“Walt Before Mickey” Explores the Man
By Skip Sheffield
Ever wonder what Walt Disney did before Mickey Mouse shot him to international fame in 1928 with “Steamboat Willie?”
Wonder no more. Disney’s lean early years are dramatized in “Walt Before Mickey,” a bio pic by Arthur L. Bernstein and Armando Gutierrez.
The short answer is struggle. Walt Disney was no overnight success.
“My father thought I was the black sheep of the family,” Walt confessed at the story’s beginning in 1919. He is played by Thomas Ian Nicholas, who may be familiar from ”American Pie” and its sequel.
Walt was already in love with movies, though his ambition was to be an artist. It took him ten years of attempts and setbacks, but he was finally able to realize both dreams together.
“Walt Before Mickey” is done as a straight biography by Khoa Le, who directed the “American Pie” movies. The movie was shot in Florida in Sanford and Deland. The script is by Armando Gutierrez from Miami and Arthur L. Bernstein from Palm Beach. Walt’s brother Roy is played by Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”). One thing I learned from this movie was the importance of Roy Disney to the success of Walt Disney Productions. He in essence was the business side of the enterprise. Walt was the creative dreamer. I met Roy Disney years ago at the Cartoon Museum in Boca Raton. He was a very modest, quiet man, and Heder nails him pretty well. Ub Iwerks, the little-heralded original partner of Disney, is played by Armando Gutierrez.
If you don’t care much about Walt Disney the man, this film will not interest you. I’ve read about the dark side of Walt Disney many times, but you won’t find that here. He comes across as a sunny, all-American hero.