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Saturday, March 28, 2009

As a Boy, Walt Disney Met Buffalo Bill Himself

I ran across a book review in The Sun New York written by Carl Rollyson for Neal Gabler's "Walt Disney: The Biography, in which Walt Disney's recounts a childhood memory of personally meeting Buffalo Bill. I thought I'd reprint part of the book review here and let you be the judge of how Disney's meeting with Buffalo Bill argues for or against the inclusion of Mickey in our new show, Buffalo Bill's Wild West with Mickey and Friends. I've highlighted parts that seem particularly intriguing.
"Walt Disney was in the business of branding the world with a powerful mix of nostalgia for the past and Epcot dreams of the future and confecting the literal space where fantasy met reality. I say literal because in "Fantasia" Mickey Mouse mounted the "(real) podium and shook hands with the (real) conductor Leopold Stokowski."
Collyson: Mr. Gabler is quoting the art critic Robert Hughes, who credits Disney with inventing pop art. Perhaps, but what is most striking in Mr. Hughes's description is that the word "real" appears in parentheses. Stokowski is real, but he is also the product of Disney's imagination. And the conductor is just as honored to meet Mickey as any child would be. This is an astonishing moment in the history of art in which photography and animation converge...

...The biographer seduced, it seems to me, by Disney's desire to backdate, so to speak, every element of his life to suit the contours of Disneyland. Disney's recollection of his Midwestern boyhood, spent partly in the small Missouri town of Marceline:
... In Marceline he was awaiting the parade for Buffalo Bill's visiting Wild West Show when Buffalo Bill himself stopped his buggy and invited Walt to join him. "I was mighty impressed," Walt later wrote.
...What about that meeting with Buffalo Bill? I checked Mr. Gabler's sources, and he has only Disney's word for it. Of course, Disney wanted us to believe that he had reached out and touched a great mythic figure. It was part of Disney's destiny that Buffalo Bill should acknowledge him, part of our destiny that Disney should meet greatness, and part of the biographer's fervent wish that his subject's story have this kind of portentousness. Perhaps it is all true, or perhaps Disney just watched Buffalo Bill pass by and made up the rest...

1 comment:

Disney Brit said...

Hi Trent,
This is a great blog. I am the host of the Disney Brit Podcast, the UKs on Disney podcast and the only podcast that covers Disneyland Paris in any real detail. I come out to Disneyland Paris this Saturday and Sunday and we see the new show on Saturday night. I was wondering if you might be interested in doing an interview for our show. If this may be of interest to you then please email me at
You can find out more about the show at

Hope to hear from you soon.