The amazing 4 hour American Experience documentary on Walt Disney was so good when I first saw it in 2015, I had to own it and see it again; every minute was that informational, entertaining, and thoroughly engaging.
Walt Disney was not a perfect person and made many mistakes along the way: losing his first collaborators and the rabbit character of Oswald to an early rival company, overspending hugely on Bambi, Pinocchio, and Fantasia to the point of near-bankruptcy, not heeding cautionary advice on the controversial Song of the South, and holding a grudge against his Burbank workers on strike to the point of firing them later down the road and calling some Commies in naïve, but sincere testimony to HUAC.
In many ways, he was a simple person who heeded his Inner Child as seen in his love of miniature train projects and in building Disneyland and Disneyworld. He was often criticized for this simplicity and reducing Americana to saccharine and schmaltz, but the people loved it! The documentary does particularly well on showing Disney’s crazy scheme to build Disneyland in 6 months, showing the unbelievable media coverage, and massive throngs of fans lining up for attractions, which were in many cases unfinished on opening day.
Disney had fantastic determination and followed his bliss to the hilt. He simply wanted to move people and make kids laugh, though he occasionally got distracted by his desire to create art. He succeeded with the meticulously-crafted Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and somewhat with Fantasia. His main success with film fans and critics, though, came with Mary Poppins toward the end of his own personal film chronology.
This is a highly recomended documentary for anyone interested in the man who died back in 1966, the man behind the long-running ubiquitous corporate label. It is also for the legions of fans who watched his ’50s and ’60s Sunday tv shows and bonded with this avuncular surrogate father-figure. There is and will only ever be one Walt Disney. He easily deserves to stand alongside the likes of Edison, Ford, and Einstein. And in many ways, he remains the nicest and most sympathetic of all four of these giants.
(*For more views and responses to this documentary, check out the Sept. 15, 2015 blog entry.)