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Walt Disney: An American Original
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Walt Disney: An American Original

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,650 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Walt Disney is an American hero--the creator of Mickey Mouse, and a man who changed the face of American culture. After years of research, with the full cooperation of the Disney family and access to private papers and letters, Bob Thomas produced the definitive biography of the man behind the legend--the unschooled cartoonist from Kansas City who went bankrupt on his firs ...more
Hardcover, 379 pages
Published May 31st 1994 by Disney Editions (first published 1976)
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Community Reviews

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Chris
This book was an absolute treasure to read. I first started reading this book when I lived in Walt Disney World on the Disney College program. After so many years I finally finished it and regret that I never did it when I lived there. I think this would have had more of an impact then it did now. For the number of pages that I did read, it was a true magical experience of going to work and school there knowing that this all was designed by one man who took pain in knowing that everything had to ...more
Courtney
Being a "Disney Baby" all my life, and having recently seen Saving Mr. Banks, I decided it was time to delve into the full story of the man whose work was so much a part of my childhood. I couldn't be more glad that I did! The warmth and humor that I remembered seeing in his television appearances (re-aired on cable for the benefit of 80's kids like me) were no persona, but a facet of the real man, and that makes me happy. Thomas doesn't ignore his flaws, though--he gives considerable attention ...more
Ali
For a biography, this was a very well written story of Walt Disney's life. I thought it was a good look at the man behind the mouse, starting with this animated movies and moving into theme parks. As a big Disney World fan, I was fascinated by this read.
Marcia
There were several biographies of Walt Disney to choose from at the library. This one appealed to me because the author had actually met Disney and interviewed him several times, and had access to the family for interviews, as well as company records. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is inspiring and fascinating. I learned a lot of things I didn't know about Disney, such as he was not financially successful until the returns of Disneyland were realized. He was always so concerned with quality ...more
Chris Munson
When I read a biography, I try to look for some key characteristic to emulate. It could be leadership, communications, or something less tangible. There is definitely much to learn from studying Walt Disney. Bob Thomas does a wonderful job of telling this complicated story. From his humble beginnings (and what seemed like an abusive father), to his time in the WWI ambulance core (as a 17-year old high school dropout) to the struggle to turn a two-man animation studio into a media empire – you ge ...more
Frank Mongelluzzo
A remarkable wonderful book about Uncle Walt unlike Neil Gabler's slanderfest. All the people who said horrible things about him need to read this book. I'm glad the book didn't end with his passing and talks about the birth of Walt Disney World as well as Roy's final days.
The book was well organized. I don't know why they didn't mention that Sharon was adopted (they made it Sunday like Lily gave birth to her)
This book actually shows the charming and selfless side of Walt Disney and the impac
...more
Annmarie
I don't know if this is my first biography or not - but I really enjoyed learning about his life. I didn't know much about him before . . . I was VERY impressed with his work ethic, talent, and dedication. VERY impressed! I went to Walt Disneyland when I was 13 and Disney World when I was 16 and thought they were like any other amusement park and haven't had much desire to go back any time soon. But now after reading this book I would like to go back to be able to notice all the details the man ...more
Raechal
I can't even express what a good biography this was. I learned so much about Walt Disney himself and the pain he went through to bring us the characters that live on. He was a genius and his methods may not have agreed with him, but hearing from the people that learned from him, those who worked with him and those who loved him, painted a picture of a man who was focused on what he wanted to do for the world. I also find it interesting that his favorite line is "you can't top pigs with pigs" mak ...more
Bitsy Ming
After seeing Saving Mr. Banks, I was inspired to learn about Walt Disney and what inspired his imagination and creativity. Like every child I've ever known, I have loved virtually everything Disney: Disneyland, his TV show as a child, and of course his movies. I have always admired his creative genius, even more now after reading this book. He was everything I expected him to be but even more so. His imagination has known no other. I highly recommend this book and getting to know the man behind ...more
Caty Carino
This tells the tale of the man behind the mouse. This biography tells about Walt’s life from birth to death. Also entails all the challenges that Walt faced in his journey to make Mickey Mouse. What I liked best about this biography was the author. Brad Thomas had met Walt Disney several times before his death. Also, Thomas interviewed Disney’s family and had access to papers, letters, and photos from the family. I enjoyed this biography because ever since I was a child I have been a Disney fana ...more
Erin
I am basically blown away by this book. It doesn't read very much like a biography, at least, not like any of the biographies I have read. It was really interesting and well-written all the way through. I'm sure that it must be tough to take a lot of facts about someone and make it into a book that someone would want to read, but Rob Thomas did really well; there was no information presented that I felt unnecessary or boring. And after having read the whole thing, I think I would venture to gues ...more
Sean Routch
I absolutely loved reading this book. The author, Bob Thomas, did an amazing job in recreating the fascinating life of Walt Disney. I feel like Thomas did a great job of keeping the reader interested by including little anecdotes and pictures. My favorite part of the novel is when Walt Disney first creates Mickey Mouse. Thomas did a great job of explaining how Walt thought of Mickey as well as just describing the original Mickey himself. Thomas also did a great job of helping the reader to see t ...more
Terry Tilley
A great book. Who knew the realities and struggles which went into creating the many hours of entertainment we all grew up with. Now understanding a little more on his methods, I can see the reason for the truth in my daughters statement. . . Following our trip to Walt Disney World. . .
"Disney does not disappoint!"
Christian
I rarely give fives.

