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

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  2,766 Ratings  ·  249 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 1st 1994 by Disney Editions (first published 1976)
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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
Jan 03, 2014 Courtney rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 22, 2016 Hannah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Disney fans
I always find it hard to create a well organised review with a biography or non-fiction book. Especially since I feel so passionately over this book and I think that will make it harder for me to create a well structured review. However, I will give it my best shot!

This is the beautiful and powerful story of Walt Disney and it was worded beautifully with such enthusiasm. The author Bob Thomas was a really good choice for a writer, he gave you enough detail about Walt’s life but at the same time
Olivia Davis
Feb 24, 2016 Olivia Davis rated it really liked it
As much as I put off reading it, I did enjoy this book. It was very interesting and I definitely learned a lot about Disney. That meaning the company and the person. I probably would have spent less time reading this if not for a book report. I may read this again in the future for fun. I also plan to read to read more biographies now...
Robin King
Apr 23, 2014 Robin King rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
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
Gijs Grob
Thomas's book was one of the first biographies of Walt Disney, and remains a classic. Thomas's style is a nice mix of chronology, anecdotes and characterization, using memories of multiple people who knew him. Thomas had family approval, and could use their archives, which means that we not only get a portrait of Disney the business man, but also of Disney as a husband and a father. For me as a lover of animation film the book becomes less interesting when Disney moves on to live action, televis ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Nina rated it really liked it
Fascinating life, fascinating man. Unbelievably inspiring outlook on not just his successes, but also his failures. Author Bob Thomas has quite a task in telling Disney's professional and personal story fully. At times, I wished the narrative was more chronologically organized, but overall it was a great look at the man behind the dreams--and the dreams behind the man-- and just what I'd hoped for.
Jan 29, 2008 Ali rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 21, 2017 Ercsi91 rated it it was amazing


Two words, which everyone knows, every once in a while we hear these two words which means so many things: a legacy, many tears of joy, entertainment and lots of lots of time comes to our mind when we were happy, enjoying life to its fullest.

This is what Walter Elias Disney put down in his short life. A legacy! for entertainers to follow, to catch on, to develop for the cause of entertaining millions of people, children and adults.

I couldnt be obiective with this topic, cause like alm
Jan 08, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-book-club
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
Aaron Carpenter
May 14, 2015 Aaron Carpenter rated it really liked it
There are two ways of looking at this book. It is either a hagiography of a man with control issues, or a respectful treatment of one of the prime shapers of American culture in the 20th century. Either way, there is no doubt that the writer admires his subject and cheerfully tells the story of an admirable man. And if only half of it were true, one would have to conclude that Walt Disney was one of the most remarkable men ever to walk the earth. His gifts and drive and moment in history combine ...more
Jun 13, 2008 Marcia rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 07, 2015 Cindi rated it really liked it
I wish I would have been able to read this while living in Florida this summer and going to Walt Disney World. I did not know about the years and years of struggling Walt and Roy faced in starting their own company. It took them twenty years to really start seeing profit from their hours of work and dedication. Walt was exceptional at seeing the potential in other people and would help them realize their true talents by telling them to do jobs that were out of their comfort level. An animator co ...more
Nov 18, 2013 Paige rated it it was amazing
A must-read for any Disney fan. Bob Thomas' biography of Walt Disney is a fantastic look into the life and business adventures of Walt Disney. Thomas includes the good and the bad in this honest and interesting look into Disney's life. I found it to be incredibly inspiring and motivating. Walt was not an instant success, but instead encountered many challenges and setbacks along the way. He never gave up, and his persistence and belief in his ideas and visions changed the world as we know it. Wh ...more
Frank Mongelluzzo
Apr 22, 2014 Frank Mongelluzzo rated it it was amazing
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
Chris Munson
Aug 15, 2012 Chris Munson rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
Sep 16, 2012 Annmarie rated it really liked it
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
Aug 10, 2011 Raechal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
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
Feb 16, 2014 Bitsy Ming rated it really liked it
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
Terry Tilley
Mar 23, 2013 Terry Tilley rated it it was amazing
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!"
Carissa Josette
May 25, 2015 Carissa Josette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was absolutely riveting. I loved learning about the man that not only shaped my childhood but shaped the entire world. I really enjoyed this biography and getting the chance to look into what Walt's life was before he became the man a generation loved and knew so well. Walt Disney was truly a great man and he will forever be my role model.
Armin Mohammadi
Jan 09, 2016 Armin Mohammadi rated it really liked it
This book was a great book and I learned not only about Walt Disney, but also his cartoons and projects.I would recommend this book for anybody that wants to learn about one of the world's most famous and beloved animator.
Jan 03, 2010 Regina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mike Carey
Oct 22, 2010 Mike Carey rated it it was ok
Shelves: in-my-library
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.
May 10, 2011 Robyn rated it it was amazing
He was a true visionary. Never give up on your dreams.
Tom Hinkle
Sep 17, 2015 Tom Hinkle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney
This is a very enjoyable book. I liked that it contained direct quotes from Walt Disney. I also enjoyed that it didn't dwell or analyze the bad things that occurred in Walt's life.
Carley Downing
Jul 12, 2017 Carley Downing rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Disney Fans
Summary: Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago to Elias and Flora Disney. Throughout his childhood, he was a hard worker and had several different jobs, however, he always had his mind set on becoming a cartoonist. On his journey to creating Walt Disney Studios, he began working at a newspaper company drawing cartoons. Next he worked at Laugh-O-Gram Studios as the president, where he assisted in the process of producing several films. Then he worked for Universal Pictures for a few ...more
Jul 03, 2017 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
An incredibly well-written biography, this book reads like a feature magazine article (albeit, a 369-page feature article). Bob Thomas gives us an intimate portrait of the great man and his magical genius. Yet it is an honest portrayal, watts and all. Disney was kind and generous, demanding and temperamental, visionary and driven. If you liked Walt Disney, or even were ambivalent toward him, you'll be a fan by the end of the book. If you were a fan who loved and appreciated Walt's genius, this b ...more
May 14, 2017 Kristy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was fun and awe-inspiring to read about this amazing man and all he accomplished. I didn't love the writing, which is partially why it took me so long to get through this again. Still, I would say it was worth the time.
Nov 08, 2016 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love everything about Disney so naturally I had to read this book! I enjoyed reading about Walt Disney's life, work ethic and his vision for the future.
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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
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