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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imaginationby Neal Gabler
Synopses & Reviews
Elias Disney was a hard man. He worked hard, lived modestly, and worshiped devoutly. His son would say that he believed in walking a straight and narrow path, and he did, neither smoking nor drinking nor cursing nor carousing. The only diversion he allowed himself as a young man was playing the fiddle, and even then his upbringing was so strict that as a boy he would have to sneak off into the woods to practice. He spoke deliberately, rationing his words, and generally kept his emotions in check, save for his anger, which could erupt violently. He looked hard too, his body thin and taut, his arms ropy, his blue eyes and copper-colored hair offset by his stern visage--long and gaunt, sunken-cheeked and grim-mouthed. It was a pioneer's weathered face--a no-nonsense face, the face of American Gothic.
But it was also a face etched with years of disappointment--disappointment that would shade and shape the life of his famous son, just as the Disney tenacity, drive, and pride would. The Disneys claimed to trace their lineage to the d'Isignys of Normandy, who had arrived in England with William the Conqueror and fought at the Battle of Hastings. During the English Restoration in the late seventeenth century, a branch of the family, Protestants, moved to Ireland, settling in County Kilkenny, where, Elias Disney would later boast, a Disney was classed among the intellectual and well-to-do of his time and age. But the Disneys were also ambitious and opportunistic, always searching for a better life. In July 1834, a full decade before the potato famine that would trigger mass migrations, Arundel Elias Disney, Elias Disney's grandfather, sold his holdings, took his wife and two young children to Liverpool, and set out for America aboard the New Jersey with his older brother Robert and Robert's wife and their two children.
They had intended to settle in America, but Arundel Elias did not stay there long. The next year he moved to the township of Goderich in the wilderness of southwestern Ontario, Canada, just off Lake Huron, and bought 149 acres along the Maitland River. In time Arundel Elias built the area's first grist mill and a sawmill, farmed his land, and fathered sixteen children--eight boys and eight girls. In 1858 the eldest of them, twenty-five-year-old Kepple, who had come on the boat with his parents, married another Irish immigrant named Mary Richardson and moved just north of Goderich to Bluevale in Morris Township, where he bought 100 acres of land and built a small pine cabin. There his first son, Elias, was born on February 6, 1859.
Though he cleared the stony land and planted orchards, Kepple Disney was a Disney, with airs and dreams, and not the kind of man inclined to stay on a farm forever. He was tall, nearly six feet, and in his nephew's words as handsome a man as you would ever meet. For a religious man he was also vain, sporting long black whiskers, the ends of which he liked to twirl, and jet-black oiled hair, always well coifed. And he was restless--a trait he would bequeath to his most famous descendant as he bequeathed his sense of self-importance. When oil was struck nearby in what came to be known as Oil Springs, Kepple rented out his farm, deposited his family with his wife's sister, and joined a drilling crew. He was gone for two
Mesmerizing. . . . There's nothing Mickey Mouse about this terrific biography. . . . The definitive portrait of Walt Disney, the Dream-King. -Washington Post Book WorldGabler's restless eye invigorates each page. . . . Part of the author’s formidable achievement is to take the intricacies of Disney’s devoted artistry and intertwine them with his] life. -Los Angeles Times Book Review Far outshines any previous Disney bio, both in scope and in specificity. The domestic details are revelatory. . . . Walt Disney is looking at us-seemingly for the first time. -Entertainment Weekly Illuminating. . . . Engrossing. . . . Gabler paints a vivid portrait.-The New York Times Book Review
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A definitive portrait of a giant of twentieth-century American popular culture offers a meticulously researched study of the private life and public career of Walt Disney, from his deprived and disciplined youth, to his seminal contributions to the art of animation, to his visionary creation of the first synergistic entertainment empire, to his reclusive and lonely private world. 100,000 first printing.
About the Author
Neal Gabler is the author of An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history. His biography Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity was named best nonfiction book of the year by Time. He appears regularly on the media review program Fox News Watch, and writes often for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He is currently a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society in the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Southern California. He lives with his wife in Amagansett, New York.
Table of Contents
Escape — Go-getter — Wonderland — The mouse — The cult — Folly — Parnassus — Two wars — Adrift — City on a hill — Slouching toward utopia.
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