I posted what follows on the Disney History Institute Facebook page (February 1, 2019) about the value of Neal Gabler’s 2006 biography, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, and why I think Gabler fundamentally misunderstood Walt Disney:
Gabler’s book is excellent for the amount of research he put into it and shares throughout the book. As Barrier notes on his website, there are a number of errors. You can read Barrier’s own comments and critiques. The biggest problem with the Gabler book is not the vast amount of detail he provides (although that may be a problem for general readers – too much detail), but rather the unsubstantiated armchair psychologizing about Walt Disney’s motives and state of mind, and his – according to Gabler – overwhelming need to control everything as an escape from reality. Let me tell you, nobody can be a serial entrepreneur as was Walt Disney throughout his life – constantly adapting his business model to changes in social values and environmental circumstances – while at the same time be driven to escape reality. What made Walt Disney such a great entrepreneur was his strict adherence to reality in creating products that have proven over time to be immensely valued by consumers throughout the world. Time magazine named Walt one of the top 20 business titans of the 20th Century. Walt Disney was a realist who relied on his sharp mind to create and deliver products of value, not an escapist.
© 2019, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.
Barry Linetsky is the author of the acclaimed book The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press), and an Honorary Disney History Institute Historian. Barry is a writer, photographer, researcher, and business strategy enabler. His articles on business management have been published in Rotman Management Magazine and Ivey Business Journal.