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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Walt The Man Behind The Myth
Walt The Man Behind The Myth
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // March 2, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

This 2001 Disney-produced documentary on Walt Disney himself isn't a flawless work, but it's still a piece that focuses on delivering an exceptional amount of information on its subject. While those who are fans of animation might be familiar with much of this animation, I really found most of what this documentary had to offer new and fascinating. "Walt: the Man Behind The Myth" gives a solid overview of Walt's career, going into depth about the highlights and occasionally offering glimpses into some of the bad - and even sometimes tragic - times and controversies.

This piece offers interviews from a legion of people, including members of Disney's family, animators (including legends Joe Grant, Ward Kimball, John Hench, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Marc Davis) actors and historians. Through their interviews and a wealth of fascinating archive footage, we travel throughout Walt's history, from his childhood to his early business ventures on his way towards Hollywood success. There's some fun stories, as we learn that Walt's mother came up with the Mickey name when Disney decided that his new character would be a mouse. There's also interesting sections that deal with the addition of sound to the animation, Walt's sending his animators back to school to add to their talents and later on in the documentary, the opening of Disney world.

Concerns - some dry interviews and slow points - aside, this is still a well-made documentary that has been written, edited and directed by Jean-Pierre Isbouts, whose only credit is this feature. Although most of the documentary does focus on the high points, there are some notable instances where the studio seemed to be sinking, even though the studio was developing some features that were soon to be considered classics. We learn quite a bit about animation history and the way that Walt ran the studios, as well.

"The Man Behind the Myth" may not be without faults, but it's a very good documentary that provides an impressive amount of archive footage and achieves a fine and inspiring look at Walt Disney's life and career.


The DVD

Note: I recieved a review copy of this DVD, but was surprised to find that none of the usual online retailers have it listed. Even Disney's website states that this documentary is not on DVD yet (although it is on VHS and the website's DVD page does list the features included here), which makes this copy's existence a mystery. When I find out more information about the film's DVD release, this review will be updated.

ed note: the DVD is now available outside of the Diney theme parks

VIDEO: Surprisingly, Disney presents this documentary in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, although the title is not anamorphic. Sharpness and detail are generally standard, as although the presentation doesn't boast fine detail, images certainly don't look undefined, either. The archive footage also makes for a varied appearance, although the footage is largely in good shape.

Aside from the mild wear in some of the archive footage, I had few complaints about the image quality. Some very slight artifacts were visible in some of the new interviews, while some shimmer was present on occasion, as well. The piece is a mixture of black & white and color and both aspects were presented quite well: colors appeared bright and clean, while the black and white footage didn't look faded. A very nice transfer.

SOUND: The stereo soundtrack perfectly captures the interviews throughout the documentary.

MENUS: Disney has provided a beautiful - and almost moving - animated main menu that puts images from the documentary to use as the background.

EXTRAS: The first supplement is "Walt: An Intimate View", a 28-minute piece that seems like deleted footage from the documentary itself. It mainly provides additional interviews, but there are some additional archive clips, as well. This is separated into a few sections, the first of which is a fun section where the participants talk about what it was like to meet Walt Disney for the first time.

We're then offered a "Making Of" for the documentary itself. This 8-minute featurette provides interviews with members of the documentary crew, who discuss their approach to telling the story of Walt Disney. "Actors, Directors and Friends" offers additional short interviews with Dick Van Dyke, Ray Bradbury, Ken Anakin, Richard Fleisher, Art Linklater and Dean Jones. These interviews last a few minutes each.

"Disney Legends" offers a similar set of short interviews, only this time we hear from legendary animators Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Joe Grant, Ward Kimball and John Hench. "Location Visits" includes some additional short pieces about locations in the documentary, while Home Movies offers a rare chance to see some of Walt's home movies. Last, but not least, there's a DVD-ROM weblink to more information about Walt Disney.

Final Thoughts: "The Man Behind the Myth" is a terrific look at Walt Disney, providing a fine mixture of interesting archive footage and interviews from over 70 people. Disney/animation fans who are interested in Disney's career should seek out this DVD when (hopefully sooner than later) it is released. Highly recommended.

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