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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination
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Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  3,891 Ratings  ·  411 Reviews
From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history.
Seven years in the making and meticulously researched - Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives - this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose
Hardcover, 880 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brendon Schrodinger
Mar 10, 2014 Brendon Schrodinger rated it it was amazing
Whether you believe that Walt Disney was a lovable storyteller, a great filmmaker and a bringer of joy or that he was a relentless purveyor of sentimental pap who was responsible for an empire that drained the U.S. of it's culture is really just a naive view of who was, and still is long after his death, a great man.

Most of this audience would be of the generations who experience Disney after his death in 1966, but even I remember watching repeats of "The Wonderful World of Walt Disney" on Sund
Apr 28, 2010 Megan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hardcore Disney fans
Shelves: biography
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars on this book.

One of the problems with writing a biography about Walt Disney is that people either see him as the lovable "Uncle Walt", or a driven and obsessive tyrant. This book does a fine job of objectively showing you all the sides of this complex man. (It also didn't hurt that the writing and research were exceptionally well done).

On one hand, I loved all the details about Walt Disney, his life, family, and career. However, all that detail became weighed dow
Nov 25, 2007 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In my childhood, I was a Walt Disney nut. I loved the cartoons, I loved the movies, and I loved reading about the man himself, ever since I checked out one of those American Pioneers mini-novels from my elementary school's library. The problem with most Walt Disney bios is that there's a hard and fast line that's drawn between them. Either they paint an absolutely rosy picture of the man (fully and completely sanctioned by The Disney Corporation) or they go in the absolute opposite direction, hi ...more
Aaron Million
Jan 16, 2015 Aaron Million rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This is how a biography should be written. Gabler's treatment of Disney is thoroughly fair, engaging, engrossing, and professional. In short, a wonderful read. He leaves no relevant details out of Disney's life, yet I seldom if ever felt inundated with minutiae. The closest Gabler comes to delving too deeply into a particular area is during the (long) discussion about the making of Snow White. However, it was such a seminal event in Disney's life that I fully understand why Gabler lingered over ...more
emily compton
Nov 17, 2015 emily compton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
this is undoubtedly a 5 star book, but it took me two months to get through it and there were parts of it that seemed endless, so i'm knocking it down one just for my own reading experience. that said, this is an exceptionally well done biography. it is so thorough and so well researched, which is almost universally a strength, but got pretty sloggy in the middle, while world war II was the catalyst for a miserable period in walt's life (and by extension, the reader) as he was bogged down with s ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Andrew rated it it was amazing
This was a really good book. As anyone who knows me and my family, we love all things Disney. So when this book was published I thought I would give it a try. At over 800 pages (over 200 of which are bibliography information) I wasn’t sure I’d get through it. But it kept me intrigued. It was written really well with a good narrative.

The book delves into Walt Disney’s upbringing, and all of the milestones along his life path until his death. It was interesting to read about how he was continually
The book has a powerful introduction. It gives the reader the expectation of an epic biography with an analysis of Disney and his place in our culture and legacy. The book has many good points but does not deliver on this promise. Some of the promised insight is present, but is overwhelmed by facts and chronology.

Gabler does a good job on the biographical outline of both Disney and his company. He describes the different pictures, projects, technologies. He relates Walt's enthusiasm, level of in
Jan 08, 2014 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Walt Disney is one of those figures that everyone knows without really knowing at all. One of the primary themes of this biography is that even the people in his life who had daily contact with him, who lived with him, worked with him, even grew up with him, would have said the same thing. He was an intensely private person, and one wonders how much of the carefully cultivated image of himself that was created and wrapped up with his films was a deliberate attempt to hide that private self.

