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Portrait of a complex and talented entertainer

By Gene Langley / March 11, 1986



Disney's World, by Leonard Mosley. Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: 330 pp. $18.95. After many ups and downs since Walt's death in 1966, the Disney Studio is in the news these days with the recent appointment of Michael Eisner as chairman.

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The huge success of the reissue of ``A Hundred and One Dalmatians'' over the holidays brought Disney into the public eye as did the news that there will soon be another Disneyland -- Europe's first, to be located in France. Even Minnie Mouse is to be updated, rock music and all, the better to face the 1990s.

Now along comes Leonard Mosley's gossipy biography, ``Disney's World,'' looking at the man who knew so well how to entertain both his fellow Americans and the rest of the world.

The book gives us a picture of a complex man with unusual drive and talent, one who manipulated people, took risks, and held old-fashioned Midwestern values. A charmer who was naive enough to wear his inkwell on his sleeve, Disney was also shrewd enough to survive the Byzantine movie business. Life was not always a ``Silly Symphony'' for Walt.

Disney could be rougher than a raging Donald Duck with his employees, then turn into Mickey Mouse at his most lovable. Abusive of loyal partners, loath to compliment anyone on a job well done, he jealously demanded full and exclusive screen credit at all times.

Mr. Mosley does a good job of tracing, among other things, the history of the studio, the sad effect of the strike in 1941, and Walt's insistence on developing Disneyland over the objections of many, including his wife.

Walt's dream factory became big business, but critics detect somber sides to the laughing reveries. Mosley's story is, on the surface, a success story.

But we can still value Disney's creative genius and his courage to have great ideas.