Saturday, December 17, 2022

Walt Before Mickey (2015).

This one is sort of interesting in the sense that I knew about its source material, before I ever knew someone had turned it into a movie.  At least I think that's the way the deal went down.  What I know for sure is that the first time I ever heard of this film, it wasn't a movie.  Instead, it was just this unobtrusive, yet eye-catching book tucked away comfortably on a shelf, in among the biography section of a local Barnes and Noble.  That's how I first found out about Timothy S. Susanin's Walt Before Mickey: Disney's Early Years: 1919-1928.  I picked it up off the shelf in a brief moment of impulse curiosity, and began to page through the thing.  One point of potential interest that caught my eye about Susanin's text was that it featured a personal forward by Diane Disney Miller.  She was Walt's very own daughter, and here she was willing to sing the praises of a book about her dad.  It was enough to make the book stand out in my own mind, and yet, for whatever reason, I just put it back on the shelf and moved on.  Still, while I might not have bought the book, those few brief moments of reading were enough for the text to leave an impact on my mind.  It's the sort of reaction any author wants their work to have if they wish to make it in the writing gig, no matter whether you're penning fiction or, in this case, a clear-cut work of real life biography.

In this case, Susanin appears to have scored a quiet, slow-burn bull's eye.  The memory of that book stuck around long enough for me to one day give a bit of an inward shrug, then try and see if I could pull any information about the book up online.  That's how I found out about the movie adaptation of the book.  I'd no sooner typed in the basic title of the biography before the Net informed me that they'd gone and made a movie out of it.  I can remember thinking, "Well that was fast".  Or at least I thought it was.  Turns out the book had been around since 2011.  It took about four to five more years before anyone showed an interest in bringing this small, unassuming work to any kind of screen.  Still, it looks like Susanin's book has one the cinema lottery, for lack of any better terms.  The result is the film under discussion here today.  Right now I have this kind of working theory about why the film even exists.  What it boils down to is that something tells me it's all an outcome of Diane Miller wanting to get at least something like this off the ground, and into any general release that would take it.  In other words, I think there's something the viewer should probably keep in mind as they head into this flick.  The entire thing could very well have been a labor of love before it was ever anything else.  Perhaps it's just something to remember along the way to finding out if Walt Before Mickey is any good or not.

The Story of the Life.

The film itself counts as an example of the bio-drama.  It's the same basic premise as that found in movies like Amadeus, Selma, or even a film like Saving Mr. Banks, which shares a main character with the picture under discussion.  That's another story that happened later on down the timeline to the same subject at the heart of this feature.  Like it's title implies, Walt Before Mickey is interested in taking a look at the formative years of one of the most influential filmmakers and animation pioneers in the history of cinema.  The history it tries to recount goes as follows.  Walter Elias Disney was born on the 5th of December, in a suburb of Chicago, to parents named Flora and Elias, in the year 1901.  Up till then, the trajectory of the artist's family tree is somewhat interesting.  According to the research of biographers like Neal Gabler, the Disney clan amounted to a generational series of ongoing boom and bust fortunes by a line of fathers who shared in common an enterprising nature combined with what amounts to an astonishing lack of business skills.  The results of this history of personal mismanagement meant that Walt's first impressions of both family and life was one of extremes.

Perhaps a good way to describe it is to say that he grew up under a kind of Jekyll and Hyde roof until he got into his teens.  If the family's fortunes were riding high, then Elias could be one of the most generous, even sometimes warm-hearted of individuals.  Even at the best of times, however, these "good" moments were still off-set by a father who raised children according to an old, lingering survival of what might be called the classic Victorian household model.  As head of the family, Elias saw it as his duty to fulfill the role of the stern and patrician parent.  Someone who could acknowledge a genuine love for his kids, yet who must always be on guard against any overt displays of "sentimentality", especially where the children were concerned.  It's an ideal that's as artificial as it is unworkable, and all it accomplished in Walt's case was that it caused his father to stifle the natural affections and enthusiasms that a parent can or should have for his fours sons (Herbert, Raymond, Roy, and Walt) and their only daughter (Ruth).  The Disney siblings didn't grow up without any affection on their father's part.  Yet there was the lingering sense of awkward claustrophobia about it for them all.