Leandro Nogueira
Dec 25, 2011 Leandro Nogueira rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Really inspiring reading, even if you're sympathetic or not for Disney's projects (animation, movies, theme parks, advertising, music, politics, engineering) this book provides a deep journey into Walt Disney's career, his hunger for a new challenge, preferable if it comes as apparently impossible and and the ways he always found to run over the financial obstacles. Actually his brother Roy was responsible for that part, but, anyway, What Walt did and how He did it is covered in all the negative ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Neal Gabler, who penned a well-received biography of journalist Walter Winchell and An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, among other books, is the first writer to have complete access to the Walt Disney archives. Much of that wealth of information makes its way into this hefty tome. At nearly 900 pages (including 200 pages of notes), the author risks losing all but the most devoted Disney fans. Gabler uses engaging prose, numerous anecdotes, and firsthand accounts of the even

Apr 12, 2013 Karen rated it it was amazing
I have a list of 10 people (living or dead) that I would like to meet and Walt Disney is on my list. How different America would be without Walt Disney! "Wish fulfillment" is a good term for this amazing man. (That term taken from the book). Lots of things in this book you didn't know about this man....dropped out of High School as a Freshman and never went back....had his camera repossessed at 16....lied about his age to serve with the Red Cross during WWI....1st person to ever film "wildlife d ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Malorie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest, I didn't actually finish the book. I couldn't make myself. I was disgusted by Walt Disney. I wanted to read about a creative man who was responsible for creating some of the best loved memories from my childhood. Instead, I read about a man who was a tyrant, who terrorized his employees, who took credit for art that he was incapable of creating. Yes, he came up with ideas and okayed everything, but he was not the end-all be-all. I guess I couldn't handle the disillusionment.
May 18, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Walt Disney was an incredible man - and after reading this book, I feel like I have a real idea of who he was, the good and the bad. The book goes beyond "The Happiest Place On Earth" to see the wonderful and not so wonderful parts of Disney's life and character.

Next time I watch one of his movies, I'll be thinking about what he was trying to accomplish and how he felt about the film in its conception and release.
Sherrie Pilkington
My favorite part of this book was learning that Walt Disney wasn't an anti-Semite and how that rumor got going (tl;dr haters gonna hate when you make all that $$$). Overall, this book was good...but it kinda got bogged down in the middle. There's a lot of information on business and trades and numbers because that was the driving force in Disney's's just not always fun to read about.
Mark Mortensen
Jan 26, 2014 Mark Mortensen rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, americana
This book was dedicated in part “…for all those who have ever wished upon a star”.

Walt Disney, born Walter Elias Disney on December 5, 1901 is another example of a much focused gifted passionate youth, who rose through the Great Depression as a visionary unafraid of failure, chasing his dream rather than being motivated by money. The unvarnished biography touches upon his success as well as his personal failures. With small town mid-western roots he ventured off to Hollywood to draw animation. F
Interesting insight in the life of a man i knew hardly anything about except his creations. The book is long and detailed but still i think they good go even deeper into his work. Still a good one.
Kit Fox
Jul 23, 2012 Kit Fox marked it as to-read
Dang. Had to return this to the library before I could finish it. And just as I was getting to the portion on my favorite Disney flick, Fantasia. That, as Donald Duck would say, totally blows.
Sep 27, 2011 Bryce rated it really liked it
I usually hate biographies, but this one was all about Walt Disney. I haven't had such a great respect for him until now. He's amazing, and so is his biography.
Erik Hanberg
Sep 24, 2013 Erik Hanberg rated it it was amazing
One of the better biographies I've read. This is what the Steve Jobs biography should have been. It took me three months. But still--very good.
Tracy Gomez
Mar 02, 2016 Tracy Gomez rated it really liked it
"Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination" is a little hard to read for some readers. Walt Disney is a good person who invented Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and a lot of other characters that have changed from their looks. Walt Disney's good animation characters for kids and for anyone has changed a little part of the world. He also created Disneyland. Known as "the happiest place in the world". Read this book (or at least try to) read this book. I recommend this book to people who lik ...more
Robin Ryan
Apr 30, 2016 Robin Ryan rated it it was amazing
Reading this book made me realize why I have always been infatuated with Walt Disney - he reminds me of my dad! He grew up with the same family dynamics- hard times, large family, strong work ethic, etc. He had flaws but he was blessed with so many gifts. His creativity knew no bounds and far exceeded his pocketbook. He was a perfectionist with vision and was confident and believed in himself. He never let failure or disappointment get him down - and he had lots of it. He dreamed big and fought ...more
Annette Gianino
Jan 25, 2015 Annette Gianino rated it really liked it
Surprisingly, a little heart-breaking in the end. Walt was the type of person who never felt like he was finished, or like he did enough. He didn't expect his company to survive him, and he didn't believe he had done enough good for this world. The book did such a good job at showing the reader what it was Walt saw as his motivations, how the world interpreted them, his colleagues and personal connections; and then put them all together to help the reader to see what it really was that drove Wal ...more
Steele Dimmock
Jul 23, 2014 Steele Dimmock rated it really liked it
This book goes a long way to demystify Walt Disney. The whole focus is on the man, with next to nothing on the business/empire he built.

