American Experience (1988– )
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Walt Disney - Part 1 

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A look at Walt Disney's career from early films to Disneyland to ideas for a new community (EPCOT) that was not realized before his death. A great insight into his motivations and values.


Sarah Colt


Mark Zwonitzer (telescript), Sarah Colt (story) | 1 more credit »





Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Oliver Platt ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Walt Disney ... Himself (archive footage)
Richard Schickel ... Himself
Don Hahn ... Himself
Neal Gabler ... Himself
Tom Sito ... Himself
Sarah Nilsen Sarah Nilsen ... Herself - Associate Professor of Film and Television Studies
Steven Watts Steven Watts ... Himself - Historian
Ron Suskind ... Himself - Journalist and Author
Eric Smoodin Eric Smoodin ... Himself
Roy Edward Disney ... Himself (archive footage)
Edna Disney Edna Disney ... Herself (archive footage)
Lillian Disney Lillian Disney ... Herself (archive footage)
Carmenita Higginbotham Carmenita Higginbotham ... Herself - Associate Professor, University of Virginia
Michael Barrier Michael Barrier ... Himself - Animation Historian


A look at Walt Disney's career from early films to Disneyland to ideas for a new community (EPCOT) that was not realized before his death. A great insight into his motivations and values.

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Release Date:

14 September 2015 (USA) See more »

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Sarah Colt Productions See more »
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User Reviews

a fair portrait with warts and all
7 June 2016 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

The Walt Disney American Experience PBS documentary is a good profile of a box of contradictions: a wholesome 'family' man and a rabid anti-communist conservative who was one of the heads of the Alliance that made things horrible for people in Hollywood for years (and what a speech he gives to his workers that made them organize *more* to strike in 1941); someone who claimed he wanted things simple and wasn't "literary" while creating one of the great abstract experimental films (Fantasia) and changing an artistic medium through his "fairy tales" and silly symphonies and Disneyland and so on.

This is a very fair document of a man who created many of the films that made children around the world cry and laugh and (occasionally, as in part of the forest sequence in Snow White) pee themselves, while also being "hard-driving" while being inspirational for his workers (or those who stuck around).

It's chock-a-block of great clips and somewhat obvious but nevertheless enlightening analyses of the "Big Five" first films (Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi and Fantasia), and on to things from television like Walt Disneyland TV and the park itself. Here's a man who could do anything and for the better part of his later life got obsessed with trains and led on to making THE amusement park of the world (or as one interviewee calls it "a living animation"). From a portrait like this it's somewhat easy to call him difficult (he likely was), but it's rare to get someone in America who was a genuine entertainer - whether it connected with everyone, as he aimed for whether it was a Donald Duck cartoon or the blades of grass in the park, he had to make it just so - while being so, uh, 'wholesome' (depending on who you talk to of course).

He's a wonderful bunch of contradictions, which is something we can relate to even as we're not all "visionaries" and such.

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