Bear in mind, this is the "good" side of the family coin.  It's whenever the family purse was near to, or suffering from a dry stage that all Elias's Mr. Hyde qualities would come to the fore.  As his greatest flaw was an almost chronic lack of business sense, this meant that Eli's kids were often at the mercy of their dad's bad temper, as he failed to make a go out of a string of odd jobs.  These included the likes of being a railway worker, a fiddler, mailman, and orange grove farmer.  Out of all his activities, it was the career of a farmer that Elias took to the most.  To his credit, these were also his happiest times, and it was during this brief, pastoralist stint working the farmlands of Missouri that wound up leaving one of the greatest impression on his son, Walt.  It is also just possible that whatever close bonds Elias was able to establish between himself and his youngest boy were forged there, if it happened at all.

The trouble is even this brief childhood idyll was marked by less than first-class aspects.  As the youngest boy, Walt appears to have fallen into the role of being the runt in the litter.  He doesn't seem to have gotten it as bad as other kids in his unwanted position.  He wasn't neglected, and he doesn't seem to have been bullied by any of his brothers.  In fact, Walt was able to develop a protective, self-reinforcing bond with his brother Roy.  It was this brotherly closeness which seems to have helped them endure the worst of their father's temper whenever things got bad, which was more often than anyone in the household would have liked.  It gave Walt's early years this strange sort of schizoid, back-and-forth, see-saw quality.  One minute the money in the purse had grown, and it was like all of a sudden everything and all involved were on top of the world.  Then the contents of the family funds would shrink, and you had to walk on egg shells when you were around dad, especially if he was in a bad mood.  There's an ironic, almost fairy-tale like quality to Walt's formative years.  There's also little doubt that this had a shaping effect on the type of artist and storyteller he would one day become.

The key factor that was able to sustain Walt through these hard, early days was his ability to tap into his Imagination.  This was the other main aspect of those first, crucial years in the growth of the artist's mind.  What made it at least somewhat bearable was Walt's ability to imagine his way out of whatever miseries he might have had to deal with whether at home, or at work.  The most important thing about it was that he didn't just use his creative abilities for mere daydreaming.  Rather, let's say that even if this is what he did, the important thing to note is that Walt had this weird inner drive that wouldn't let him rest content with mental shadows flickering across the wall of his own mind.  Sooner or later, he would begin to wonder if it was possible to allow the make-believe to come to life.  To see if he could bring those flickering mind shadows out into the real world, somehow.  It didn't take long for Walt to figure out the perfect way of realizing these inner visions on a real life canvas.  It all came from the discovery of a medium that he would go one to make famous.  Here is where the details get sketchy, so to speak.

One of the greatest questions about Disney's career is where and when did he first learn about drawing?  It's a simple enough question on the face of it.  The trick is its also one of those historical riddles with a multitude of possible answers.  It's not so much that the answer is multiple choice.  It's just that all we have now are a random series of snippets, more like photo snapshots of the artist first encountering the art form.  Then beginning the slow, gradual process of discovering just how much you can accomplish with a line of pencil and ink on a piece of paper.  In what will probably go down as the official biography, for instance, Neal Gabler provides the memory of Walt's sister, Ruth.  It seems her older brother was itching to draw something, and yet there was no material lying around for him to illustrate with.  Then they both found out that you could use a substance like house tar to make or compose fairly decent images with.  So they did just that, and soon found out to their chagrin that tar isn't the kind of substances that just cleans out with the wash.  Even years later, his mother still griped about it (15).

