disney can really know. Also to make sweeping generalizations about the American populace and what everyone was feeling or thinking during particular world events (World Wars, Depression, etc.) is rather presumptuous. Who knows why people liked certain types of movies at one time and didn't at another. I think most people don't think much about it and just go with the flow. A scary thought, to be sure, when one considers what kind of power that gives Hollywood and I think there is plenty of evidence in our culture that they have wielded that power.

Those complaints aside, this is an excellent biography and one for those who would like to put an actual person behind the famous name. 
 Here's the real Fred.  Isn't he handsome?




mudpuddle said...

it's interesting that one never hears about Roy, who probably made it all possible... i liked the older Disney productions also; the new ones not so much, but i'm old so i'm supposed to be a crankpot, haha...

i like the painting; you captured some sort of roosterly essence there, i think...

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI mudpuddle.

Well, I guess we're both crankpots. I can't believe how much money some of the new ones gross.

Thank you. I really love birds. I'm glad my roosters are turning out well. I'm still trying to get owls just right.

Debbie Nolan said...

AH Sharon wonderful painting of Fred. He is certainly quite handsome. Enjoyed your take on Walt Disney. Such an interesting person. I am like you I looked so forward to watching all the Disney movies. Sunday evenings always found us watching one of his shows. Well take care and have a blessed weekend. Hugs!

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Debbie,

Thank you. I really enjoy painting birds, including chickens. I mostly paint birds in watercolors. I've even begun selling my paintings as cards.

I also have fond memories of watching the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday preceded by Wild Kingdom, which was also a favorite.