Friday, January 11, 2013

Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas

Why did I read it? I visited Walt Disney World with my boys, and kept up my string of unending curiosity with every place I ever visit by buying a book about its history.

Summary: A biography of Walt Disney.

My Thoughts: Disney was always a little spooky to me, and still can be. I wonder, though, how I would have reacted sixty years ago to the wonderful world he created.

Let's face it: since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, our lives have turned. I wasn't alive to witness the change, but there was a time, before television, when life was more controlled, information held back if deemed necessary. We didn't know about FDR dying in his mistress' arms. War casualties came through the newspapers as photographs of stoic young men in uniform, bracketed by tiny printed American flags. With Kennedy's death, all bets were off. The Vietnam War marched right into our living rooms in color. We began serious distrust of our own government. We became jaded. We became skeptics. We became wary. The nuclear bombs were on the way at any minute. We became distrustful.

That's the world I grew up in. It was a world that had been forged in battle. The twentieth century was the bloodiest ever: WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars. There was a lot of death, grief, pain from 1900 onward.

And then there was Walt Disney.

Disney never let those things affect his vision. Oh, he participated. He drove for the Red Cross in France just after the end of World War I, lying about his age for the right to participate. As a cartoonist in World War II, he lent his talents - and his facilities - to the war effort. But he never lost that vision for what was good and wholesome in American life. He was an anomaly. He remained corny, happily and knowingly corny, for the sake of the entertainment of the American family. He wanted nothing more than to put smiles on faces, to make life just a little bit better for all of us.

As a teen, I waffled on what Disney produced - that Disney by then being the huge business entity, not the man himself, who died before I was born - but always figured it was not meant for me anyway. Now that I'm a dad, it all makes sense. And it's weird, ever since reading this book, learning how he made his way to the top, I've been adhering to some of his tenets. I don't think "What would Walt Disney do? (WWWDD?)," but I do find myself making comparisons from his life and thinking to mine.

If nothing else, this book gave me a much, much greater appreciation for Disney and what he strove to do. I'm sure there are gaps, as the book is published by Disney Editions, but now that my interest is piqued, I'm sure I'll be reading more about the man.

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