Walt Disney: American Icon

Animator, film maker and entrepreneur, Walt Disney transformed the film and entertainment industries. Learn more about this American icon and his art in these books at the Library.

Biographies | His art | His impact

Related event:
Meet the Past: Walt Disney, May 5


Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination
By Neal Gabler
The author whose biography of Walter Winchell was named best nonfiction book of 1994 by Time now presents the definitive biography of one of the most important figures in 20th-century American entertainment and culture.

The Disney Version book jacket

The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art, and Commerce of Walt Disney
By Richard Schickel
Richard Schickel's classic history of Walt Disney's life and times was the first to look behind the carefully nurtured avuncular image of the man. Some howled in protest at this criticism of their hero, but they failed to see that Mr. Schickel's book acknowledged Disney's profound influence on American popular culture. The Disney Version takes us from Walt's wandering youth through the desperate gamble of opening his own animation studio, his daring decision to crash Hollywood, the sudden and inspired invention of Mickey Mouse - and on to the creation of a multimillion-dollar international entertainment empire. Throughout, Mr. Schickel asks penetrating questions about Disney's achievements and shortcomings, and about the enormous popularity of the "Disney version".

Walt Disney's Missouri: The Roots of a Creative Genius
By Brian Burnes, Robert W. Butler and Dan Viets; edited by Donna Martin
Walt Disney lived in Marceline, Missouri, and Kansas City for most of his youth. This illustrated work reveals Disney’s connections to this state.

Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince: A Biography
By Marc Eliot
This account examines the real man behind the myth, based on never-before-published information – including top secret FBI files. Eliot's revelatory account of Walt Disney is told against a panoramic view of Hollywood's golden age of glamour and back door politics.

His art

The Art of Walt Disney book jacket

The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms
By Christopher Finch
Drawing on unfettered access to Disney artists and archives, Finch chronicles every facet of Disney art, including animation, live-action, and theme parks – from Mickey's 1928 debut to Fantasia 2000.

Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney
By Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman
Walt Disney and his friends made more than ninety silent cartoons between 1921 and 1928. This well-illustrated book critically examines these films within a historical context.

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation
By Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Written by Disney insiders, this "bible" of animation has become a legend in itself. This volume seeks to explain the process that makes Disney's animation unique – what sets the work of the Disney studios apart from other animation products. Here are original sketches of best-loved Disney characters, how memorable movie sequences were made, and anecdotes about working with Walt.

His impact

 Disney and the End of Innocence book jacket

The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence
By Henry A. Giroux
How are children – and their parents – affected by the world's most influential corporation? Henry Giroux explores the surprisingly diverse ways in which Disney, while hiding behind a cloak of innocence and entertainment, strives to dominate global media and shape the desires, needs, and futures of today's children.

The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life
By Steven Watts
Part biography and part cultural analysis, The Magic Kingdom sheds light on the cultural icon of "Uncle Walt". Watts also digs deeply into Disney's private life, investigating his roles as husband, father, and brother, and provides fresh insight into his peculiar psyche – his genuine folksiness and warmth, his domineering treatment of colleagues and friends, his deepest prejudices and passions.

Walt Disney: A Bio-Bibliography
By Kathy Merlock Jackson
In addition to a complete biography, Jackson explores Walt Disney's impact on American mass media and popular culture by focusing on animation, live-action film, documentary film, television, books, comic books, magazines, sheet music and recordings, theme parks, business, and the over-all Disney vision.

Some book descriptions provided by BookLetters.