Walt Before Mickey tells the story of one of the greatest, imaginative minds of all time, Walt Disney… before the creation of Mickey Mouse.
When I started reading Walt Before Mickey, I had high hopes; I’m a huge fan of biographies as well as anything to do with the Disney empire. I knew a lot about Walt after the creation of Mickey, but knew very little about his time between WWI and Steamboat Willie. While I learned a lot of facts surrounding Disney’s partnerships and working relationships, the story felt like just that, a list of facts rather than a retelling of Disney’s life.
Below is a review of the 2014 non-fiction book by Timothy Susanin. If you plan to read the Walt Disney biography for yourself, you may not want to read any further…
Susanin’s book is an account of Walt Disney’s life in his early to late 20s. Walt is young and optimistic, having survived his time in World War I. But as Walt and Roy Disney try to get a studio off the ground, Walt finds the road to success a very difficult one.
From Disney’s days at Laugh-O-Gram studios through Walt Disney Studios, Disney surrounded himself with good friends and talented people. He hired some of the best men (and women!) in the industry and the studio talent was recognized almost immediately. Despite creative success, cash-flow was often a problem; this often left the Disney brothers, as well as their employees, living on the edge of poverty.
The book by Susanin is informative and gives an account of a time period in Disney’s life that is often overlooked. And while the information is well thought out, the writing often feels cold and more like an Wikipedia article than a biographical retelling. This could be a matter of personal preference; I prefer biographies that read more like a novel and this read more like a high school history book. Still, I learned a great deal about one of the most creative men in entertainment.