American Experience
September 16, 2015 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Walt Disney - "An unprecedented look at the life and legacy of one of America's most enduring and influential storytellers -- Walt Disney."
posted by kliuless (17 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was really impressed. I've worked in animation for 30 years (though not at the Disney level of quality) and was glad to see that they gave some credit to the talent working with him; not to taking anything away from the man's visionary genius - just acknowledging that a lot of people put in a ton of creative effort and worked a lot of late nights for his success. It was great to see them putting the strike into context. In fact, a lot of stuff was nicely set in context.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:18 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah seconded, this was riveting.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:25 PM on September 16, 2015


I was stunned by the parallels with the life of Steve Jobs. There was even a Woz figure : Ub Iwerks actually created Mickey Mouse and was the real talent for the first few years.
posted by w0mbat at 12:26 AM on September 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


We're sorry, but this video is not available in your region due to right restrictions.
posted by rmmcclay at 1:35 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it raining where you are? It's coming down in torrents here.
posted by pracowity at 2:18 AM on September 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yep, this American Experience production set a new standard in pop biographical documentaries. I wouldn't have believed it, but it's even better than the recent exemplary docs on Woody Allen and Johnny Carson from American Masters, it's sister series on PBS.
posted by fairmettle at 3:03 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think my favorite bit was the speech Disney gave his employees right before they decided to strike. He was told that some of them were barely making a living and that someone even fainted on the job from malnutrition, so he goes out and starts some bullshit about, "All of you can't have nice chairs". That's some next-level, GOP-grade obliviousness, right there.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:18 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Walt's gift was vision. That was really it. He was human, he had flaws. He had no concept of scale or budget, he never understood that everybody wasn't willing to bet their entire life on things like he was -- it wasn't until the last decade of his life that he was truly financially which is why he never understood the situation that led to the strike -- he'd bet everything he owned on the company, why did they want more? He didn't get that they had different priorities.

But the vision is what makes Disney compelling, to this day, and the fastest way to start an argument in the Disney realm is to touch something of Walt's.

Comparing him to Steve Jobs is risky, of course, but there is a lot there. Both had a very clear vision, would not compromise, and weren't truly successful until they had the right guy to bring reality to the dream. For Steve Jobs, initially, it was Woz, in the Apple Renaissance, it was Tim Cook. For Walt Disney, it was Roy Disney, who managed to find both the money and the people to built first the Walt Disney Studios, then Disneyland, then Walt Disney World.

A similar dynamic happens later at Disney with Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. When they're together, it's the Disney Renaissance. The first movie out when they're in charge? The Lion King. But Frank Wells, the reality guy, dies in a helicopter accident and thus begins the reign of error. Roy Disney, when Walt dies, drifts sort of aimlessly, creating the mish-mash that is EPCOT, and the movies of the 1980s, and damn near kills Disney until the board forces him out and hands it to Eisner/Wells -- mainly to save it from Carl Ichan, who was going to buy it and carve it up into little bits. Disney as we know it would have died.

When Steve Jobs first was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I'm sure he looked it up online and saw the same thing everyone else sees -- the odds are horrible. And he saw, I'm guessing, the lessons of Roy Disney and Frank Wells. So, I think. he tried to make sure he'd have the Dreamer and the Reality guy in place. The Reality guy was easy -- he had Tim Cook. But the Dreamer? Who could that be.

Well, it's pretty clear -- that's when he starts pushing Jony Ive to the fore. Agree or not, he was the guy that Jobs picked to be the Dreamer at Apple. And when he passed, Tim Cook steps up as CEO, but Jony Ive steps into the guy who defines what Apple is.

It's working better than Disney did, so far.

I have more on this, but I have a plane to catch.
posted by eriko at 4:33 AM on September 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


Amazing to me how old he looked at the age of 65. Subjective, but it really seems like people aged so much faster back then.
posted by octothorpe at 6:32 AM on September 17, 2015


Amazing to me how old he looked at the age of 65. Subjective, but it really seems like people aged so much faster back then.

I suspect the historically high smoking rate had something to do with it. It wasn't until the late 70s that smoking rates in the US started to fall; before that it held steady at about 40-45% of the adult population for decades. Walt Disney himself was a chain smoker, and he eventually died of lung cancer.
posted by jedicus at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


When Steve Jobs first was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I'm sure he looked it up online and saw the same thing everyone else sees -- the odds are horrible.
eriko

Not to make this thread all about Jobs, but this actually isn't true in his case. He had a rare, far less aggressive form of pancreatic cancer that likely could have been treated. What killed him was that he put off medical treatment for nine months to pursue "alternative medicine" remedies. By the time he turned back to real medicine, it was too late.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:57 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I suspect the historically high smoking rate had something to do with it.

That, and people dressed and coiffed older compared to what Americans may now be used to. They seem to have gone from little kid with a yo-yo to sturdy Rotary Club member very quickly.
posted by pracowity at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty familiar with Disney's life and history, so I approached this series with an eye on how much might get glossed over or spun. Overall, I thought it was a more-or-less fair look into the man and his life. The first night was especially good, probably because it covered the era where Disney and his company and creations were pretty inseparable.

The second night, though, was a little more frustrating because, as Disney the man immersed himself in the creation of Disneyland, he became more and more removed from what Disney the film company was producing. It lightly touched on the bits that mattered (the entry into tv, the move into live-action film, etc) but that era of the 50s and 60s saw a real metamorphosis in feature animation, both technically and stylistically, and none of that was covered, rightfully, since this was about the man. Still, by this omission, Walt's remove from the animation side of the business was vividly illustrated.

Overall, it was a pretty good show.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Although I knew some about his appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (Damn Commies are ruining my business), I was really saddened by the whole effort around Song of The South. He seemed at first so earnest about retelling these stories that he grew up with and then was totally oblivious to the current day Jim Crow laws, even having the Premier in a Whites only movie house!
posted by Gungho at 7:46 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up near Disneyland, and have had mixed feelings about Walt all my life. I thought the show examined the contradictory facets of the man very well.
posted by Sassenach at 9:32 AM on September 17, 2015


I suspect that the historically high smoking rate had something to do with it.

That, and people dressed and coiffed older compared to what Americans may now be used to.


That, and the social consensus then was 60 was old and people acted accordingly.

And, remember, too, that the retirement age for Social Security was set at 65 in part because few people lived to that age. It has been raised since because too many live far longer nowadays. The cliche that 60 is the new 40 would make no sense until only very recently.

I recall flipping channels recently and landing on an early episode of Dragnet on the retro channel in which the detectives Friday and Gannon visited a woman in her 30s living with her mother. The latter was described as 65, had gray hair pulled in a tight and unstylish bun, wore a high collared house dress and acted frail and doddering. Nowadays the two women would be dressed alike and have nary a gray hair between them. Now get off my wheat sprouts.
posted by y2karl at 11:42 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've recently been watching the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu, and it's funny how often they make jokes about how Rhoda, played by 31-year-old, super-attractive Valerie Harper, is practically a schlubby old maid.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:53 PM on September 17, 2015


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