Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Disney Edge

Walt Disney said that he obviously knew life was made of light and shadows. Did he know it... According to Frank and Ollie, all his impersonations of evilness and aggression in the villains was first hand experienced from the attitude of his own father. He experienced that pain, of being the target of it. He knew what cruelty was, and, yet, the soothingness of pure sugar. Because, by his own admission, there wasn't a grain of cynicism in him, he also knew the pungency of simplicity, like expressed in the Hollywood landmarks his movies achieved. Death of Bambi's mother is one, the moment Snow White is to be sacrificed by the hunter is another, to mention two. In the confrontation of innocence with the sharpness of the knife, the redemption of the hunter with his fearful obedience to authority, the scene has everything. Like he himself declared his awareness of light and shadows, I would say that a "marked in fire" Disney fan knows that life may also be composed of torture and sugar. I think he knew it too. Having so often drawn Walt, I noticed that his expression is often on the fine line between leadership and tears...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Man Behind the Asset

It is often recognized that, with "beloved" uncle Walt, the image of Walt Disney became sacrosanct. But that attitude is generally disguised. Why? Because Uncle "Sacrosant" Walt is portrayed as some sort of hard work "simpleton", the "you" and "me" any American would like to think it was all about. I had to approach this subject because I drew Walt smoking. Even though people liked the drawing, some expressed censorship about making Walt smoking, "he would not be happy, with it".... two people said. He wouldn't, just like he was ready to tell associates that "Walt Disney is not me anymore. I smoke and he doesn't. Walt Disney is "something" people think when they want wholesome entertainment." In the words of disrespectful Neal Gabler, Walt Disney got into the "business of making "Walt Disney'". And he became treated as an asset by the company, with his knowledge and consent..." But quite a few times it is reported that Walt resented that role, and one of the reasons he liked to be around his family is that he didn't have to be "THE Walt Disney". That"sacrosanct", "anodyne uncle" could work in the Sixties, even though he was already considered by many to be an "anachronism". Whatever. He is nice too. Especially if one thinks he played uncle Walt in TV programs for the sake of Disneyland. And if one doesn't miss that anguished look in his inward-turned pupils..."There he is" I think when I see his eyes, especially in the earlier programs. Anyway, I do not want to draw "THE Walt Disney" that wasn't Walt Disney anymore. I want to draw the man behind the asset. It is fascinating to "reconstruct" him this way. If one notices in Hank's interpretation, for instance, down to the smallest, loose and at the same time nervous gestures, he "is" Walt Disney, but not "uncle Walt". And in fact, he says in an interview that what really helped him were movies Diane provided, for, in his words, "Walt Disney WASN'T what he was acting to be in in the footages the company provided him to watch. So, if even as an anachronism, it may be kind of "cute" to love and oblige the image of uncle Walt. And, in his paternalism, he certainly had "something" of real Walt. But he is SO COLD and under "chains"... It makes one wonder, "Where is the guy who, according to everyone who met him, "lived in the grip of passion?" Then, the "anguished" eyes speak volumes. People don't want to turn "simpleton" uncle Walt into a saint, just into an absolutely "sinless" creature, as if "sinless" were not as saintly as a saint. But "Sinless", in the context of "uncle Walt", means obliging ALL the RULES Americans expect to form the symbol of their ideal of family. But doesn't it occur to anyone that just a hard work, honest person would never accomplish what Walt did? That it took one to be, like Walt was, the freest, most innovative and improvising person one can conceive, that is, the eternal rebel? He had a break-down in early age, and talked naturally about it. That is not even mentioned in the WDF museum. But one can hear it in interviews of his, and read it in his bios. Perhaps, if he did not have the "crutch" of smoking to let out steam, he might have a stroke in early life or something. If being complex, human and sensitive detracts anything from 'Uncle Walt', it, nonetheless, helps to unearth the real Walt Disney, the genius, the visionary, the innovator, and not the stagnated conservative that even "sinless" is not allowed to be a saint, for that would be to "un ordinary" for an "anodyne" character, for a simple "asset"...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Disney Reality vs "reality"

