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The Early Life of Walt Disney (Hardback)

Social History Biographies White Owl

By Andrew Stanley Kiste
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526780805
Published: 31st August 2021


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RRP £19.99

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Most biographies of Walt Disney portray him as a creative genius who revolutionized the entertainment industry during the first half of the twentieth century. While he did transform the medium of animation, quickly becoming a household name during his late thirties, many biographies tell the story of Walt Disney’s development in a historical vacuum, separate from the historical events happening around him. However, while Walt Disney was certainly a history-influencer, historical events happening in America and the world also shaped the entertainment pioneer he would become.

As the twentieth century began, a new form of entertainment, “motion pictures,” would emerge, capturing the imagination of a young boy from Missouri. Over the next several years, Walt Disney would begin to hone his art skills, overcoming a number of hurdles including numerous relocations, a brutal paper route, a deployment to Europe in the days after World War One, numerous bankruptcies, and even homelessness. It was these adversities, along with the historical events that surrounded him, that would influence the man he would become.

For the first time ever, The Early Life of Walt Disney tells some important stories that help to flesh out the Disney history. How instrumental was Elias Disney’s career as a carpenter in Chicago? Why did the Disneys really leave Chicago to move to Marceline, Missouri? What types of jobs did Walt perform in France in the days following World War One? How was Walt influenced by the budding industry of animation in America? In addition to answering these questions, The Early Life of Walt Disney also includes a tour of the newly restored Walt Disney Birthplace, a new museum located in the childhood home of Walt Disney in Chicago, Illinois!

This was an interesting book. There was so much I didn’t know about him. This book seems to be well researched and gives an in-depth look at his early life. I think any big Disney fan would really enjoy this book. I certainly did.

NetGalley, Annette Johnson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a wonderful book about not so much Disney's creations, but the man himself, which is fascinating on its own.

NetGalley, Mike Michelsen

Today, the name 'Disney' evokes many things: images of a magical fairyland castle, a theme park or treasured memories of afternoons spent watching The Jungle Book or The Little Mermaid with parents or children.
Others might think first of a multi-billion dollar corporation which now owns everything from Star Wars to The Muppets.
Both views are valid.
A century ago, however, Disney was not yet a thing but a young man, a man struggling to establish himself in life and still completely unknown. Walt, known as "Walter' for most of his childhood, always loved to draw and appreciated a good story, whether it was the play, Peter Pan, early silent versions of Snow White at the cinema or the exaggerated tales of Civil War heroism told to him by his grandfather.
Sadly, Walters' father, Elias was a failure as both as a farmer and a construction contractor. He would regularly beat his sons severely. The book is well researched, sometimes going into rather excessive detail about wider topics such as the 1919 Spanish Influenza and late 19th century labour disputes.
The story ends with Walt finally on the verge of his first great success. An American tale with a happy ending.

NetGalley, Chris Hallam

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

You can see that his early life really did develop Walt into quite the creative character who produced the animation that we have all loved for decades.

I'm so interested to tour Walt Disney's birthplace in Chicago.

It really does make a lot of sense to have a separate book about Walt's early life.

NetGalley, Colleen Mitchell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I think most people will have heard of Walt Disney so I was curious to find out more about him.

His family can be traced back to 1066 in France. Its gives a great insight about how and why his family moved to America and the challenges they faced.

This book was written by an historian who delved deep into his family and spoke of what it was like in his surroundings. When the family emigrated to Chicago we are told what life was like when they arrived and when and why they left. It follows much of his private life as well as the entertainment industry he is famous for.

This is more than a book about Walt Disney it's a well researched and well written book of life 'around' Walt Disney.

NetGalley, Zoe Morton

I had just finished watching The Imagineering Story on Disney+, so finding this biography of the early years of Walt Disney was perfect timing! It’s a really interesting, rich and detailed book. You can easily picture what his life was like at the time. It’s well written and historically well researched, although in some parts, it felt less about Walt and more about the historical context. Overall, I really enjoyed this read, it’s well written and fast-paced. You get a good sense of where he came from and how he came about creating the biggest entertainment empire worldwide.

NetGalley, Caroline D. (La Biblio de Caro)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge Disney fan and was excited to receive an advanced copy. This book is a must for Disney fans and those who want to learn more about the man who created an American icon, Mickey Mouse.

NetGalley, Sheri Page

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Over the years, I've read a fair share of biographies on Walt. But I've never read one as detailed and in-depth as this one. Where most biographies focus on Walt the storyteller and the history of the Disney empire, this book focuses more on other (historical) events that contributed to shaping the man that we ultimately have come to known as Uncle Walt. From the origins of the name Disney (dating as far back as 1066), to Elias Disney's multiple business failures, to the high criminality rate in Walt's birth place Chicago which let to the family moving to Marceline, to his deployment to Europe in the days after World War One, to the Spanish Influenza, to him becoming homeless while fighting for his dream against all odds and much more.

It was truly one of the most interesting Walt Disney biographies I've ever read, and I highly recommend it to all my fellow Disney fans!

NetGalley, Nikki van Zoom

About Andrew Stanley Kiste

Andrew Kiste is a historian and high school teacher who has written about the fascinating stories of the Walt Disney Company. He is the author of the popular book series, A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World and Walt Disney and the 1964-1965 New York Worlds Fair. He lives in North Carolina with his family.

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