For those of us born after 1966, Walt Disney is a mythical figure. Having never been alive at the same time as the father of Mickey Mouse, the animated feature and modern theme parks, Walt seems more like a symbol of wholesome family entertainment than a real person.
Walter Elias Disney was an animator, a businessman and a visionary who changed the world. He rose from a humble upbringing in the Midwest to starting one of the largest corporations in the world. Tonight, PBS’ “American Experience” takes us on a tour of Walt’s life and career in a candid two-part, four-hour documentary. Having watched nearly every “American Experience” produced, I’m incredibly excited for this new take.
There aren’t many people still around who knew the real Walt Disney. Walt kept his personal life separated from his public persona. Walt was well aware of this fact, saying once,
“‘I’m not Walt Disney,’ he once told a friend. ‘I do a lot of things Walt Disney wouldn’t do. Walt Disney doesn’t smoke. I smoke. Walt Disney doesn’t drink. I drink.’”
As the years have passed, there are fewer and fewer people who collaborated with Walt. Composer Richard Sherman, biographer Neal Gabler and Disney’s son-in-law Ron Miller are among the interviewees featured in the program. In an unprecedented move, the Walt Disney Company opened the vaults to PBS and gave filmmakers access to never-before-seen archival footage of Disney at work and behind-the-scenes footage of some of Disney’s classic films. “American Experience: Walt Disney” airs at 9 p.m. ET on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 14 and 15.