Roy Disney was born in 1893, a full eight years before his brother Walt. Despite the age gap, the brothers were from the beginning almost inseparable. Roy joined the Navy during WWI, but following his discharge discovered he had tuberculosis. His search for a suitable climate for recovery brought him to California, where he was soon joined by Walt, who had already set up his first cartoon film company, Laugh-O-Gram. With Walt supplying the vision, Roy was brought onboard to handle the finances. Together they established the Walt Disney Company; by himself, Walt came up with a signature character named Mortimer Mouse, who made his debut as Mickey in the film Plane Crazy. Once he reappeared in his first talkie, Steamboat Willie, an American cartoon icon was born. Thomas (Walt Disney: An American Original) depicts the business acumen of Roy in such matters as licensing, the forming of the original Mickey Mouse Clubs and the retention of TV rights of Disney products as early as the 1930s. Thomas covers as well Roy's part in the company's going public; its financial restructuring after WWII; the production of feature films like Fantasia; and the creation of Disneyland, leading to the Florida land-buy necessary for DisneyWorld, which opened just before Roy's death in 1971. This is a highly entertaining book that will interest a business readership in addition to fans of Disney. 16 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. (July) FYI: Hyperion, a Disney company, appears to have taken its name from the first location of the Walt Disney Studios, 2719 Hyperion Avenue in downtown L.A.
Thomas (Disney's Art of Animation, LJ 11/15/91) offers both a family history of Walt and older brother Roy, the financial genius behind the Disney enterprises, and a business history of those enterprises. Beginning with the family's English and Irish origins, he moves smoothly from the years of hard farm work and often failed business starts in the Midwest through Walt's earliest animation attempts, dealings with often unscrupulous promoters and distributors, and move West to his teaming up with Roy and their progress from Mickey Mouse to Disneyland. While some of the story may be familiar, details about financial dealings such as those with Bank of America (an early and substantial backer) add another dimension to the Disney saga. Well written and full of insights into the personal lives of both Roy and Walt, this book is recommended for public libraries.Joseph Toschik, Half Moon Bay P.L., CA
This clumsy chronology. . .refuses to be either a full biography . .or an in-depth business book. . . .Instead, it sits stubbornly on the fence, trying vainly to be both. -- Entertainment Weekly
A fascinating new book...a candid, close look at the other pillar of the Disney empire.
Thomas presents a vivid, Technicolor account of the one-time farm boys and the empire they built.
An unrevealing, workmanlike biography of Walt Disney's older brother, Roy, the financial brains behind Disney's success. With only a high school diploma and a handful of years as a bank teller, Roy Disney helped transform Disney from a storefront operation into one of America's preeminent corporations. While Walt was the visionary and the driving creative force (he conceived of everything from feature-length animated films to Disneyland), Roy was responsible for finding the money to pay for it all. It was Roy who had to attend to the bottom line that his brother so scorned, who had to negotiate all the complex deals and loans, who had to pursue the legions of copyright violators and manage the far-flung sales force. His genial, plainspoken midwestern demeanor camouflaged a tough, canny deal-maker and a keen mind for detail. It was Roy, for example, who as far back as the 1930s insisted on holding onto television rights. Considering their differing temperaments and responsibilities, it isn't surprising that the brothers did not always see eye to eye. The studio tended to divide into Waltþs "boys" and Roy's "boys"; there were periods when the brothers quarreled bitterly and communicated only in memos. But they always patched up their differences, and after Walt's death, Roy postponed his retirement to fulfill his brother's vision for CalArts and Walt Disney World. Published by Hyperion, a division of Disney, this authorized account has the (inevitably?) sanitized air of a self-serving corporate history about it. Thomas (Clown Prince of Hollywood, 1990, etc.) never manages to get a real feel for his subject and, perhaps because he wrote a biography of Walt, tends to let him dominatethroughout. The story's moral: Genius is seldom solitary and is usually in need of money.