An American Original : Walt Disney

Walt Disney

By Bob Thomas
Review by Lyz

In An American Original : Walt Disney the author, Bob Thomas, shows Walt's life before he was born, during, and after he died. Disney's trials and tribulations from being a driver in France for the Red Cross during World War One to planning a theme park. It also focused on Disney's skills and ideas he strove to create, and the obstacles he had to overcome. The life that Disney carved for himself and all of America to admire has been completely uncovered in this book. His life showed that and ordinary boy, born poor at the turn of the century, could accomplish world fame and dominance.

Walt had first established a business soon after he returned from France in World War One. The company was called Laugh - O - Grams, and they produced mostly political cartoons but also a few ads and comics. The company, however, was short lived. They were unable to make long-term contracts to remain working, and the cartoons that Walt drew were thrown mostly away and forgotten. Soon after that business' debts were paid off Disney met a man named Ub Iwerks and together they founded another cartoon business, with the name Iwerks Disney. It was in this company which Disney and Iwerks developed the not-so-famous Oswald the Rabbit and later the world famous Mickey Mouse.

This business ran poorly during all of it's existence. Disney and Iwerks tried to make deals all over the country, and Walt went across the country every few months to make deals. Upon returning from one of these trips Disney found Iwerks had left the business. His quitting hurt the company greatly, and debt clenched Iwerks Disney Inc.. Then with the sale of a group of short cartoons they brought themselves slowly out of debt.

Walt and his older brother Roy Disney changed he name of the company to the Disney Company. Along with new name Roy saw that they needed a new idea, a new specialty, they developed a new form of cartoons, full length animated color cartoon movies. Their first and most well-known was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This movie was a hit, but even with this now world-wide fame the Disney Company still was not saved from their debt woes.

They continued their work, and after the success of several more full-length animated features Walt and Roy's money problems quieted down, and over time, disappeared. As Walt and Roy began to grow older, they realized their company needed a new edge. It was around this time when a new invention graced America and the world, the television. Walt saw it coming and wanted to plan a show. Knowing that this was not enough, Disney was also working on a plan to build an amusement theme park, an entirely new idea at the time. Roy then suggested that they could put money into television and then hopefully they would get it back, doubly or triply and put that into their theme park in California, Disneyland.

Mickey Mouse

The television movies were big hits, including Davy Crockett which began a landslide in the sale of Disney product coon-skin hats, and Disneyland was set up within a matter of a few years. Disneyland was the Disney family's greatest asset and risk, if it failed Walt Disney Company would fail and no other full length animated movies or television shows would be made. Luckily, as we all know, Disneyland did succeed and the environment of a clean, happy, and cheerful wonderland made people flock to Disneyland, over a million people came the first year. Within the ten years following the introductory success of Disney World, Walt's health steadily declined. But Disney would not give up, he planned another theme park, in Florida: Disney World. Sadly, Walt passed away because of a cancerous tumor brought on by his lifetime habit of smoking, and was never able to see his dream of Disney World completed.

The book fully explained the legacy of Walt Disney and every part of this extraordinary dreamers' life was examined. Every business plan he made and personal dreams and prophecies of the people in the ever-changing world. It was remarkable that his life was documented so well and by reading An American Original: Walt Disney the reader understands the man's life and reason for the choices he made. Bob Thomas not only showed every thing good he did but also Walt's temper and personal pet peeves, he was shown as a great but imperfect man. This book explains a lot of facts that are presented in a personal way, and a way in which the reader does not feel like they are pushing to get it finished and remembering everything. This is portrayed like a fiction story and so you can get into it like few other biographies. This book should be recommended to anyone no matter what genre they prefer and they will see and understand the interesting and exciting life of this "American Original".