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Walt Disney, the maverick: A guest essay by Jon Favreau

I was born in 1966, the year Walt Disney passed away. He would’ve been 110 this week. I’m too young to have had a first-hand memory of him. In fact, I didn’t even know Disney was a man until late in my childhood. Disney was a place (Disneyland) and it made cartoons (Mickey Mouse) and it made movies (Snow White). I later learned that Disney was a person and not a swirling entity defined by Disneyland, Mickey Mouse and Snow White. Or so I thought.

As childhood slipped away, I clung to it through the discovery of Walt’s entire catalog of animated content. Even the earliest nightmare I can remember having was my family’s Toyota driving past me on a New York city street with Mowgli from “The Jungle Book” sitting where I belonged behind my parents. As I got older I became enamored with Fantasia and all of its psychadelia in the revival houses of Greenwich Village. Even as an adult, I am caught in the guts whenever I see Dumbo cradled in the trunk of his caged mother, no doubt accessing repressed pain through emotional back channels to when I lost my own mother as a kid.

And I’m not alone. In some families this emotional connection spans four and five generations. We have incorporated these myths into our own psychological makeup, like a tree growing through a chain link fence. In our secular and pluralistic society, the Wonderful World of Disney has emerged as a de facto least common denominator of shared cultural archetypes.

How did this happen? Was it some conspiracy of corporate America? An overachieving marketing exercise? I don’t think so. I’ve been on both sides of the curtain, having climbing from outsider to insider over several decades, and I believe the answer lies in a man who dreamed for an entire generation.


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-- Jon Favreau, Special to the Los Angeles Times