Summary: The Midwest YearsWalt Disney an American Original is a biography written by Bob Thomas takes the reader through Walt Disney's life. Walt was born December 5, 1901 in Marceline, Chicago on a farm. His parents Flora and Elias had five children Walt was the second youngest. His life was pleasant; his parents didn't spoil him, but loved him greatly though his father was a stern man and an entrepreneur. Flora was a lighthearted, loving, woman with a sense of humor polar opposite to her husband. At the Disney farm hard work was necessary to keep the business going. After years in Marceline, the Disney family moved to Kansas City where Disney made his first animation using a flipbook at the age of nine. Disney went to Benton Grammar School and his teachers described him as distracted and always reading adventure books. During six years of his childhood he was a paper boy for the Kansas City Star to help support his family. His family moved again once Elias Disney became a shareholder of the O-Zell jelly factory in Chicago. In Chicago during his young teen years he delivered letters and at school he drew cartoons for his school newspaper. When Walt was fifteen he worked as a train attendant. This experience triggered his life time love of trains and the future design elements of Disneyland. Disney at the age of sixteen was inspired by his brother to join the Navy, so he dropped out of High School to enlist; but was declined because of his age. Instead he decided to join the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. The Red Cross sent him to France but after one year the war ended and Disney went back to Kansas City Missouri where his career began to blossom. He started working for a Pesman and Rubin Commercial Art drawing advertisements for companies. But when that company went bankrupt he and his work friend Ubbe Iwwerks decided to make their own company named “The Iwweks-Disney Commercial Artists.” But when Walt got an offer at the as a Kansas City Film Ad Company the company dwindled. Soon he started to make his own cartoon films and separated from the Film Ad to make his own company called “Laugh-O-Grams.” His first cartoon film was Little Red Riding Hood and continued making films such as, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk, Puss and Boots, and Cinderella. Next came Alice’s Wonderland which redefined the cartoon industry. It had a real young actress by the name of Virginia Davis acting with cartoons. But their profits were not enough to pay all of the workers and the company soon went bankrupt. Disney didn’t give up and bought a one way ticket to Hollywood to become a director.
I have really enjoyed this book so far. It has given a great insight to the early life and history behind the young Walt Disney. It really shows his struggles in childhood and the lead up to what would be an amazing career. Fans of Disneyland will find this book interesting because of its in depth descriptions of the beginning of Walt’s success. The author writes in such an intriguing way that you feel as if you are watching a movie on Disney’s life not reading a book. It is clear that the author is very knowledgeable on Walt Disney and writes in a way that is more like a story and less like a Biography. I have honestly learned an ample amount of information about Disney and how his past foreshadows the future path that he will take. I loved how the author portrayed the transition between the farm in Marceline to Chicago: “All his remembered years had been spent amid the calm fields and country lanes of a farming town. Now the boy saw broad boulevards filled with trolleys and automobiles” (Thomas 33). This way of writing gives the reader a look into what Disney saw.
· What atmosphere would the Laugh-O-Grams Studios be like?
· Will the friendship with Ubbe Iwwerks continue through Disney’s life?
· Will Walt be able to make it in Hollywood?
· Why did Walt purchase a first class ticket to Hollywood even though he had only forty dollars in his pocket and only one coat?
· What will Walt do first when he gets to Hollywood?
Note: Please view hyperlinked words in summary passage for videos, more information, and interesting sites .