Walt Disney was doubtlessly one of the formative influences on modern American culture. Like most young people, I grew up watching Bambi, Davy Crockett and a host of other Disney films on the Wonderful World of Disney. This review of a recent biography of Walt Disney points out that the cheerful solipsism of Mickey and other films eventually lost its cheer in Walt Disney’s life:
The movies—from Bambi to Dumbo—are true masterpieces, both of art and spirit. And yet they tend, as Gabler says, toward a pattern: “the Disney theme of embracing maturity and responsibility and taking control of one’s own destiny, even at the risk of being exiled from one’s safe and satisfying childhood oasis.” Autobiography made art….
He made only one great movie in his waning days, and it was an unusual one: Mary Poppins, which has more than a hint of the subversive—of the child lurking inside the captain of industry, and not the captain of industry lurking inside the child. But it was too late to alter his destiny, and he died, in Gabler’s words, “quite possibly the most famous man in America” but also “among the loneliest.” With neither the consolations of religion or close friendship, he bowed out ten days past his 65th birthday, so terrified of death that he hadn’t even left instructions for his burial. He was cremated, his ashes interred in a remote corner of the vast (and very orderly) Forest Lawn cemetery.