The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney

The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney

by Michael Barrier
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The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney by Michael Barrier

Walt Disney (1901-1966) was one of the most significant creative forces of the twentieth century, a man who made a lasting impact on the art of the animated film, the history of American business, and the evolution of twentieth-century American culture. He was both a creative visionary and a dynamic entrepreneur, roles whose demands he often could not reconcile.

In his compelling new biography, noted animation historian Michael Barrier avoids the well-traveled paths of previous biographers, who have tended to portray a blemish-free Disney or to indulge in lurid speculation.
Instead, he takes the full measure of the man in his many aspects. A consummate storyteller, Barrier describes how Disney transformed himself from Midwestern farm boy to scrambling young businessman to pioneering artist and, finally, to entrepreneur on a grand scale. Barrier describes in absorbing detail how Disney synchronized sound with animation in Steamboat Willie; created in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sympathetic cartoon characters whose appeal rivaled that of the best live-action performers; grasped television’s true potential as an unparalleled promotional device; and—not least—parlayed a backyard railroad into the Disneyland juggernaut.

Based on decades of painstaking research in the Disney studio’s archives and dozens of public and private archives in the United States and Europe, The Animated Man offers freshly documented and illuminating accounts of Disney’s childhood and young adulthood in rural Missouri and Kansas City. It sheds new light on such crucial episodes in Disney’s life as the devastating 1941 strike at his studio, when his ambitions as artist and entrepreneur first came into serious conflict.

Beginning in 1969, two and a half years after Disney’s death, Barrier recorded long interviews with more than 150 people who worked alongside Disney, some as early as 1922. Now almost all deceased, only a few were ever interviewed for other books. Barrier juxtaposes Disney’s own recollections against the memories of those other players to great effect. What emerges is a portrait of Walt Disney as a flawed but fascinating artist, one whose imaginative leaps allowed him to vault ahead of the competition and produce work that even today commands the attention of audiences worldwide.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520241176
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/30/2007
Series: Simpson Book in the Humanities Ser.
Pages: 411
Sales rank: 1,056,794
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Michael Barrier founded and edited Funnyworld, the first serious magazine devoted to animation and the comics. He is the author of Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age (1999).