It's an amusing anecdote, so far as it goes.  In fact, one of the opening scenes in Walt Before Mickey features a variation of this exact moment in time.  It's a scene that comes right near the start, just after the opening credits.  We're shown a representation of young Walt doodling chalk outlines on the side of the family barn, before being caught and chewed out by dear old dad.  Before this, the film's director, Khoa Le, even made the perhaps smart decision to portray yet another flashpoint where the real Disney tried to draw a picture of the prize horse from one of his local Missouri neighbors.  These are all clever nods to history on the part of the film.  It also doesn't get us any nearer to figuring out how the artist discovered his medium.  To his credit, this is also a topic on which Le pretty much knows he has to throw up his hands, give a little shrug to the audience, and just then just pass over the issue with no further comment.  This means we're introduced to the artist en media res.  When we first see Walt, he's already started to become the figure we now know him as.  There's no way of getting at any crucial, earlier points that would help either the director or the audience figure out how he became so good at his chosen profession, or what events or influences molded him well for such tasks as animation.

None of this is the director's fault, by the way.  Nor am I at all sure that this even counts as a fault in the movie itself.  It's just one of those ironies of history, where the knowledge that there's still a lot we don't know can create this nagging sense of a gap that needs filling in, like a perfect set of teeth, except for that one tooth missing somewhere just out of sight.  The good news is that this gap doesn't really hurt the film's chances, and so its possible to give Le a pass here.  While the question of how Walt learned to love drawing and make his illustration move will have to remain one of those riddles for the ages (at least for the moment) there are still other questions to ask about his artistic development.  Another good one is where did he get his ideas?  In other words, what were the influences that shaped the kind of stories he was suited to tell?  This one is a bit easier to answer, as we have ample evidence for the particular kind, or type of stories that Walt grew-up on.  In fact, does it even have to be mentioned he enjoyed listening to fairy tales as a kid?  By now, such knowledge is something of a fait acompli.  It's the sort of given that's become so natural to both kids and adults that it's difficult to picture a world without it.

Still, I don't think the topic has ever been explored in as much depth as it deserves.  A part of this can labeled as Walt's own fault.  One of the curses of his gift was the way he had of making years of hard work and effort come off as seamless and easy in the finished product.  When you look at films like Snow White or the original Pinocchio, one of the real tricks of the artistry is how it is able to hide all the skills involved that were needed to bring the story to life.  The final results are often of such a quality that it always manages to come off in such a way that it makes you think it's always been this way.  That doesn't take just talent, it also requires a particular kind of Imagination.  It shouldn't take too long to realize that the correct word to describe Walt's talent is that of Romanticism.  On the sliding scale of artistic expression, Disney is the one who always trended toward the ideas of enchantment and the fantastical.  That isn't to say he was this head in the clouds dreamer.  In fact, if you go back to all of his best work, Walt can surprise you with just how much of a nice, compatible dark streak he has to go along with the more expected trademarks.  It's a neat and effective blending of straightforward fantasy combined with a clever and appealing sense of the Gothic that is still an under-acknowledged strength.

This meant that Walt's creative focus as an artist was as much a matter of temperament as it was a genuine enthusiasm for the popular fantasy genre.  It was also something he continued to get ragged about mercilessly by critics and peers, while also being embraced by the public at large.  In fact, this kind of obstacle could almost have been there right from the start.  As the film version of Disney (Thomas Ian Nicholas) informs us, right at the start of Le's picture, "My father never understood me.  He always thought I was the black sheep of the family.  But my older brother, Roy, would say: 'Hey, kid.  I'm for you.  Go for it'.  He encouraged me, and I'd do anything to get attention".  That might sound harsh, yet it's all true enough, so far as actual history goes.  It's sounds like a throwaway line, yet it's really a key idea of the movie, and so Le makes the right decision to place it up-front, right at the beginning.  Here in these moments, the director appears to understand that one of the great spurs to Walt's Romantic streak came, in paradoxical fashion, from his own negligent father.  The line from the film says that Walt started learning how to draw, take an interest in cinema, and learn how to be a performer, all as a way of getting attention.  However, it's also clear that a lot of that is an effort to push back against a stifling household, and a distant paternal figure who can't be there when it mattered.

As a result, Le suggests that a lot of what made Walt so dedicated to the Romantic forms of artistic expression is that a lot of it came from the desire to rebel against the forbidding strictures of his dad, and what it all meant for his home life, what little there was of it.  It may sound like just an "interesting" note to open a film on, even one that is "based on real life", yet it seems to have been the smart choice in this case.  It helps to ground the film in a firm sense of not just the reality of Disney's formative years, but what might also be the thematic thread that tied all of his personal and artistic efforts together.  It's one of those minor touches that can help make the difference to the picture as a whole.

