The Art of the Impossible: Walt Disney

(notes after the first hour of the PBS Walt Disney documentary)

It, like life, reveals how much is process, how one gets from A to B to C, etc. The familiar story of an American hero or any successful person who starts with lowly or ordinary beginnings and goes forth ‘to make a name for himself’. A story of imagination, dream, and obsession culminating, in this case, with Disney’s first surprise mega-hit full-length feature in the Dirty Thirties–Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Imagination and dream and belief in those two–the art of the impossible, overcoming limits: (fantasy/imagined) death and the limits–then as now–of cartooning and animation: that that which is pretend, ‘unreal’, fantastic can transcend whatever limits if the audience believes in the illusion.

That feature film required great financial risk and slave-like workers, the latter who ‘caught’ the vision and obsession of the creator Walt Disney (who acted out the storyline first by himself live onstage!). An amazing story of process and how dream can transcend whatever naysayers, nervous Nellies, towering obstacles, and impossible odds.

(after watching rest of documentary)

Disney’s success of Snow White was later balanced by the financial disasters of Pinocchio and Fantasia, and a lengthy strike by his under-appreciated studio staff. he bore grudges after that, even suggesting a former valued worker and his new studio were ‘Commies’. It took him a while to have the hits of Davy Crockett, the Disneyland tv show and the massively popular Disneyland park. The workaholic Disney was in the process of getting Epcot up and running when he died suddenly, a year after his cancer diagnosis. Overall, Disney had tremendous imagination, guts, determination, vision, and high expectations. Unquestionably, he is one of the great Americans who influenced the world through his prodigious gifts of entertainment for children and families.


On a passing personal bio note, I regarded Disney and his presence in our Sunday living room as an eagerly-anticipated weekly delight in black-and-white. Kids looked forward to each show, wondering which of the kingdoms it would come from: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, or Frontierland. At the time, I was into Classics Illustrated comics, and enjoyed the Frontierland broadcasts. But over time, it was the Fantasyland segments that were eagerly looked forward to, particularly Chip and Dale, and Goofy.

Disney himself was the kindly, unpatronizing surrogate uncle that most of us kids never had. For me, he was the main ideal father figure model through my elementary school years. His name was synonymous with great entertainment and my last favorite movie of his was The Jungle Book. Lady and the Tramp and Davy Crockett were long-time personal favorites, and the one that still creeps me out is Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Like millions of other kids of the time, Bambi and Old Yeller broke my heart and made me weep. And I still have a deep appreciation for the very moving death-bed-revival scene/happy ending of Snow White. Feeling is more important than death of whatever limits, as Disney showed. And incredible things were possible if one believed hard enough.

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