I am thinking of the Celtic soul in "Saving Mr Banks". It is mentioned by Pamela's father, when he tells his little daughter that this world is an illusion, and as long as she didn't forget that, he guaranted her she will be able to bear anything. When I was a philosophy student, I learned something along these lines in Kant, who contended that what we take as reality is nothing more than an appearance. Travers, Pamela's father, was a poet, capable of "enchanting" everything with imagination. Imagination, as that which was somewhat opposed, above or beyond what was "illusionary" reality all around, the circumstances of which, in their particular case, was extremely tough. The point of view of separating reality from imagination (in the case of Travers Goff) or that of considering it just an appearance (Kant) echoes a an intellectual tradition that art is not entertainment: the first being "serious", and the second not. I guess that is why Pamela looks at Disney "whimsy" as silly, weightless, and without "gravitas". In her head, her "serious" work of literature and poetry, could not become "Disney fun". As a poet, she was not yet capable of seeing all the poetry in the Sherman Brother's words, because she wanted no musical to begin with. She wanted no FUN! The reason I mention this is to remark how well the movie dealt with this important aspect of the conflict between she and Walt Disney , who represented the opposite point of view. Walt believed in THIS world, and in the materialization of fantasy in it. He wanted the movie to be a musical, and musicals are poetry and beauty, before anything. In musicals, dialogues can express "real" life problems, but with beautiful sound and words, what makes it always good and also fun to hear (granting they are a good musical). So, the movie wasn't just a conflict of seriousness vs. whimsy and fantasy, or, like is usually said, of old England's habits vs free and new California's, but of the much more philosophical one regarding what is the real status of reality and, in the same token, that of fantasy. In spite all odds, Walt believed in the communion of the two. He despised nothing. That is why, as much as I am a Kantian, and may never stop being one, I love Walt Disney more than Kant.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Save Mr. Disney"










Here goes a beautiful, poetic personal story a friend, David Foose wrote and allowed me to publish. It is this type of text that should be the honest and deep example for everyone to search Disney inside: 
   "When I was young, I remember telling my father that we should tear down the world and let Walt Disney rebuild it. For me Walt represented the force in the universe that has the best ideas and carries them out in the most interestingly creative ways. In my young mind, Walt couldn't be stopped. And his power came from his optimism, his imagination and his perseverance. His power was real because his creations were real. Walt was never about pie in the sky. Walt was about making the impossible possible, actually doing it.  Could there be a better role model for a young mind? And as I grew, I saw that my impression of Walt was not childish but correct. Yes, the quality of Walt being an eternal source of inspiration, curiosity and interpretation is what has to be saved.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"Innocence in Action"

   After reading a view reviews of "Saving Mr Banks" I thought I might owe some explanation for considering Hank's performance the very expression of "innocence in action", like Walt Disney was called. In some reviews, people say things like Walt was canning, or that there were hints of his "dark side". I wondered whether I see things in a totally different way, and to what extent what I see has to do with reality. One should always question oneself, after all. I mentally reviewed the movie. Someone pointed that once Walt got what he wanted, he didn't invite Travers, he wasn't really caring, as he appeared to be until then. "That caring was all out of pragmatism" was the conclusion. The fascinating question, and the fascinating riddle about Walt Disney, is exactly the "confusion", or even identification, between pragmatism and passion, that is inspired by his behavior. Nobody could act the way he did at convincing people, if he were not passionate about his quest, and as singleminded as a child. Pragmatism, on the other hand, is coldness. It "uses" things and actions as means to distant results. Passion, in an even more avid way than love, is oneness with its object. Walt's innocence was his passion and the certainty it gave him that he wouldn't disappoint anyone who believed in him. Walt's innocence was his childlike enthusiasm, pleading, and even the immediate sadness he could not hide, when disappointed. He believed in himself and his product with the egotism of a child who can disregard everything else, and at the same time, with the objectivity of a leader who is responding to a cause. Once this cause was obliged he, with the immediacy of the child and yet the detachment of the leader, moved on to something else. The "something else" in the movie was the Premiere of Mary Poppins, when he felt he had to "protect the film", and Travers became second.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Disney Redemption

