By Alex Nikolavitch & Felix Ruiz, translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-266-3(HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-267-0
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because it’s not Christmas without magic castles in the air… 9/10
When it comes to biography, Walt Disney is a true “Marmite” figure, with writers and historians pretty evenly divided between effusive hagiography and excoriating exposés.
As fully discussed in author Alex Nikolavitch’s Introduction, the genius who nurtured and nourished the childhood dreams of generations across the globe is an immensely polarising figure: a sensitive creator and twice-burned artisan who grew increasing and equally obsessed with micromanaging all around him and spreading heartfelt joy.
What this superb graphic summation of the fantasy overlord’s complex and contradictory life adds is the necessary balance quietly provided throughout and beyond Walt’s life by his nigh-invisible brother Roy…
Alex Nikolavitch is a French author, screenwriter, essayist and educator, who writes comics and has a steady sideline translating English-language books like V for Vendetta, Tank Girl and Spawn to supplement his own series such as Burton and Les Canaux du Mitan. His collaborator here is mercurial Spanish artist and colourist Felix Ruiz (Savage Wolverine, Agents of Atlas: Marvel Boy, The Uranian, Halo) who reverts to a charmingly compelling and effective École de Marcinelle bigfoot style to trace the career of America’s greatest dream factory…
In episodic bursts of vivid scenes preceded by a potted history of animation, the story opens with ‘Of a Mouse and Men’as cartoon pioneers Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks – reeling from having their creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit taken from them by unscrupulous money men – bounce back with a new character… a mouse.
More crucially, Walt asks his brother Roy to join the team. He is an accountant, with his feet planted firmly on the ground and his hands on the financial tiller.
…And then “Talkies” revolutionise the film industry and Walt has another good idea just as the Great Depression looms…
Second Chapter ‘Childhood Dreams’ covers the turbulent period after Snow White was released, as Roy secures global distribution in some very unwholesome places, balanced with the brothers’ fruitless attempts to rationalise their new lifestyles to their pious, old-fashioned doctrinaire parents. This leads to revelatory flashbacks of the boys growing up in rural religious Missouri and Walt’s transformative first encounter with Movies…
The war years and infamous union-busting strike of Disney’s animation studio is covered in ‘Turbulence’, as well as the post war years of expansion, as the arch creator increasingly seeks to control every aspect of his ever-expanding kingdom.
Walt’s anti-communist mania blatantly manifests in ‘Builder of Empires’, as the company moves into television and theme parks and the aging autocrats faces his own mortality…
Skilfully negotiating the complex web of beguiling creativity that always warred with a ruthless struggle for autonomy, political control and money, The Disney Bros – The Fabulous Story of Walt and Roy is a superbly delivered balancing act between reportage and drama. Evoking amazement, glee, sympathy and moral outrage in turn, the tale – delivered in jolly, velvetxglove-over-lead-lined-blackjack cartoon manner – is available in substantial hardback and various digital formats and is supplemented with an historical critique by author Jarett Kobek in ‘Afterword: How to Build a Media Empire’ plus suggested Further Reading.
This is a splendid work no fan of comics or film history should miss.
© 2019 Blue Lotus Prod. © 2020 NBM for the English translation.
The Disney Bros – The Fabulous Story of Walt and Roy is scheduled for release on November 26th 2020 and is available for pre-order in both print and digital editions.
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