Frank McLynn

Top Drawer

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

By

Aurum 851pp £30 order from our bookshop

To end one’s life a household name, having created at least one modern archetype (Mickey Mouse) and almost single-handedly originated the art of cinematic animation, bespeaks high talent, and I personally would be prepared to hand Disney the overused accolade ‘genius’ on the strength of his first four feature-length cartoons: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi. Never the most brilliant draughtsman or even a top-flight director, Disney made his mark more like a great conductor, enabling the talents of others to cohere into a greater whole. As a story editor he was incomparable, knowing exactly what would work and what would not, having a ‘green fingers’ instinct for animated visuals and a Grimm-like imagination that alchemised his animated fairy tales. Critics have sometimes tried to cut Disney down to mere impresario size, but the attempts are always unconvincing. As one of his collaborators said, with reference to Snow White: ‘If Walt had started in some different place at the same time with a different bunch of guys, the result would have been more or less along the same lines.’ Disney was also the most creative studio boss there has ever been in Hollywood, for animation brilliantly satisfied both his imagination and his pronounced will to power; in animation one can exercise the power of a god. As Hitchcock wryly commented: ‘Disney has the best casting. If he doesn’t like an actor, he just tears him up.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,