In October 2006, I interviewed film historian and Walt Disney biographer Neal Gabler for MiceChat. At the time, Gabler's book, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, was just days from being released to mostly favorable reviews. The book is a detailed chronicle of Walt's lif – he best biography written about him to dat – nd it would go on to win the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography.
With today being Walt's 109th birthday, I'm happy to repost the interview and share some very revealing insight on Walt Disney, the man.
Walt Disney is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To many, he is a visionary founder of an entertainment empire that includes movies, television, theme parks and Mickey Mouse. To others, he's "Uncle Walt," a paternalistic icon of a childhood fantasy world. To many of those who knew Walt personally, he is an ambitious, driven, even obsessive, creative force with a short temper and few friends.
Contradictions. Walt was a series of them and biographers have attempted repeatedly over the years, with varying success, to capture the essential Walt. Books have ranged from the reverential (Bob Thomas's Walt Disney: An American Original) to the critical (Richard Schickel's The Disney Version) to the scathing and apocryphal (Marc Eliot's Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince).
Neal Gabler may have finally nailed it.