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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 // G // December 3, 2002
List Price: $24.99
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted December 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Walt: The Man Behind the Myth is an intimate look at the legend that created so many things, from cartoon characters and theme parks, the world over. From his first appearance on the weekly television show, Walt Disney Presents, Walt, as he was affectionately known, became an American household institution. With the fame came a certain amount of scrutiny and criticism. The rumors range from the mild (like a secret members only club at Disneyland) to the outrageous (Walt was an informer for the FBI and was frozen upon his death). To dispel some of these rumors, Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller had the idea for the film grow out of another project she was involved with at the time…
I got very frustrated and very angry about some nasty books that were published about him and the way the media received this as a new look at Walt Disney…he was a spy for the FBI and this and that. The best defense is a good offense I guess.

Richard and Kathleen Greene I had met when they did their Young People's biography some years before. We talked and they suggested we do a CD-ROM biography that used family film footage and music to make it very personal and we did. Then with the same group…we took it a couple steps, a big step, further and did the film for the same purpose. I just want people to know my dad, to have something out there accessible to everybody that's a record of the man he was, who he was and what he was all about. I think if people know him, there's not room in his life to fit in those things that are not true. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

With the idea for the documentary firmly in place, all that was left was to assemble the individual pieces into the whole. The documentary, as Disney Miller related, is an excellent record of who he was and that has been recreated in vivid detail with the numerous interviews on this DVD release. More people than can easily be named have been influenced by Disney and his films, combine those with the numerous stars of the Disney films and the people responsible for creating them and you've got an enormous amount of people all willing to talk about their memories of Walt Disney. In arranging all of the interviews, Disney Miller played a special part.

We (Miller and son Walt) were present at all the interviews and it was wonderful to meet some of these people I had never met and to see ones I hadn't seen in years. It was a very personal and emotional experience. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

As any famous person will undoubtedly attest, with a certain amount of celebrity comes a certain amount of unwanted attention and scrutiny. These things aren't avoided in the documentary, although they are only mentioned in passing. Disney testified to the house un-American Activities committee and was also accused of being a difficult boss and a racist. The interviews again refute some of more damaging claims, but most employees attribute his taskmaster like ways to the perfection that he imposed on all of his work. One interviewee called Disney an ordinary man with extraordinary talent, daughter Diane Disney Miller expands on that comment…

I think he was just that. He was very ordinary in many ways, which might be why his things found such great acceptance with the public, is because he knew what people would want. He had an extraordinary vision, energy, and ambition. It was not an ambition, and this is an important part, for wealth and power, it was an ambition to do what he wanted to do. To create the kind of entertainment that would be new and well received, to just go on and on in that vein. At the end of his life he was very absorbed with the Epcot concept, the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. That's where all of his excitement and ambition were focused at the end of his life. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

Disney's talent never went to his head and as his daughter relates, he continued to reinvest his money into building Disneyland and exploring new technology, as he did with the Epcot center in Florida…

I don't think it ever would have stopped. He would have kept reaching and dreaming. That was just his nature. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

Aside from a history of Disney and his films, the history of Disneyland is also explored, as well as the genesis for the idea, as Disney Miller explains…

In the beginning, when we were small, there was just the studio and Dad would take us to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, which was very near our home. Maybe we'd do that on Saturday and ride the merry-go-round, which we loved, and that's where began to envision the future of the amusement park, something where the whole family could be involved. It wouldn't just be Dad sitting on the bench, eating peanuts while his daughters went round and round on the merry-go-round. We would always go with him to the studio, too. It was such an exciting place. The elevators were automatic and that was a big thing back then in the '40's. I think a lot of Dads take their kids to the park on the weekends. It was very much like what everybody does. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

What viewers are left with when the film finishes is an exhaustive look at one of the true creative geniuses of the century. Archival footage and extensive interviews with everyone from Ray Bradbury to the original Disney animators paint an intimate portrait of this well know American icon.

Video: Comprised from various sources and many decades, the video quality is a mixed bag. Presented in a 1.66:1 widescreen transfer, the interview footage literally leaps from the screen. The archival footage shows it's age, but it has been cleaned up nicely and the color and contrast betray its age.

Audio: The Dolby Digital Surround track is clear and sounds perfectly well on the few musical moments in the film. Otherwise, the interview audio is quite crisp and works perfectly for the documentary.

Extras: This disc has several sets of extras and most deal with the making of the movie and additional interview footage from the film. Several short features like Walt: An Intimate View, Disney Legends and Actors, Directors and Friends use additional interview footage and the depth available on DVD to expand upon the portrait painted of Disney. The Making of Walt and Location Visits details the different locations and methods used to put together this nearly two-hour look at the man. Perhaps one of the nicest features on the disc are the home movie clips included. Disney's daughter Diane commented on the odd nature of putting your home movies out there for a world to see…

Yes, that was something when the Greene's suggested it, they said they had seen a film the children of Luci and Desi had done, and I though we can't do that, I just don't want to do that. I think it worked very well. My dad was the family photographer. He was the one behind the camera all the time. I think it shows what his home life was like, which is important. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

Thankfully her hesitancy faded and the films give an intimate look at the family that Disney so cherished and based most of his decisions on. Several of the clips feature the family on vacation, which Disney Miller recalls as being one of her favorite memories about her father…

It's not just one thing, but I think of travel with him. When we were teenagers, just barely; my sister having been twelve and I was fifteen when we took our first trip to Europe. I remember he was doing Treasure Island then, the one with Bob directed with Robert Nathan, but we had wonderful time to travel. Now that you mention it, this is something that's just occurring to me now, it was those times traveling with him. He would take us to places that he remembered from his ambulance driving days when he was 16-years old and places he'd been with Mother since then and then lunches in little English, country restaurants. Just lovely, lovely memories like that. We were always laughing and it was always fun. Hear Diane Disney Miller's Quote…

Overall: It's safe to say the Diane Disney Miller accomplished her main goal with the release of this film. It's a thorough look at one of the most famous and creative men of the last century. Several of the wild rumors and stories are put to rest with this documentary, while some of the more serious charges are touched upon, it would have been nice for a little more background on Disney's testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Despite that minor fact, it's one of the best and most complete looks at this legends life that you're likely to find.

DVDTalk.com would like to than Diane Disney Miller for taking the time to answer a few questions for us, which are interspersed throughout the article.

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