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

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  10,592 ratings  ·  673 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, 851 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Scott I've read both as well, and the Thomas book takes the "company line" much, much more. This one presents Walt as a man with some faults. His daughter w…moreI've read both as well, and the Thomas book takes the "company line" much, much more. This one presents Walt as a man with some faults. His daughter was not thrilled with it, I believe, but the company gave Gabler access to a lot of information and more or less sanctioned the book, if I'm not mistaken. I came away from reading Gabler's long book with a greater admiration for the man. (I never saw any part where he portrayed Walt as a tyrant, though Walt's stubbornness about the union and commies and such comes through more in Gabler than in Thomas...)(less)

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B Schrodinger
Mar 05, 2014 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 24, 2010 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
May 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, art, television
Thought this was a great biography of Disney but also turned out to be exactly what I came to the book looking for - a thorough history of Walt Disney studios. There are reviews here that say it’s too much detail, and that’s true in many places but I didn’t mind because I love that I got the full story.

This is definitely a book to read with YouTube open. About halfway through Gabler mentions the “The Reluctant Dragon” which was basically a movie designed to show off the studio in a behind-the-sc
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbb-master

“Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler was published in 2006 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Gabler is an author, journalist and former film critic whose previous books include a biography of Barbra Streisand and a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood. He is currently working on a biography of Edward Kennedy.

This biography of Walt Disney is one of two recent, compelling works reviewing the life of a man
Aaron Million
Dec 22, 2014 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
Nov 12, 2007 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
emily compton
Sep 11, 2015 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
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed, unbiased look at Walt Disney. The good, the bad and the ugly. As a big fan of Walt’s, the ugly parts were hard to read but it’s important that a biography is truthful, and there’s plenty of quotes from imagineers and family to give a balanced look at his life. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through this book due to how small the print was and how many pages it was, but honestly I devoured it. I love books that really go into detail about each event and this book did. I actually ...more
Wayland Smith
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Whatever your feelings about the man, his legacy, his company, or his movies, you can't deny Walt Disney was an icon. It's an overused word, but it fits him. So does legend. This was a remarkably (sometimes overly) detailed book about the man behind the myth, and I learned a lot I didn't know about him, his movies, and his empire.

This book covers Walt's life from birth to death. One thing that I liked was Gabler dealt with the cryrogenic rumors up front. No, Walt Disney isn't frozen somewhere,
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
Jennifer DuBose
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a well written and exceptionally well researched book about "America's Uncle" - the great Walt Disney. I learned that Disney wasn't just a passionate perfectionist; he was obsessive, zealous, even, about his visions for animation and entertainment. If he had not been this way, we wouldn't have what Disney is today. The legacy and creations and even the spirit of all things Disney would not be what they are without his drive for a perfection that was beyond perfection. He didn't want to ...more
Jan 17, 2009 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
Aug 03, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As fascinating as this man was, I just couldn't get through this book. It was about 700 pages of every biographical note about Walt Disney -- very in depth even down to what his resting heart rate was on Tuesdays (joking). I made it into the 200's (barely) and just couldn't trudge on. If you're looking for something to sink your teeth into -- go for it! Maybe I'll look for another version/author. Whew! ...more
Mar 23, 2011 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.

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

Nov 20, 2014 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. ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
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. ...more
Samuel Salzer
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Good biography about one of the great and most influential minds of the 20th century. Very informative, but maybe not the most captivating writing. Luckily, the life of Walt and especially his Mickey Mouse empire provides much amazement.

Walt Disney changed the game and we are all sharing the benefits through our childhood memories. It's amazing to think that Snow White was the first ever animated full-length feature film and was first introduced to the cinema screen 80 years ago.

True success fo
Interesting read about a complicated figure of american history. As someone who loves disney, both media and the parks, it was interesting to read about the man who created it. Rated 3* not 4* simply because at times I feel it got a bit heavy handed with names and prices and ran away from the point a bit.
Greg Bodwell
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a fun read on the history of film, animation, and one of the most recognizable names in the world. But it could gain from being a couple hundred pages shorter. I’m intrigued by reading about visionaries and I found many similarities (both good and bad) between Disney and Steve Jobs. Overall it is a well-written, fair biography.
Leandro Nogueira
May 08, 2011 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
Bryan Alkire
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent readable biography…one of the best bios I’ve read this year. The book moves along nicely, though it can get a bit bogged down in studio detail. But, I never fell asleep while reading this book, which is a huge recommendation in and of itself. The writing is excellent and readable, aside from a bit of repetition and detail, there isn’t a wasted word here. It was clearly well edited. The analysis of Disney’s life is good. It points out his personality and flaws without hitting the reader ...more
May 12, 2009 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
Jan 16, 2008 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.
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-book-list
If you're a Disney fan, this is a must-read. His impact on culture is explained in a very tangible, powerful way. I must say I was surprised to learn how Disney treated his employees. I always thought it was a happy place to work. His passion for excellence drove him. The story of the development of Snow White and Disneyland are both fascinating. In the end, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Walt Disney. ...more
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
One might complain that there is an overabundance of information, but for the not-so-casual reader, nothing more could be wished. The book outlines Disney's cultural influence of social issues as diverse as patriotism, politics, economics and technology, in a manner at once entertaining and authoritative ...more
Thomas Hardy
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a excellent book for those who really want to know who Walt Disney was.
Kit Fox
Mar 06, 2011 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.
David J.
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it

Tremendous biography of someone who has always intrigued me. The detail is thorough, the narration smooth-flowing, and the insights were plentiful. Excellent read.
Sep 27, 2011 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. ...more
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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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