When I was a child, the name Walt Disney was present everywhere. It was on children’s books, it was on a weekly TV show, ‘Disneyland’, where Walt himself was the smiling host. I assumed I knew everything about Walt Disney that I would ever want to know. I was wrong.
The American Experience film: ‘Walt Disney’, shows that there is more to the story. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/walt-disney/. Many of us already knew about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the first Disney hit that was eventually taken over by the distributor. All of us knew about Mickey Mouse, his next idea and first great success. His next big success was ‘Snow White’, his first full length cartoon. Mickey Mouse may have made Walt a household name, but ‘Snow White’ made him a star.
I had not realized is how much over-budget it was by the time it was released. It was estimated at 250,000 but came in over 1.4 million dollars. I’ve seen estimates that it grossed over 9 million dollars during its first release. Whatever the real numbers are, it made enough for Disney to use the money to build a bigger and better studio. I did not realize that his next animated movies, were not initially successful, at least at the box office. His situation was made worse by the fact that WWII meant there was no money coming in from Europe. By the late 1940s, the big full length cartoon was almost too expensive to produce, and it was certainly too risky to have as the main product of his studio. So, Walt Disney moved more and more into live action movies.
In the 1950s, the ABC network needed a prestige product with a built-in audience and Walt Disney needed the money for his Disneyland project. I had not realized how much Disneyland was a labor of love. I don’t think anyone realized how successful his parks were going to become.
The documentary show Walt Disney, warts and all. The warts are not very large nor were they unusual ones. Everyone in business tried to halt the unions.
What surprised me was how old and tired Walt Disney looked in the 50s and 60s. He died at age 65 and he looked well over 70 when he did.