This excellent biography reads more as an exciting, interesting narrative rather than a lecture (as some biographies are). The result of this was that I couldn't put it down. Thomas, having known Disney personally and had a very long 'source', is most certainly the man for the job. As he discusses his background in the preface, he reveals that the Disney company itself tasked him with this biography, and they assured he had unlimited access to all their information and allowe
...more
Amanda
This book loses some points for some selective editing (It was originally published in 1976 and in the 1990 update the author admits that he left out the fact that Disney's second daughter was adopted because the family was sensitive about it. He claims that's the only omission, of course, but I doubt it, not even a mention of the anti semitic charges for example.) But it's certainly an enjoyable look at Disney's creative career.

Having just read the Henson biography, I was struck so many times b
...more
Mike Carey
Doesn't go into many details. Seemed more like a recital of what I already knew about him. The writing was "stiff and wooden"
Even though I really enjoyed the topic and learning more about the early days of Disney studios I can't recommend this book.
Regina McNally
Great read - started out a bit slow, but really picked up momentum as it got into Walt Disney's adult years. I learned a great deal about the man who so influenced generations of children, through his movies, theme parks, television, and so much more.
Bob Urgo
My new found interest in Walt Disney comes from a trip I took to Disney world with an artist friend of mine who at the time was a Disney employee. Walking around the park with this walking dictionary was super enjoyable and only made my interest in all things Disney rise from the ashes.

The story of Walt Disney is not what I thought it would be. It is full of so many hardships I finished thinking how improbable the things he accomplished were. The universe at some point seemed to be entirely agai
...more
Caryn
Jul 31, 2014 Caryn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I finally picked up a book to learn about the history behind Walt Disney. I've been going to Disney for almost 20 years now with my in-laws and now with my daughter I really wanted to learn about the magic and history. This was an easy, absorbing read with just enough details into both the business and the man. I am sure lots of details did not make it into the book but I don't mind - this was enough for me. When I was choosing the book, it was between Neal Gabler's much bigger book and this one ...more
Kara Hamilton
As a child, I loved all the Disney characters and visiting Disney World. So I thought that it would be a good idea to read about the man behind all of it, Walt Disney. I thought that overall this was a good book. This book was very interesting and inspiring. Walt Disney was a very successful man. However, he stressed over his animations a lot and would remake the animations over and over again until it met his expectations. From this book, I learned that success doesn't come that easy. I would r ...more
Robyn
He was a true visionary. Never give up on your dreams.
Erik
Even though I am a big fan of Walt Disney World, and have seen most of the Disney movies thanks to my two daughters, I realized I knew very little about the Walt Disney the man. This book is very well written and really gives you insight into how dedicated Walt was to entertaining people and how little he cared for the actual financial success all that dedication eventually provided. He really is a true American treasure that I think gets overlooked because of the huge media conglomerate Disney ...more
Junior
Very detailed and thorough account of the life of Walt Disney. This book, like so many other biographies showed that successful people are not handed things. There is a little luck involved. But, it seems like luck finds those who labor more abundantly.