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The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though Bob Thomas' official bio has been the established source of info on Walt Disney since it came out, Michael Barrier's book gives us an insight in what drove Walt in his search of excellence. It shows that Walt was a real person with real ideals and dreams, and the personal make-up to make these come true. Barrier is an animation scholar of highest degree, and one of the few who personally interviewed many of the key artists that worked for Walt. He has justly found Walt to be intensely interested in whatever he got involved in, be it animation, theme parks, trains or his Gulfstream airplane. We learn to like Walt, and I do feel closer to him after having read this book. A lot of effort has been put into marketing Neil Gabler's bio, but I must say I found Barrier's book much more readable and enjoyable. Gabler gives dry facts and clearly despises his subject 'Disney's daughter Diane was outraged by Gabler's making Walt sound like a nutcase', while Barrier is truly interested in him - and we feel this, too! My advise is to FIRST read Barrier's book for the continuity and insight he gives us, THEN, if you must, read Gabler for the dry facts - after getting seven pages of errata on Gabler's book from Barrier's website. Note that the quote by an anonymous reviewer here does not appear in Barrier's book and is clearly only given to put the book in a bad light. This book deserves the opposite: it should be read by all Disney-interested readers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read the book that was banned by the Disney Legal Department -- banned even though every aspect of the book is proven factual and truthful. What is it that the Disney Corporation doesn't want you to know about Walt Disney? The Animated Man -- a different Walt Disney.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Barrier's recent book on Walt Disney continues his lifelong quest of exploring the world of animation in depth behind the scenes. To me, Barrier is in an elite class of historians along with John Canemaker, Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck. His comprehensive approach to the subject is truly second to none. Let's be honest, not a lot of us who have followed feebly in his footsteps would be here if it weren't for Funnyworld and his role in putting it before us so ably for all those years. And that includes a lot of the folks who regularly spew fire and ice on the webblogs regarding this new book of his. I don't always agree with Mike's opinions. Certainly not. That's okay with me. He absolutely hated an animation book that I co-wrote. Just hated it! And that hurt. It hurts when someone you admire doesn't like what you created with such loving earnestness, but truly, it was understandable because he did so based on his own opinions in the context of his own research, environment, experience and taste. Once I took a step back and saw it in that light, I was truly okay with that. Barrier has earned that right in my eyes. It is those very attributes (research, environment, experience and taste) that inform and enlighten the incisive writing of 'The Animated Man' to tell the story of Walt Disney as no other has done before or since. Opinions are fleeting things. They will differ from person to person, and should. I can argue what I find funny, or enjoyable, or even good in animation with Barrier night and day but what I can't and won't argue with is the scholarship and professionalism that he exhibits throughout 'The Animated Man' with such academic ease and grace. This is truly one of the most comprehensive biographies ever written regarding Walt Disney the man himself. When other biographies come and go, this is the one that will last the ages as the definitive biography for all time. And rightly so. Regardless of anyone's opinion... including mine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael Barrier's book THE ANIMATED MAN is a very enjoyable read, in fact in some ways an eye opener with Michael having drawn from material that most other biographers would not. In this book, the reader can at times view Walt through the eyes of the people he and his brother Roy did business with. The book feels more balanced than many and makes no bones about some of Walt's not so successful projects. Let's not forget that even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have made some real 'clunky' films. But with the output of the Disney Studio that was unavoidable, yet in no way diminishes Walt Disney's genius, great success and importance in recent history. Walt Disney was human, and that is what I wanted when reading Michael Barrier's THE ANIMATED MAN!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I emailed the following to Michael Barrier in May 2007: Much thanks for 'The Animated Man.' I was able to read it during my recent 2 weeks away. It was great to read: you covered the sweep of Disney's life but wrote only about that which you could reasonably substantiate--your included comments about academic writing on Disney also apply to animation practitioners [book reviewers?] who riff on Disney with any whacky idea whether provable or not. Thanks for your book's completeness, clarity, and brevity. I repeat now, in January 2008, that 'The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney' is the most even-handed and fact-based biography of Disney I've read, skim-read, perused, etc. Barrier presents only documentable work, achievements, and challenges in an engaging narrative that portrays Walt Disney as a creative, risk-taking, productive, resourceful, and successful man. I actually found the most compelling feature of 'The Animated Man' to be the fact that Barrier didn't try to guess/make-up what was in Walt's mind and heart--no one except Disney would know that and it unrealistic and likely dishonest to pretend anyone else could know that. If you want a biography of Disney that portrays him as 'some kind of god' or 'some kind of devil,' you won't find that in Michael Barrier's 'The Animated Man.' But if you want a great read of a balanced and fact-based biography of an American success and icon, then read 'The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't think of myself as an animation 'historian', but in my shear life-long love of the medium I think I've read every biography on Walt Disney published. There have been a couple of excellent ones, but many more have been disastrous. Too many have either tried to depict the man in a syrupy sweet light so that the Disney 'image' continues on or else they have colored him in the darkest light possible to try to create a stir. Too infrequently are the books written based wholly on fact and interpreted - only - from the facts. I think Michael Barrier's 'The Animated Man' may be the first to fully depict the man's life separate from the stories that have been generated by the Disney machine. A clear and accurate telling makes the book finally one you can accept as true. Barrier colors the making of the films through Disney's life using data he has culled from a lifetime of work, and his assessment of the animated and live action films is fair and honest. It's a page-turner of a book that got me energized about my medium - animation - while giving me an accuracy all too rare for the subject. This is a superior book and should be read by all those who are interested in either animation or the REAL Disney.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Animation Historian Michael Barrier's new book ¿The Animated Man: A life of Walt Disney¿ comes as close as any to capturing the essence of the enigmatic showman. He weaves solid storytelling 'also Walt¿s acknowledged genius' with factual research that strips off the corporate veneer to reveal a real human with faults, talents, guile, and a relentless thirst for innovation. Copiously annotated, Barrier¿s book mines many resources to construct an intelligent portrait of a man many know of but few really knew. As a fellow Disney historian, I highly recommend it. --Michael Broggie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I told all my friend that i kmew alot about walt disney and they started asking me questions about him and i ansewred all ther question! It hasbalot of information on what he liked, his child hood, his childens names, and more! I woupd recomend this book to everyone! This is one of my favorite books! (and i hate reading) It is so worth buying! I would give this book like 100 stars if i could!!! - Book Beauty ¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿•• ¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••¿¿••
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the beginning I was shocked and dismayed by many of the revelations. But then I decided well he was human, and he has been made into some kind of god, with no hint of the real live human who was Walt Disney. So I accepted these less than pleasant revelations as probably a pretty accurate reflection of the real man. But, time and time again when there was a chance to portray a situation with even the slightest bit of what must have been Walt's perspective the author uses someone else's perspective instead. As a result it basically trashes Walt Disney on every aspect of his life from childhood to his death. While all of the historical facts seem to be accurate to a tee, it is the perspective that troubles me. Nowhere is there a representation of what was in Walt's mind, and heart. The book portrays him as heartless, and mean spirited. I know he was not exactly the Walt I always pictured, but I also know that in many of the situations mentioned in the book which were twisted to reflect badly on him, I actually would have felt or done the same thing he did. So I started to feel attacked myself. This authors tone was such, that I am left with the feeling that his only motivation for writing this biography was to destroy everything that we love about the Disney company and Walt himself. The author never even said one kind word about any Disney movie 'I mean he trashed every animated, live action, television show, even theme park rides and attractions in the process of trashing Walt' His motivation clearly was to make it look as though everything Walt touched was worse for his attention. That is a load of crap, and we all know it. The author actually used those words 'everything Walt touched was worse for the attention he gave it.' When I read that I was mad as a wet hen, it is a bold-faced lie that nothing Walt ever did was better off because of his attenion. The facts are great, but I can no longer accept this authors portrayal of Walt's character. Not a good book, No Disney fan should ever read this book unless they can stand to be stabbed in the heart. Facts are true, portrayals are always slanted to make him look evil. Ugly portrayal. And even if it were completely true, what makes the author think people want Walt Disney to be trashed. He is an American Icon.