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Extended Audio Sample Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination Audiobook, by Neal Gabler Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,380 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Neal Gabler Narrator: Leonardo Leoncavallo Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2006 ISBN: 9780739340301
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The definitive portrait of one of the most important cultural figures in American history. 

Walt Disney was a true visionary whose desire for escape, iron determination and obsessive perfectionism transformed animation from a novelty to an art form, first with Mickey Mouse and then with his feature films–most notably Snow White, Fantasia, and Bambi. In his superb biography, Neal Gabler shows us how, over the course of two decades, Disney revolutionized the entertainment industry. In a way that was unprecedented and later widely imitated, he built a synergistic empire that combined film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandise. Walt Disney is a revelation of both the work and the man–of both the remarkable accomplishment and the hidden life.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mesmerizing . . . there’s nothing Mickey Mouse about this terrific biography of Walt Disney (1900-1966), arguably the most influential figure in 20th-century American culture. The research is astonishingly detailed . . . . About this superb biography, one can hardly be temperate. Gabler’s only obvious flaw is also his great strength–the sheer amount of detail and material he presents to the reader. But his engaging, unobtrusive prose, his passion for his workaholic subject (whom he regards as both genius and monster), and his steady march through an amazing career all inspire trust and gratitude. Here, then, is the definitive portrait of Walt Disney, the Dream-King. Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World (December 3, 2006)
  • Illuminating . . . engrossing . . . . Gabler paints a vivid portrait. Bruce Handy, New York Times Book Review (December 3, 2006)
  • A thoughtful, incisive and largely straightforward account of Disney’s life and career. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times (November 14, 2006)
  • Masterly . . . . Gabler conveys the limits of Disney’s personal life with sympathy and objectivity. He gives a very careful analysis of the labor strike that changed the mood of the studio irrevocably as well as a nuanced discussion of Disney’s alleged anti-Semitism. By conveying the odds against which Disney struggled, Gabler makes his triumph all the more impressive. Howard Kissel, New York Daily News (November 5, 2006)
  • Gabler has put forth the kind of protean epic that Theodore Dreiser or John Dos Passos might have written with their all-encompassing vision, if in a less strident gear. It isn’t just the immense amount of detail Gabler deploys to give density and shadow to Disney, but the frames he uses to contain such detail that brings this biography perilously close to being its own work of art . . . . His previous books . . . ring with pitch-perfect intuitiveness about popular culture buttressed by scrupulous research and judicious tactics. Gene Seymour, Newsday (November 5, 2006)
  • [A] tremendously researched and eminently readable biography . . . at once vast and intimate, a skillful act of juggling enormous amounts of fact with equal amounts of rumor, myth, gossip, adultation and hype. Gabler sorts through the contradictions and gives us a coherent image of the man . . . St. Petersburg Times (November 5, 2006)
  • A richly detailed, often poignant, psychological profile of a visionary . . . The Baltimore Sun
  • Every period of Disney’s life is depicted in exacting detail . . . [Gabler’s] portrait is so engrossing that it’s hard to picture the entertainment mogul playing with his toy trains and not imagine him building Disneyland in his head. Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
  • We’ve all been waiting for the perfect book on Walt Disney; it has finally arrived and Neal Gabler’s done it. Wonderful! Ray Bradbury
  • A revelatory portrait of a visionary . . . Disney examines its subject with a balance of insight, awe and empathy. Pat H. Broeske, Bookpage
  • Masterful . . . his book is not simply a recitation of facts. Rather, it offers clear-headed analysis. USA Today
  • Magnificent . . . an exhaustively researched and beautifully written work that is among the finest biographies I have ever read . . . Speaking of classics, this book is one. It should capture every award worth giving. Cal Thomas, Gwinnett Daily Post
  • Gabler’s remarkable biography lends Mickey’s creator new dimensions and sets the standard for future biographies. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • [A] formidable achievement . . . Gabler’s restless eye invigorates each page. Los Angeles Book Review
  • Gabler has boiled down his years of study brilliantly . . . Walt Disney has been resurrected, not by medics, but by an extremely intrepid author. Entertainment Weekly
  • Neal Gablers’ Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination is a standout . . . [Gabler’s} vision of Disney and of Diseny’s vision of America is far more complex and shaded than most other authors’, and far more objective and reliable . . . He is a lively, thoughtful writer, easy to stay with over hundreds of pages . . . one of the most readable, enjoyable, and satisfying books of this year. Kansas City Star
  • “A poised and admiring portrait . . . [Gabler offers] rich detail and exhaustive combing of sources. Boston Sunday Globe
  • Delightfully addictive”
  • - John Hartl, The Seattle Times (November 3, 2006)
  • Revealing . . . Fascinating . . . Fans of compelling biographies and of Disney himself will be thrilled to have this in their collection. Library Journal (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bri Zabriskie | 2/17/2014

    " Best bio of Walt I found, major source for a paper I wrote for history. The thing that impressed me most about Disney was his tendency to hark back to the past as well as his enthusiasm for the technology of the future. I totally share that mindset. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christine | 2/6/2014

    " I grew up watching Walt on TV, and years later lived down the street from Disneyland. So this was a natural. Walt was a very complicated character, very different in a lot of ways from the congenial "Uncle Walt" that we saw on TV. No bombshells, but an interesting psychological study. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Al | 1/12/2014

