Neal Gabler on Disney at LAT Book Fest

I took a break from my deadlines on Saturday to see Mike Barrier discuss his Walt Disney biography at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Milt Gray, Eddie Fitzgerald, Miles Kruger, and award-winning author Amid Amidi were also there to cheer Mike on. The auditorium was packed (the entire LAT Book event itself has evolved over the years to become an annual must-do) and the panel of biographers (the others tackling Frank Lloyd Wright, Einstein, and Hitler) were fascinating. I just picked up my copy of Barrier’s new book at the Festival and will begin reading it this week. I know that once I open it I’ll never put it down till I finish, so I’m reserving some time to it during the next few days.

I couldn’t attend the panel with Neal Gabler on Saturday afternoon, but CSPAN telecast the session in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I haven’t read Gabler’s tome yet either – I’ll do so after I devour Barrier’s – but you can’t deny his enthusiasm for the subject. I took the liberty of posting just Gabler’s comments on Disney in two parts on You Tube. Here is the first part (5 mins.), the second part (9 mins.) is embedded below.


  • http://blackwingdiaries.blogspot.com Jenny

    I had my tickets for that particular forum in hand days ahead–and still wasn’t able to make it in time before the doors were closed, darn it.
    Traffic on the Ventura Freeway and on Sunset was horrible–that Festival is incredibly popular! Glad to hear it was as good as it sounded–and I’m sorry I missed so many old friends as well as the ones I’d yet to meet face to face. We tried, but 20 minutes late and “sorry, can’t let anyone in”.

    The entire Festival was almost too much to take in, a real scene–great stuff for kids, many many fascinating vendors–and some serious price gouging on the food and drink(bottled water 4.95, lemonade: $5, a small chicken sandwich $10). It’s great to see such a cross section of Angelenos all in one place.
    btw did anyone notice that Bill Peet Jr. had a booth (it was near Storyopolis)? A very nice guy.

  • Floyd Norman

    I spent the weekend storyboarding, so I wasn’t able to attend. Drat!

    Anyway, I still give Michael Barrier’s take on the Old Maestro the nod. And, not because Barrier interviewed me for his book either.

    In any case, trying to capture the real Disney is a daunting task for any author. I guess the only way to really know Walt was to work with him — and that would only be the beginning. These books give you a glimpse of this fascinating man, and I recommend both.

  • B. Baker

    “…you can’t deny his [Gabler's] enthusiasm for the subject.”

    With all due (and sincere) respect to Jerry, I must say I can easily deny it. It’s possible that in the past Neal Gabler has written books on subjects for which he felt enthusiasm — but I don’t see it here. If he has any deep feeling for the best work of Walt Disney — or for animation itself — it’s well concealed in his book.

    I would unreservedly recommend Mike Barrier’s book, though. [I do wish it was as long as Gabler's book.]

  • Gerit

    “…you can’t deny his [Gabler’s] enthusiasm for the subject.�

    Funny that there is disagreement on this.

    I totally do see his enthusiasm. It’s just that he has his own slant in terms of where he places his analysis of his subject. Perhaps it’s just that Gabler hasn’t been a lifelong archaeologist of Disney lore or stuck-in-adolescents cartoon fan (like me).

  • Hulk

    I read Gabler’s book. I also read alot of the comments by Mike Barrier and others pointing out the many mistakes that Gabler made in the book. THAT SAID, it still is a very good read and gives you a good sense of who Walt was as a person. One subject that Gabler goes in to in the book is whether or not the rumor was true that Walt was anti-semitic. Gabler leans toward saying that he was not anti-semtic and in doing so, points out a lot of mistakes in “Hollywood’s Dark Prince” which I also read and which suggests that he was not only anti-semitic but racist against blacks too. Then to further disprove the rumor, Gabler mentions several prominent Jewish employees of Disney including…and this was a suprise to me: Marc Davis and Joe Grant. Does anyone know if that’s accurate or was that one of the many mistakes he supposedly made? I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just curious.

  • http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/archive_author/bbenzon/Bill%20Benzon Bill Benzon

    I’ve read both books and, though I think Barrier has a better feel for the man (and his cartoons), I think both are worth reading. I’ve written an essay in which I summarize what I learned from them: “Despite these differences, both present a career in three acts: animation, Disneyland, and the Florida project. To be sure, Disney’s studio has always been involved with cartoons and, during his life, Disney was always involved with those cartoons. But the nature of Disney’s involvement changed in quality and intensity, allowing other projects to attract his most passionate attention and activity.”