Conclusion: Not a Bad First Effort.  

After these very brief establishing moments in the first act, the film moves on to its main action.  From here, we follow Nicholas's Disney as he pretty much starts casting about for opportunities that will allow him to reach an as yet ill-defined goal.  This is pretty much the exact same situation Walt found himself in when he first left home to make his own fortune.  This is the point at which another of Le's strengths as a director makes itself known.  He makes sure to trace the actual footsteps that Walt took on his way to immortality.  It gives the film a refreshing attention to the details of the actual life, and manages to find a way to hold your interest in a manner that is able to rely on the straightforward drama of history in a style that I don't think I've seen accomplished in an actual while.  We're able to follow along, then, as Disney gets his first paying gig at the Pesman-Rubin Commercial Art Studio.  It was here that Walt began to make a serious effort at seeing what could be done with drawings and illustrations that moved.  He was helped in no small part by meeting Ub Iwerks (Armando Gutierrez), the man who would become Walt's first major animator.  At the moment, however, he's presented in an amusing fashion as this hard working illustrator who is mildly annoyed by the compliments Disney gives him.

Both Disney and Iwerks were soon let go as the Pesman Studio went bankrupt.  Ordinarily, all that would happen after a minor debacle like this is that each party would most likely take stock of the situation, give a shrug of the shoulders, hope the other one has better luck, and then both go their own separate ways.  At which point each of them would have vanished into anonymity, with nary another word heard from them again.  That's not what happened, however.  Instead, Walt turned out to have whatever kind of vital drive in him that was able to convince Iwerks that they both should go into the same kind of commercial drawing business together.  The major difference was that they could try and see if it was possible to make drawings move.  It was a technique that both artists were familiar with.  Each of them had seen examples from the pens of other moving picture illustrators of the time.  However, this would prove to be the first time Walt and one of his future staff were going to tackle the art of animation on their own.  Together, he and Iwerks set up the "Laugh-O-Gram" cartoon company.

The very name is laughable in itself.  At least it proved to be that all-important step, and it wasn't without a lot of promising results to its name, no matter how bemusing.  That was the original indie production house at which Disney, with the crucial help of Ub, was able to make his initial, tentative mark in the world of moving illustrations.  For a time, at least, it was enough of a genuine success that Walt and Ub were able to hire on additional talent to the company roster.  This included the likes of brothers Hugh (Hunter Gomez) and Fred Harman (Timothy Neil Williams), Rudolph "Rudy" Ising (David Henrie), along with some tow-head with the curious, yet memorable name of Friz Freleng.  His was just this out-going, gregarious hayseed from Kansas City, Missouri.  Friz many not have looked liked much on first impression, yet he had this innate, anarchic, screwball sense of humor that often made him the life of any room he entered.  According to Le's movie, one of his most common greetings of introduction was to ask someone, "What's up, Doc"?  Later on, he would become one of Walt's sole rivals in the cartoon industry.  All of that was way in the future, however, and it's not brought up in the course of Le's film.  Nor is this any ground the director needs to cover in order to tell his story.

The real point is that for a time, Walt and his team were not just flying high, they were sort of busy making history.  They never knew it at the time, or course.  Hell, they were just a bunch of misfit brats trying to have as much fun as possible, and this is something Le is able to capture well during what proves to be the first crucial moments in his film.  There is a nice sense of excitement in the discovery of their collective creativity, it's one of the highlights not just of the film, but also Walt's early life.  At the same time, it was really more like a pallet cleanser.  An opening salvo before the real artistry began to kick in.  All of this was still in the future, and at the time, there was no way that Disney, Iwerks, or Freleng could know it.  At that moment, in fact, just as they were starting to hit their stride, the "Laugh-O-Gram" company's financial prospects began to come under heavy fire, as their first distributor, Frank L. Newman (Arthur Bernstein), winds up having to shutter his own theater chain.  It's a set back that quietly bankrupted Walt's first attempt at an animation studio.  Funny how it didn't slow him down.

