In September, PBS premiered “Walt Disney,” a biographical video. The 4-hour show was spread out over two nights. I knew I couldn’t watch it straight through. I recorded it to view when I could. This was a view into the man’s life that I had not seen or heard about before. If you are a Disney fan (you are reading a Disney fan blog which makes you a fan of superior caliber) then you must watch this series. Everyone who has loved the parks, the movies, the magic, owes themselves the education of learning about the man who made it all happen.
I’m used to recognizing Walt in his later years, an older gentleman in suit and tie. This is the Uncle Walt generations of kids and adults got to know in the 50’s and the 60’s. He is the Walt we saw on The Wonderful World of Walt Disney. A kind and gentle man who lived to entertain and to inform. However, the American Experience series will show you early Walt, a very young and ambitious Walt.
Part one features the basic demographic details of his life; born in 1901 in Chicago. Moves to Marceline when he is four years old. 17 year old Walt moves to Kansas City upon returning from serving in World War I. His first business, Laugh-O-Grams, goes bankrupt. This does not deter him. Walt recognizes his own talent for animation. He is steadfast in his pursuit to start his company. The year is 1923. Walt and Roy move to LA. The rest, we know, is history.
The series delves deep into Walt’s drive, his determination, his obsession to build a company that revolutionized animation. Walt is the idea man. Without Roy, his finance expert, he could not realize any of his dreams. The series makes this perfectly clear. Walt had vision and talent. Roy had business skills and a far better personality to work with employees.
Part two focuses on the years 1941 to 1966. These are the years many Disney fans will recognize as the beginning of the great Walt Disney Company. In fact, Walt told his brother the company had to be named after himself because he was the one with the vision. We know these years by the great films that were produced like Cinderella and Mary Poppins. Walt started to grow impatient and restless with animation. He wanted to do something different but great. His love of trains inspired the idea of creating a park where he could bring his daughters, where families could bring their children. The gates of Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 and visitors flooded in. The line to get into the park stretched for miles. Nearly half of America watched opening day live on television.
I did not get the impression this was a sugar-coated, “Disneyfied” biography. Neither was it meant to be a juicy and detailed tell-all hit job. I think it was an accurate depiction of the man we credit for creating the characters we love. I very much enjoyed watching this series. For more information visit the PBS American Experience Walt Disney site.