The Early Life of Walt Disney written by Andrew Stanley Kiste and published by White Owl Books – £25 – Hardback – Pages 272

Most biographies of Walt Disney portray him as a creative genius who revolutionized the entertainment industry during the first half of the twentieth century. While he did transform the medium of animation, quickly becoming a household name during his late thirties, many biographies tell the story of Walt Disney’s development in a historical vacuum, separate from the historical events happening around him. However, while Walt Disney was certainly a history-influencer, historical events happening in America and the world also shaped the entertainment pioneer he would become.

As the twentieth century began, a new form of entertainment, “motion pictures,” would emerge, capturing the imagination of a young boy from Missouri. Over the next several years, Walt Disney would begin to hone his art skills, overcoming a number of hurdles including numerous relocations, a brutal paper route, a deployment to Europe in the days after World War One, numerous bankruptcies, and even homelessness. It was these adversities, along with the historical events that surrounded him, that would influence the man he would become.

For the first time ever, The Early Life of Walt Disney tells some important stories that help to flesh out the Disney history. How instrumental was Elias Disney’s career as a carpenter in Chicago? Why did the Disneys really leave Chicago to move to Marceline, Missouri? What types of jobs did Walt perform in France in the days following World War One? How was Walt influenced by the budding industry of animation in America? In addition to answering these questions, The Early Life of Walt Disney also includes a tour of the newly restored Walt Disney Birthplace, a new museum located in the childhood home of Walt Disney in Chicago, Illinois!

I must admit that when I was asked if I wanted to review this book I was in two minds, eventually I accepted because I actually enjoy reading the background story to people to see the origins of where they came from, and what made them who they became. For some reason, I had thought he was a bit well to do but it was really fascinating to learn about a young hardworking man who had to work hard to achieve what he did and it wasn’t all served up on a plate to him. It was great to see how being bankrupt a number of times, serving his country in WWI and then working through ‘normal’ jobs to eventually get to where he wanted was inspiring stuff. A really good read I would think for anyone really. I highly recommend it.