Walt’s muse


There was a fantastic two-part bio of Walt Disney on PBS recently. It’s worth the time if you have a chance to see it. Here is a near-quote from the broadcast about a time in his life I considered one of the most interesting moments in the story:

Underway was Cinderella. . . he seemed wary of fully investing himself in his film. Yet he left most of the hard work to his staff. Disney was . . . beginning to wear down and he kept a trained nurse in the studi0. Hazel George showed up every day to massage his back and his hips . . . she becomes one of those very few figures in his life . . . with whom he could talk. It wasn’t a sexual relationship but she was one of those figures with whom he could say anything and everything. It was difficult to say he had any close friends with whom he could share . . . he thought I’m never going to make anything as good as Snow White.

She suggested he attend a model train convention in his home state of Illinois . . . so he goes. The ride transforms him. When he arrives back home, Walt Disney was building these trains with his own hands. All in the zest for invention, for creating fantasies . . . Walt was happy to have the good reviews of Cinderella, but it was no Snow White as far as he was concerned. He builds a scale model of the old Marceline (his impoverished childhood home) barn for hours designing a (railroad) track and the engine. It was the toy he never had as a little kid, something that was pure fun and a pleasure to do. There was more in that train than just fun for Walt. When Salvadore Dali visited . . . Dali was taken aback. Such perfection did not belong to models. “It was comfort and salvation. I can’t control my workers. I can’t control the larger stage, I can’t control my company. . . but this is a world I can create down to the smallest details, down to the tunnels under my wife’s flower bed, that is mine and safe. I want you to work on Disneyland he told one slightly confused artist, and you are going to like it.”


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