A Comparison of Younger and Older Walt Disney

We’ve all heard the never-ending argument over which is better: Young Elvis or Fat Elvis. I’m in the Young Elvis camp myself, but it’s a discussion that will never end with a clear winner.

I propose to start the same discussion here, but with Walt Disney substituted for The King of Rock and Roll. Let’s start with an establishing shot:

So when I say ‘younger Walt’ I’m not going back quite this far! However, much has been said about Walt’s childhood with most of it becoming almost apocryphal. We do know that much of what he went through, dealing with a harsh father, working at a very young age, and his years in Marceline, all combined to set Walt Disney on a road of ambition, failure, and ultimately, triumph.

But when was Walt at his best? Was it during his struggling years with Laugh-O-Grams and the Disney Brothers Studios? Or was it later when he was everyone’s Uncle Walt, and the undisputed King of Disneyland?

Let’s look at both periods of his life.

Younger     Walt

It’s during his earlier years in the entertainment industry that we see Walt at his most aggressive. With not much experience or resources, he pioneered many new techniques in animation, just because he didn’t know enough to know that it couldn’t be done!

So Walt pushed from the Alice Comedies to a talking Mickey Mouse to the first full-color animated short (Flowers and Trees) and on up to the ground-breaking full-length animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He then built a studio that endures today and an empire that is followed and loved by millions!

All of this was in the past for a man who was only in his mid-30’s. The genius of Walt Disney hadn’t peaked yet, and many more successes were in store. But it would be an older Walt that would bring them about.

Older     Walt

With so many successes in the past, most men might start to slow down, or ‘rest on their laurels’, as it were. But not an older and more experienced Walt! With many beloved characters in his animation stable and much more imagination yet to be exploited, he branched out into television (The Mickey Mouse Club, Davy Crockett, Zorro, Wonderful World of Color) and then into live-action feature films.

By this time he had become Uncle Walt to an entire generation of children and one of the most awarded creative talents in history. But Walt wanted to have something to play with that would never be finished and that would continue to challenge both himself and his team, and so Disneyland was born.

Unfortunately, Walt passed away before Walt Disney World and all of the other worldwide theme parks were built, but Walt is definitely alive and well in each and every one of them! We can only speculate what Epcot would be today if Walt had lived to bring his last child into the world himself!

Now millions of guests visit Disney parks each year and Disney films regularly rake in grosses in the high millions, and even billions, of box office receipts. Walt’s spirit of creativity is front and center decades after his person has left us.


So when was Walt at his best? This is understandably a hard choice to make. What we know as The Walt Disney Company today would not exist if not for the failures and successes of younger Walt’s earlier companies, and the lessons he learned from them. But The Walt Disney Company of today would also not exist if not for the guidance of the older and wiser Walt.

Most of us remember Walt from the Wonderful World of Color television programs. I first started seeing these in the mid-70’s, long after Walt had passed away. I didn’t know this as I watched my favorite Uncle tell me about the latest world of wonder I was about to visit. So it’s hard for someone of my generation not to pick the older Walt based on this nostalgia alone.

But so much has been published about the younger Walt (thanks to organizations like D23) that we also know a lot about him and his contributions to our favorite entertainment company. We see film clips of an energetic and fun-loving man who personified the spirit of Peter Pan, the boy who would never grow up.

Yes, I say again, this is a hard choice to make. Please weigh in with your opinion in the comments section below, and just maybe, we can come to a definitive conclusion. Yes, and maybe Elvis is still alive and living in a small town near you!

Hidden Origins of the Golden Horseshoe Revue

The Golden Horseshoe Revue was the first show at Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Saloon at Disneyland. It was a 45 minute show which ran over 50,000 times and so is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running musical of all time.

Betty Taylor and Wally Boag are two of the most famous players from the show. But it is Ms. Taylor I am going to focus on with this little piece of origin trivia:

What will she do with that mirror?

The writers of the Golden Horseshoe Revue tried very hard to make the show a good representation of what this kind of entertainment would have looked like back in the day. And they succeeded! Especially with the little gimmick above.

At some point in the show, Ms. Taylor would bring out a hand-held mirror and use it to reflect the footlights into the face of a man in the audience. You can see her play this way with the men in the audience in the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV special (1962) that featured the 10,000th performance of the show. The always gracious Ms. Taylor would feature mostly bald men, to their delight!

Now to the origin part of this post. In 1937, Laurel and Hardy released a movie entitled Way Out West, which opened with an authentic dance hall performance by a lady (Lola) bearing a pretty fair resemblance to Ms. Taylor:

The mirror is smaller, but the bit is the same

A bald man is put in the spotlight!

The fact that Laurel and Hardy included this bit in this scene shows that it must have been an authentic piece of dance hall schtick. Of course, in the movie we see a jealous dance hall floozie upset that her mark is being distracted by her onstage rival. This authentic piece of dance hall behavior was not replicated in the Golden Horseshoe Revue!

Poster for Lola Marcel from Way Out West

I love that the Disney creative teams always do their research to make sure that even the little details are correct to the period and the times being depicted!

Is Disney Becoming too Politically Correct?

It is interesting to me that by even asking that question, I may not be Politically Correct! To wonder if anyone has taken this non-offense initiative too far is to invite criticism. So when is being Politically Correct really too much?

The simple answer is: When it ignores history.

Take Song of the South for instance. This film is likely never to be re-released any time soon. It is apparently thought that it would spark more controversy over the racial problems of the past, and perhaps inflame some of the prejudices that still exist today. But I wonder if burying such a movie will make such controversy disappear? It’s unlikely.


The fact is that this film was made. It was released. It had an impact. And so I believe it should have a place in today’s society.

Take also the portrayal of smoking in Disney films. Now, I agree that we don’t need our children to see their favorite Disney character puffing away on a Virginia Slim. Can we imagine Ariel lighting up while relaxing on a rock after a hard day’s swim? Mickey pulling out a pipe on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and then breaking into a song all about the joys of smoking? Neither scenario is appealing!

Pinocchio enjoys (?) a cigar

But neither is denying that Disney characters have always been depicted as smokers if the story and situation called for it. Like Pinocchio when he was making an ass of himself:


Or Cruela de Ville with her iconic long cigarette holder. And we have to remember that Walt Disney himself was unapologetic about his own chain-smoking (although he did keep it off-camera.)

There was a series of TV commercials depicting Disney characters having bad experiences with smoking, like the aforementioned Pinocchio. The overlaying narration suggested that smoking was bad, so that is a good use of this old footage. But should this old footage be changed, perhaps edited out of the Classic films altogether? The answer appears to be ‘yes, as Disney is going through its Classic catalogue and removing such offending footage!

In conclusion, we might ask: Should the PC movement have the power to, not only ignore, but to change history? Maybe that should be the true controversy!