Disney vs. Disney

Photo of Mickey & Friend via Didier Ghez's excellent Disney History.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was reading Neal Gabler's biography on Walt Disney, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. It took me nearly 3 months because the book is a beast, not to mention it was so hard for me to eek any sort of time out of my busy schedule in order to read it. The book has caused quite a stir among animators and historians in regards to how Gabler portrays Disney, so of course this piqued my interest. What piqued my interest even further was the fact that one of said historians was Michael Barrier, who in fact recently wrote his own biography of Walt Disney: The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. Being a frequent reader of Barrier's blog/site, I was made very aware of his thoughts and opinions about Gabler's book. Let's put it this way: he has a few problems with it. And he doesn't hold back.

Reading his posts and others' comments on various blogs and sites, I decided to try out something. I decided to first read Gabler's bio on Disney and then read Barrier's. Maybe do a compare & contrast and offer my thoughts on both books. I might even conduct an interview with Barrier himself, to get his thoughts on writing a biography of a figure so central to the animation industry past and present; one that's so mired in curiosity and controversy.

Anyway, just thought I'd clue you in on all this. I'm currently in the middle of Barrier's book now and I can say that honestly, it's an entirely different book from Gabler's. Stay tuned.

Barrier's previous book is Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, a massive tome that practically took over 25 years to write, the fruit of over 200 interviews with animation artists and creators. I highly recommend this book to those who crave to know more about how animation got started and how it flourished during the Golden Age.

Hey, you can help me out by clicking and ordering here:


  1. I'd be interested in hearing more about your opinion of the Gabler book. I'm reading Barrier's "Animated Man" now.

    I'm barely 1/4 of the way through, but I guess I'm wishing for a bit more of a personal portrait of Disney. The history of the studio is interesting, but without wishing for gossip. I do yearn for more character color, more about the Disney the person.

  2. There are similar goings-on, of course you're aware, with the new Charles Schulz bio, which is looking more and more like a work of omission. Who's working on the Jenkins bio right now?

  3. I started reading Bob Thomas's bio on Disney around the time Gabler's book came out. I started reading Gabler's book as well, and noticed a few similarities. I only got a 1/4 thru them both, though. I did notice how both touched on a particular event, but had their own extra bits of information surrounding it. Then throw in the Disney DVD biopic, and you get more info. You sort of get a view from all angles. Is this what you are noticing with Barrier's and Gabler's books? I have not yet picked up "The Animated Man."