“Walt Before Mickey” teaches us about Disney, ourselves

It wasn’t one of the dystopian action movies you’re used to seeing, but maybe that’s why you should give “Walt Before Mickey” a chance.

photo courtesy of WaltBeforeMickey.com

photo courtesy of WaltBeforeMickey.com

by Torie Richardson, Editor-in-Chief

After clicking on the first search result for “Plaza movie theater,” I scroll through the movies that appear on my phone, searching for one in particular. The first five movies that appear are rated R, mostly for violence, language and sexual content. Some of them look interesting, but I keep scrolling; they aren’t what I’m looking for. In fact, the movie I’m looking for is completely different from any of this summer’s big hits. I end up going on a 30 minute drive to see this gem, and though I think it was worth it, some might disagree.

“Walt Before Mickey,” characterized as a drama/biography, depicts the years 1919-1928, before Walt Disney found his ultimate success and was struggling to keep his business alive. It follows Disney through his young adult life, mostly detailing his business life, and portraying some aspects of his personal life.

If any scene was indicative to me of the type of movie “Walt Before Mickey” would be, it was the beginning. Walt narrates his childhood, where he tells his story in flashbacks. In these flashbacks, he’s drawing on his father’s barn instead of doing what he’s supposed to. To the audience, this is a visual representation of what’s happening inside – his heart lies with drawing, not farming. Even if someone had never heard of Disney’s story, it was pretty obvious where it was going from the beginning.

However predictable the plot was, though, “Mickey” was very well made. I noticed great camera work several times throughout, and the acting was pretty good, though I didn’t notice any extraordinary performances. But, for some reason, I never really got into the movie. I watched characters struggle in hard times and felt bad for them but not with them. Maybe it was because I knew about Disney’s ultimate success. Part of me, though, thinks that the movie isn’t really the problem, our culture is.

In a culture characterized by dystopian action movies, we like to see things blow up, to feel the explosion shake under our chairs. We like things that are scandalous, things that allow us to escape our lives, if only for a moment. If we have time to stop and think in the theater, the movie isn’t dazzling enough, isn’t packed full of the action we need to feel alive.

“Walt Before Mickey” didn’t do any of these things, but it still deserves praise for the things it did do.

We’ve all heard the stories of big names who failed before they succeeded. Abraham Lincoln lost 5 elections (for Congress, etc.) before becoming President. Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. And Walt Disney? He went bankrupt. These stories inspire and motivate us for about five minutes, before we sink back into a rut and come up with reasons that we’ll never be good enough. We don’t even stop to think that Disney’s failure didn’t last for just a day. For years, people considered his business, and his life, a failure. The most important thing that “Walt Before Mickey”does is makes us live through these heartbreaking moments, and doesn’t let us experience the near-instant success we insist upon.  The movie has moments, however cheesy, that will make you smile. But there are also frustrating moments times that the filmmakers refuse to let pass, because those moments were someone’s entire life.
Maybe you prefer action movies. But if you have any interest at all in going to see “Walt before Mickey,” I recommend that you do. When you go, don’t expect Hollywood glamor, or for the movie to be in 4-D Walt Disney World style. When you go, just expect a raw film that makes you think. That’s exactly what you’ll get.