I came away with an solid appreciation of his struggle, from his perpetual money troubles to his issues with quality, and his unending passion for indulging his creativity. It was disheartening to hear that he was trying to create a workplace utopia for his workers but through the unionisation of a few of his employees, and the resulting strike, he had to list t
Rick Ludwig
Of all of the books that I have read about Disney, this was the best researched, most balanced and a truly great read. The annotation was excellent and impressive and the depth of the treatment was very satisfying to one who has recently read five books on this topic. I would strongly recommend this one to anyone interested in Disney, his life, and his legacy. I felt like I better understood the man after reading this. He was neither an angel nor a demon, but an enormously impactful human being, ...more
Jul 14, 2010 Riley rated it really liked it
I just finished reading this 600 page biography of Walt Disney. That is in addition to the 215 pages of notes and references documenting the information.

As has never been the case with a biography I’ve read, when certain parts of Walt’s project seem to become less interesting to me as a reader, it must have been the case in Walt’s life too. That seamed to be the time when he would become disengaged from one project and move on to another. Examples, animation shorts, feature animation, war time f
Brooklyn harvey
This story was about Walt Disney, and how his life went, and how he got into animation. The main character was Walt Disney. There were other people involved in the story, like his mother, Elora Call Disney, his father, Elias Disney, and his wife, Lillian Bounds. The main characters were just apart of Walt Disney's life and helped him through his problems. Walt Disney faced problems, like he started a compony named Laugh-O-Grams, and that company ended up going bankrupt and he went to Hollywood w ...more
Jun 10, 2009 Tripp rated it it was amazing
I've spent the past few weeks working my way through Neal Gabler's massive Walt Disney biography. It took this long not because it was boring or too dense, but because it deserved close reading. The book tells the story of Walt from his ancestors up to his death from lung cancer.

Although I considered myself familiar with the story of the studio, I really wasn't. I thought it was an upward trend of success from day one. In reality the studio teetered on the edge of disaster for much of its earlie
May 27, 2011 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I saw this book, I wanted to read it. I'm a BIG Disney fan, but not just of the movies and amusement parks, but also of the man himself. Now I hadn't read any Walt Disney biographies before, although I knew quite a bit about him just because of my fascination with Disney history generally. I haven't read a Walt bio before because I tend to stay away from biographies when reading because of their tendency to be too biased, too narrow, or too broad. Sometimes I think so-called biographi ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Corny rated it really liked it
Shelves: biograpghy
This is a remarkably detailed biography which has obviously been painstakingly researched. I think this is a case where less is more. At times I felt like I was drowning in the descriptions of the animation process and the endless listing of animators, staff etc. The author might have done better to cull his material to avoid overwhelming his readers, but I guess this is what one calls the "definitive" biography. Also, the psychobabble sometimes ruins the thread of the story. Many times during t ...more
Nathan Hartman
May 12, 2011 Nathan Hartman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If anything, this book is extensive. Coming in at 36 hours on audiobook, it was daunting and, for the most part, interesting. While I'm fascinated with the man, I'd say there was a lot of the same creative cycle both in his life and the book- an idea, lots of problems, idea working (or barely working), moving on to the new thing while being almost bankrupt.

While this is true to his life, the author never seems to try anything that would break the narrative from this circle, which can lead to the
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Neal Gabler is a distinguished author, cultural historian and television commentator who has been called “one of America’s most important public intellectuals.” His first book, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History and the Theatre Library Association Award for the best book on television, radio or film. On the centenary of the fir ...more
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“He had passed beyond the afflictions of this world. Walt Disney had at last attained perfection.” 7 likes
“Yet all of these accumulated contributions paled before a larger one: he demonstrated how one could assert one’s will on the world at the very time when everything seemed to be growing beyond control and beyond comprehension.” 0 likes
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