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 serious disappointment...
23 September 2015 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

I am usually a huge fan of "The American Experience" and have watched dozens and dozens of their episodes. This is one of the first that I didn't particularly like--much of it because the film seemed less concerned with a chronological approach to Walt Disney's life. Instead, the film was looking for a darker side--a darker side that didn't always exist. Here are a couple examples:

The strike at Disney in the early 40s WAS hard on the company and hard on Walt Disney. He was instrumental in trying to block unionization--that is true. But the film also seemed to say that he had an agenda to 'get back' at those responsible for the union--like Walt was a super-spiteful guy. Perhaps he was at times, but this didn't exactly jibe with biographies I read about the guy.

The show concentrated A LOT on "Song of the South" and totally ignored a lot of other films that came out in the same time period. Between "Dumbo" and "Song of the South" were several Disney full- length films that didn't get mentioned and there were many films AFTER "Song of the South" that didn't get mentioned. "Song of the South" was mentioned because it offends many people's sensitivities today--and no other apparent reason. It wasn't one of the big classic hits made by the studio. Were they trying to say Walt was a bigot? Most evidence (such as his hiring practices at the company and treatment of non-white guests at Disneyland) would seem to indicate he wasn't. So why concentrate so hard on this one film?

The bottom line is that instead of trying to tell Walt's life, the show was looking for a darker side and to promote a common theme to "American Experience" shows--race. To me, this isn't necessarily the most honest approach to a biography--more like a nod to political correctness as well as to create controversy.

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