In general Disney seemed to carry a VERY positive spirit about life. He loved life! Through the ups and downs of business he never lost his passion for his dreams and his belief in humanity.

He had a deep love for his family and those who were loya
...more
Debbie
I don't read a lot of biographies. I like a story.

I happen to be a HUGE fan of anything and everything Disney. Instilled in my heart in my earliest memories. My Mom loved Disney movies and we had cousins living in Florida for many years. Throughout my childhood, for any family vacation, the obvious place was Walt Disney World.

Now as an adult, my husband and I have already been there four times and I know we will go again. I swear that I absolutely buy EVERYTHING they are selling to me. Figurativ
...more
Robin King
An in depth look at the man behind Mickey Mouse and Disneyland and how he reshaped the world of cartoon and entertainment.

My Opinion: The tale of Walt Disney through the eyes of Bob Thomas is reminiscent of a fairy tale. There are humble beginnings, failures, heartbreak, dwarves, a castle, and evil villains. But the protagonist manages to break free from the chains that tried to weigh him down and, finally, arises as a hero who makes everyone's dreams come true.

The main character, Walter Elias
...more
Karen
I found this biography fascinating. Bob Thomas did a remarkable job of letting us see the "real" Walt and his many sides. Having grown up in the late 50's and 60's, Disney was a huge part of my childhood and held wonderful memories for me. Sadly though, I knew nothing about the man behind it all. Walt Disney was to put it simply--iconic. I use that word because it fits who he was. As defined in the dictionary it means: widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence.

Walt was
...more
Tyler
This is probably one of the best biographies I have ever read. Bob Thomas's background in journalism shines through in the concise, detailed prose. He quite simply says what there is to say, leaving the qualities and the vices of the man openly visible without judgment. I was amazed to learn about the hardships of Walt Disney's youth. It was also incredible to consider his remarkable career: the ascent from his beginnings as a young man with little more than curiosity, energy, and a talent for d ...more
Tracy (Cornerfolds)
I've always steered clear of biographies for fear of being bored to tears, but I knew I had to give it a shot when my Disney book club decided to read a Walt Disney biography. While I have a borderline-obsessive love for Walt Disney World and a healthy appreciation for the man himself, I didn't know nearly as much as I'd prefer, so in I dived. The book selection was Walt Disney: An American Original.

The book began with at the beginning, telling the story of Walt's childhood and the difficulties
...more
Tina
One of the best biographies I've read, no contest. I've been a HUGE Disney fan ever since I can remember, my parents took me to Disney World for the first time when I was 4 and that was the beginning of a life long love of all things Disney. I don't know why it took me so long to actually pick this book up and read it, but I'm SO glad I did. It pretty much goes without saying that Walt Disney was an absolutely fascinating individual, he was a genius no doubt about it and this biography really sh ...more
John
I have always been interested in the stories behind the legend that has become Walt Disney. I suppose he was a hero, of sorts, as I grew and, as an adult, I used Disney for my Dissertation.

Bob Thomas' biography was sanctioned by the family and, I believe that he was actually given FULL access to the Disney records - a faxt that, it should be noted, is very rare indeed. [It does make me wonder what sort of pre-publishing contract Thomas had to agree to!:]

Thomas provides the reader with fact afte
...more
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Robert Joseph "Bob" Thomas was an American Hollywood film industry biographer and reporter who worked for the Associated Press from 1944.

Born in San Diego, he grew up in Los Angeles, where his father was a film publicist. He attended UCLA. He lived in Encino with his wife, Patricia. They have three daughters. Thomas, aged 92, died on March 14, 2014 at his home.

Thomas made his mark by engaging cele
...more
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