A long overdue visit to the Disney Family Museum at the Presidio in San Francisco introduced me to this film’s existence. I’ve seen many documentaries about Walt Disney’s life, but my first viewing of Walt: The Man Behind the Myth was an eye opener. The film was originally released as a TV movie on Sept. 16, 2001. Debuting less than a week after 9/11, it’s no wonder that no matter where is was shown, it would be overlooked.
This film was a joint venture by Pantheon Productions and the Walt Disney Family Foundation. It covers Walt’s life thoroughly, and his family and business ventures with few omissions. It details his youth in Marceline, Mo., Kansas City and beyond. His early years as an animator, and eventually film innovator and inventor of Mickey Mouse are all here.
Born in 1901, Disney was too young at 16 for WWI – until his mother apparently changed his birth year on the certificate, making him 17. He served in Europe as an ambulance driver.
His accomplishments include the first sound animated feature, first sound and color animated feature, and first animated full-length feature film. This was all between 1928 and 1937.
Then he got serious. His financial problems, when he virtually had to mortgage everything to make his film dreams become reality, are all recorded. Had Cinderella failed in 1950, the studio probably wouldn’t have recovered. Without additional bank financing that he got by previewing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for the bankers, that film wouldn’t have been completed.
The next step was Disneyland. Beyond including the first use of audio animatronics in both rides and exhibits, Disney’s were the most popular theme parks ever created.
His home life and travels aren’t neglected. All are included through home movies and photos from the 1920s to Disney’s death in 1966 at 65. The stars and filmmakers who worked in his movies and theme parks all appear on camera to tell delightful and surprising stories. Many of these people have died since the movie was made, so we’re very lucky these scenes were filmed for posterity.
The DVD extras include further remembrances of those interviewed in the film. A short, eight-minute feature shows a bit about how the documentary was created. The late Diane Disney Miller also narrates a series of scenes using maps to show the key locations of the Disney history. These features also include additional home movie footage. Much of it’s in the documentary, but there’s enough additional footage to make it worth a look.
The DVD is on Amazon, but the price tops $99. The museum online store has the book but not the DVD. However, back in June the brick-and-mortar store had plenty of these DVDs in stock under $20. Call them at 415-345-6859 every day but Tuesdays, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m, Pacific Time. Tell them you want the DVD. Tell them Karl sent you.
Rated 4.0 out of 4.0 Meeska-Mooska-Mousketeers. Somebody said this every day during the Mickey Mouse Club just before the cartoon. My favorite part of the program, other than Annette.