    " A balanced, well researched biography. Very interesting read; Gabler's unifying theme of innovation, power and control kept the book moving and connected what was otherwise a somewhat scattered career. As a huge fan of Disney's work (both Walt and the overall company), I felt W. E. Disney was neither villified nor exalted. Instead he was treated fairly, as a great, innovative man with flaws. Would recommend to any Disney-phile who's looking to get more of a sense not just of Disney the man, but the company as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eli | 1/11/2014

    " As an aspiring Imagineer, I thought it would be wise to read this mammoth biography, which has been deemed the definitive biography of walt disney. The book did not disappoint, as the information that Gabler presented was detailed beyond my expectations. My biggest disappoint was that the book did not delve into the potential of Walt's final dream of EPCOT, and rather rushed through the last 5-10 years of his life with little recognition of his later dreams and ideas and how they could have done. Nonetheless, maybe I am demanding too much from a biography. All in all, an essential read for the Disney fan, and this book will make you understand how influential and inspiring a man Walt Disney was. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lotte | 1/4/2014

    " A fascinating, thorough (650 pages of dense reading) biography of Walt Disney. Disney was a Big Idea person who compelled others to embrace his ideas with equal devotion and make the seemingly impossible happen. I had always envisioned him as a primary illustrator of Mickey (not so) and was interested to see his transformation from artist to pal/leader/icon/tyrant as his company grew. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angela | 1/3/2014

    " A great, in-depth look at the man and his entire life. A whole lotta reading but well worth it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Peter Moreira | 12/18/2013

    " Superb biography, fair and comprehensive. Gabler does a nice job of explaining the man, his art and his business. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Larry Cheesman | 11/26/2013

    " Outstanding book- Mr. Gabler did some amazing research to put this book together. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hal Budd | 11/8/2013

    " Amazing to read how driven he was. Not fun to work for or with. Reminds me if some people I have worked with "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meghan | 10/18/2013

    " It was really in-depth and really fascinating. But it was also really long. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Baci Bacigalupi | 9/11/2013

    " Fantastic book about the life of an American legend. It will add volumes of insight into familiar childhood icons. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Straker | 8/10/2013

    " I was most surprised about how shakey the studio's finances were until the opening of Disneyland in the mid-1950's. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 7/27/2013

    " Not bad. Gabler goes pretty soft on Uncle Walt, but it's a reasonably good portrait of a man so complex that two or three additional volumes would be needed to do him justice. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle Scribner-MacLean | 7/13/2013

    " Really interesting, in-depth view of Disney's life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Corvida | 3/21/2013

    " A long, but good read. Many business lessons to learn from Walt's autobiography "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margo | 2/12/2013

    " Great book on the history of Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Companies. Sometimes seems to focus on details but it definitely is an in-depth look at his life. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Matt Wolf | 2/12/2013

    " Too much detail. I can't think of too many people who would want to hear about a date Walt had with his neighbor's neice in 1938. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gary Lang | 9/15/2012

    " The deepest biography of Disney I've ever read - and I've read a half-dozen of them. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ashley H | 6/19/2012

    " amazingly detailed and interesting.. best walt disney biography i've read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erica | 6/17/2011

    " Slow start but a good read. Paints Walt Disney in a more realistic light, opposed to the usual "Uncle Walt" character he is is generally portrayed as. Very inspiring (at least for a creative). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bri | 5/6/2011

    " Best bio of Walt I found, major source for a paper I wrote for history. The thing that impressed me most about Disney was his tendency to hark back to the past as well as his enthusiasm for the technology of the future. I totally share that mindset. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dorian | 5/5/2011

    " Really good book about the man and his life. It doesn't pull any punches and I devoured it's 600 pages in about a week. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deirdre | 4/17/2011

    " One of the best complete bios of Walt. The good, the bad and the genius. It is a must read for all who want to try to understand this amazing man just a bit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hashim | 4/3/2011

    " True genius and visionary!!! Walt once said "If you can dream it, you can do it" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Case | 4/1/2011

    " One of the best books I've read....One of the most interesting lives in American history... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aaron | 2/24/2011

    " Love reading about Walt Disney's life. This is going to be a good one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessie | 1/23/2011

    " Loved this Biography. Gave some great insight into what happened to make Walt decide to do his studio. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 1/19/2011

    " This was quite interesting. Disney was an incredible innovator...any one of his achievements would cap a life's work. Listened to this in the car on a round trip to New England and that format worked extremely well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 1/13/2011

    " I've actually only read parts, but I heard about nearly every chapter in detail from my wife as she read it. Everything she read (and I heard) and we discussed was inspiring and engaging. Whatever his faults, Disney really did understand the wish our heart makes and why we need to pursue it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 11/27/2010

    " Just a great book, from start to finish. Wonderful pacing, a warts-and-all look at one of the most imaginative thinkers and doers of the 20th century. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sidemoss | 10/5/2010

    " It was good, but it was very dark. I just don't buy that Walt Disney was that big of an a-hole. Maybe he was. "

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About the Author

Neal Gabler is a journalist. He currently works as a professor for the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton. He graduated from Lane High School in Chicago, Illinois, and was inducted into the National Honor Society. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan and holds advanced degrees in film and American culture.