03/01/07 - playing dead

In today's encore excerpt - a tiny, indelible portrait of seven-year-old Walt Disney. The year is 1908, the chronically poor Disney family lives in Kansas. Walt's father Elias struggles to find stable employment. Little Walt is the youngest boy in the family, eight years younger than Roy, the brother with whom he would create the Walt Disney Company, and from whom he would be essentially inseparable throughout his life:

"Life on the farm was certainly more pleasant in retrospect than it had been in actuality. For Elias Disney was a hard man—a believer in physical punishment and harsh economic discipline. The children received no allowances and no playthings either. For Christmas their presents were practical items like shoes and underwear. It was Roy Disney, working at odd jobs, who supplied Walt and his sister with an occasional toy and who, as soon as Walt was big enough to try and handle it, put him on to an occasional good thing. Mrs. Miller [Walt's sister] tells a story, for example, of Roy's getting a job washing the town hearse and allowing his little brother to participate in the profits of the enterprise despite Walt's having spent most of the time playing dead inside the vehicle. The proceeds were spent at a carnival that passed through town a little later."


Richard Schickel


The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney


Elephant Paperback


Copyright 1968, 1985, 1997 by Richard Schickel


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