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Walt Disney

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Walt Disney

The Triumph of the American Imagination


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Creative genius, disinterested businessman, idealistic visionary, petty manipulator – Walt Disney embodied it all.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


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. getAbstract recommends this history to anyone seeking to understand popular culture, and the competing demands of making art and making money.


The King of Pop Culture

Four decades after his death in 1966, Walt Disney remains one of the most important – and divisive – figures in American popular culture. Disney and his legacy are a tangle of contradictions. He cared little about making money and spent recklessly to perfect his early films, yet his name has become inextricably linked with crass commercialism and big profits. He was an artistic visionary who pushed the limits of technology, yet he's better remembered as an old-fashioned nostalgist whose films portrayed small towns and cheery endings.

Disney had stopped drawing characters by the time his studio created Mickey Mouse, yet he's seen as the creative force behind his company's ubiquitous characters. He worked in cartoons, a medium seen as a sideshow or novelty, yet he transformed the form to the extent that Snow White, his first feature film, won critical accolades and huge box-office receipts. Disney yearned for utopian environments both in his workplace and in his theme parks, yet he made employees miserable with his mean streak, vindictiveness and nitpicking perfectionism. He was often oblivious to politics, yet Disney's detractors paint him as...

About the Author

Historian Neal Gabler is the author of An Empire of Their Own and Winchell. He often writes for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

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