Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Walt: The Man Behind the Myth


This documentary delivers. That is, it tells me some things I didn’t know. Unless you’ve read a biography of Walt Disney, it will probably do the same for you. I didn’t know that Walt and Roy’s father was killed by a gas leak in a house the sons had bought for their parents. That must have been devastating. I didn’t know his second daughter was adopted. There are a lot of nuggets like that, and I suspect that Walt and his family’s life was photographically documented better than just about anyone of his generation. There was always a movie camera around. We see a lot of this footage, and Walt is a touchy-huggy sort of guy, always smooching his wife.

You don’t expect a lot of controversy in a film produced by WED Enterprises, and there isn’t, but nothing seems to have been omitted. The fact is, the family was a solid one, there has never been a whiff of anything nasty about any of them that I’ve ever heard of. Everybody (and just about all the living people who worked with him are interviewed here) seems to agree that he was an ordinary, decent man, nothing special … until suddenly that spark of genius would just knock you over. He was a hard taskmaster at work, and I got no problem with that. I look at the results. Time and again he took some idea that everyone else thought was cock-eyed, impractical, and sure to lose a ton of money, and turned it into a gold mine. I really wish he could have lived to finish EPCOT, which was going to be an actual planned town where people lived and worked, and is dazzling in its conception. If it were built today, it would still be decades ahead of its time. The EPCOT that was built is nice (so they say; I’ve never been there) but is really just a permanent world’s fair.

I particularly enjoyed one segment with Chuck Jones, probably the best cartoon animator who ever lived. He worked at Disney for a short time, and when Walt asked him why he was quitting, he said “There’s only one job here that’s worth having, and that’s yours.” Walt thought about it, and said “You’re right. And the position is filled.”