Mr. Gabler told me one of Disney's daughters, Diane, did not want the book to ignore or paper over her father's faults. Though Diane loved her father, Mr. Gabler says she asked him to present the authentic Walt Disney. He has done so, in an exhaustively researched and beautifully written work that is among the finest biographies I have ever read.
Disney's many disappointments, failures and betrayals did not derail him from pursuing his dreams. In fact, he created an alternative universe to which he not only invited the world, but into which he placed himself for protection. He controlled this fantasy world, and it was the only place in which he felt secure from people and ideas hostile to himself and his beliefs. "For all his outward sociability," writes Mr. Gabler, "associates found him deeply private, complex, often moody and finally opaque. No one seemed to know him."
Probably no American has escaped, indeed could escape, the Disney influence. For my generation, Disney's presence and Disney's influence were everywhere. From Mickey Mouse watches, to cartoons at the movie theater, to feature films such as "Snow White," "Bambi," "Pinocchio" and the futuristic "Fantasia," Walt Disney has defined family entertainment for decades. Forty years after his death in December 1966, the name Disney exemplifies safety and security for children and parents looking for wholesome entertainment. He may not have invented the term "family values," but he perfected an art form through which he was able to transmit stories that American hearts enthusiastically received.
Like so many people with great creative gifts, Walt Disney had a dark side. Rarely having enough money to live on and constantly scrounging for funds in the 1920s and during the Depression to underwrite his animated imagination, Disney became accustomed to giving orders and not taking them. He even came to regard the most innocent suggestions from his employees about how to improve something as insubordination. Not a few of them were demoted or fired outright for having the temerity to challenge the vision of the real "king of all media."
And yet he was a doting father and grandfather. His children loved him. Though he spent most of his time at the studio -- and the little time at home thinking about the studio -- Disney's quality time with his two daughters was sincere, and his love for them was reciprocated. His wife, Lillian, put up with his "studio-as-mistress," as many did women with inattentive husbands in that era.