"Saving Mr Banks", in the real, hope inspiring Disney tradition, expresses the redeeming as well as resurrecting dimension of rescuing. In Disney Mary Poppins, Mr Banks starts out as a harsh man well acquainted with reality's limitations and is eventually redeemed by letting out his need to dream, thereby equally redeeming all the other bankers. The original inspiration for Mr Banks, PL Travers' father, became her hero for sharing with her a world of imagination and dream, over and against the harshness of reality. He was therefore a hero-looser, becoming, in the Disney version, the self discovered, fulfilled Mr Banks: a mixture of Walt Disney himself and the original dreamer, PL Traver's father. Disney's Mr Banks expresses Walt's constant conflicts with the "money men" and his eventual overcoming of it, like he did in real life, by coming to convince them all, and, in the movie, by calling them to fly a kite. He is a reconciliation of reality and dream, like Walt Disney was. While the original inspiration for Mr Banks was a king in imagination and dream in spite of and against real life, Disney's Mr Banks, by taking the "leap of faith", that step beyond common sense and rationality, reconciles harsh reality and dream, infusing his bosses with the need to sing. "Saving Mr Banks" rescues not just the personal quest of Traver's father, but on a greater scale, that of all dreamers whose flight was interrupted. It shows, through the message of Walt Disney, that the eternity of imagination can indeed make peace with the exactness of figures and money men's world. Only Walt Disney (he did exist! that is what one marvels at, after watching the wonderful interpretation of Tom Hanks in "Saving Mr Banks") could- and, in the movie, it looks like he still can- pull that out…. That's it; if you watch this movie you realize it was perfectly possible that there once was someone who could be best described by the beautiful expression "Innocence in Action"...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Disney's Signature


"I won't disappoint you" said Walt, to Travers. The responsibility, love, devotion and readiness to do anything one can and beyond, contained in this sentence, is what Walt Disney stands for....

"I won't disappoint you"

      In "Saving Mr Banks", which I saw again on Xmas evening, Hanks also expresses Walt Disney's total capacity of commitment. "I won't disappoint you" Disney asserts to Travers. "I won't disappoint you" is, in fact, the essence of what Walt Disney stands for: a total capacity of commitment. Why? Because he too was in love with what he was committing; he was putting his whole being in it, and not just taking it out of the way 'to appease Travers'. When I wrote a text titled "Titanic and Humble", I talked of Walt's commitment to Mickey; his humbleness of referring everything to the Mouse. Walt Disney was committed to the good, to joy, to morals and, as Gabler says, to America itself, especially after the war, a commitment he wore heavily. Disney felt it was his duty to provide insignia of Mickey Mouse to the soldiers, because, as he said, "They grew up on Mickey Mouse".
Disney was committed to the highest of causes, through the humblest of ways; entertainment. And his entertainment was religiously treated by him. Religiously, in the sense of infused with ultimate respect. To commit is to respect to the point of surrendering one's integrity to it. It is to have integrity, to begin with, and that is no easy matter.... In committing, one's integrity becomes an expression of dignity...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Disney Take Off

The Innocence, surprise, cuteness and daring of this "Disney Kiss" makes it the most endearing of "Hollywood" kisses. In the Twenties, when screen kisses were shocking for many people, those who are incapable of seeing innocence, most likely, criticized Walt for Mickey's wanting to steal a kiss from Minnie in Plane Crazy. As always, Walt stood his ground. What Mickey managed, in the short, does not show so much detail, but cornering Minnie all the same, both are equally pure. 
The day before he died, Walt "drew" on the ceiling of his hospital bed, the map of whathe planned for Epcot. He died in passion, just as he lived his life in the grip of passion. Like this kiss, Walt Disney was the innocent drive of passion; its hunger and its search. 
In living as well as in dying, Walt was in an always ascending, pioneering airplane....