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Book Review: The Early Life of Walt Disney

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I’m always up for a good biography to read and The Early Life of Walt Disney doesn’t disappoint. Read on for a full review of Andrew Kiste’s The Early Life of Walt Disney, published by Pen and Sword.

About The Early Life of Walt Disney

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Book Review: The Early Life of Walt Disney

In The Early Life of Walt Disney, author Andrew Kiste brings in some historical context to what the Disney family experienced in the early days of growing their family. Elias Disney , the patriarch of the Disney family, was a talented carpenter who moved his family to Chicago. But even after establishing their home, a crime wave helped Elias Disney decide to move his family to Marceline, Missouri. What Elias saw happening with the youth of the neighborhood, the situation really pushed him to move his family away from the city and into a more stable situation where teens were expected to work rather than to cause trouble. Andrew Kiste meticulously researched the early life of Disney and I really enjoyed reading about the Disney family and their experience designing and building their homes in Chicago.

It’s Elias’s relationship with his children that I think drives the narrative in the early pages of the book. His expectations and disciplinary style is tempered by his wife Flora and when their children get older, it is Flora that encourages Walt’s career even as he was struggling and practically penniless.

Fresh off a visit to the Walt Disney Family museum in San Francisco, I was interested in Walt’s service with the red cross in World War I. Kiste doesn’t disappoint, detailing how Disney lied about his age to get accepted into service and to follow his older brother Roy. There’s a sense of naiveté when Walt’s service begins and his experiences in France certainly affect Walt in terms of knowing what he wants to do with his life. By the end of his deployment to Europe, he looks forward to heading home to the savings his mother had kept for him and a return to normal life.

Walt’s struggles with getting regular art and marketing work eventually lead him to moving to California to follow Roy who learned that the California air was better for his health. Walt Disney’s career as a live-action film director kicks off with his Alice series and marrying Lillian Bounds.

The Early Life of Walt Disney is a fascinating book that not only traces Walt Disney’s early life but also weaves in historical events to help explain why Disney made some major decisions like moving west or joining the Red Cross. Also included are interesting photos of the former homes of the Disney family and some neighborhood shots that help the reader visualize what life was life for Disney in Marceline, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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