Via: The LA Times
Everyone and their dog is familiar with Walt Disney. Those with a passion for animation will be intimately familiar with the man known as The Old Maestro and how he almost single-handedly made animation into something much more than a short, gag-based form of entertainment. Of course, most of those folks will also be familiar that Walt was not alone in his efforts because guiding him all the way was his older brother, Roy.
However, Roy was very much the quieter brother, silently working behind the scenes running Walt Disney Productions and managing the cash that allowed Walt to fulfill his dreams. But how much do you really know about him? To be honest, I was fairly shocked about how little I knew.
Via: Good Reads
Thanksfully, Bob Thomas (who wrote the biography on Walt) wrote a book back in the 1990s (through the Disney-owned Hyperion publishing house) that looks at everything from Roy’s perspective. Entitled ‘Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire‘, it catalouges how the Disney company was founded and grew under his guidance and steely determination.
Although it focuses primarily on the history of the company, the book does contain more details about Roy than it does Walt, with much revealed about Roy’s habits and mannerisms. It would appear that as conservative and restrained as Roy was at work, he was just as jovial and fun-loving as his brother.
Furthermore, the book goes into quite a bit of detail when it comes to the company’s finances and the pressures that Roy faced during the war years and 1950s when Walt embarked on Disneyland. Nothing gets too technical (thankfully) but the gist of the struggles the company faced over the years is evident, and the book doesn’t shy away from the abrasive relationship the two brothers could have at times.
The only weak point in the book is the infamous strike, which is dispensed within two pages and glosses over the root causes and the subtle changes that occurred thereafter. Seeing as this is an official publication, that is not entirely surprising, but you would think that at this point in time, it would be irrelevant.
Coming away from ‘Building A Company’, my appreciation for Roy is much higher than it was beforehand. He was much more than just the ‘numbers man’, he was an essential part of the company and very much the yin to Walt’s yang. Without him, it is highly unlikely that the Disney Company would even exist today as a separate operation. Indeed it’s just as likely that it wouldn’t have made it past Snow White!
I would highly recommend picking up a copy if even just for a casual read.