Instead, Walt used the contacts he'd made to call up a Mr. Charles Mintz (Conor Dubin), from New York, about a new distribution deal.  This was the second crucial moment in Disney's life.  If Charlie Mintz had turned the young prospect from Missouri away, right then and there, with a simple phone call, then it's sort of debatable whether we would have ever seen films like Pinocchio, Frozen, or Wall-E at any point in time.  I've never found out what convinced Mintz to say yes to Walt's proposal that day.  Guess it all might have been down to just how good Disney was as a showman-salesman.  Whatever the case, the would-be animator had a new deal, and a limited amount of time in which to make good on delivering his promises.  So, with nothing else to lose, and all the writing on the wall, Walt bought himself a train ticket, and headed out west.  He landed in Los Angeles in the year 1923.  The first thing he did was hunt down his brother Roy, and together they found some way to pawn their meager savings into a new business venture that was known at first as just the Disney Bros. Studio.

When they were all set up, Walt got in contact with Ub, Hugh, Phil, and Friz, once again.  When that call came, they answered it, joined Walt and Roy in California, and promptly began on a career path that would last all of them for the rest of their lives.  In the process, all they ever managed to accomplish was a series of revolutions in cinema history.  That's the story Le has to tell or work with, really.  What he has to work with is whatever narrative history itself has to supply.  In this case, it leaves the director with the story of an artist's rise to fame, and the two major challenges he had to face on the road to stardom.  The funny thing is just how picture perfect the whole setup was both on and off-screen.  It's like if you want to do a good rags to riches tale, then Walt is their to give fuel to the fire.  It's just that I can see how most folks in the audience would be inclined to scoff at how simple and almost storybook perfect the entire plot of Walt's early years were.  A lot of that comes from how many times we've been told about the difference between fiction and reality.  It's the kind of thing that gets drilled into our heads from an early age.  Then along comes guys like Disney, and we're all forced back upon the maxim that "truth is stranger than fiction".  So the critics are left in a kind of personal muddle.

When it comes to all the barbs that can be aimed at this film on the grounds that it lacks realism, all I can say is that there are several objections to this claim.  On a stylistic level, the director Khoa Le has gone on the record about the deliberate choices he made in framing the picture.  "He mentioned, '"I came from a short film background, indie stuff, so I knew how to work efficiently," Le said. "I'm an editor, too, so I was shooting to edit. For most scenes the actors got only two takes. I had to go back to my grassroots of guerrilla filmmaking (web)".  This is something that's born out by the film itself.  Le chooses to setup his shots in a kind of bare-bones, no-nonsense style that situates every scene in a way that is able to give the audience an exact understanding of what's going on, where, and to who.  As a result, the film has this curious sense of economic pacing that never feels rushed, while also making sure the interest never lags.  It's this fine sort of balancing act that Le tries to maintain, and the fact that he kept my interest throughout the whole thing all points to a difficult task well accomplished.

There are still a number of variations for the criticism of Le's film for it's perceived lack of "Realism".  They go more or less as follows: the film can't be good because it isn't "true to life", or that "life just doesn't work that way", or that "it's just not fair".  Going through these critical remarks in a descending order, it seems like the closer we reach to the end, the stranger it all gets.  We've dealt sufficiently with both the style of the film, and the events it describes.  When it comes questions of "the way life is", we're starting to get into a lot of heavy, existential territory, and my own experience has taught me to be a lot more cautious on such matters.  The final idea about "fairness" is a bit way too out of left field for me.  I mean, history is a discoverable thing, after all, nor is it changeable.  If we're talking about the morality of certain historical actions, well, that's one thing.  It's also pretty cut and dried.  Claiming that reality doesn't play fair because it won't adhere to the rules of aesthetic "Realism", on the other hand, is one of those statements that make too little sense to be able to take with any degree of seriousness.  Le tells the truth of Walt's story to the best of his abilities, and that's all he can do.  The best answer I've got to any criticism beyond that point is "Cest la vie, say the old folks.  It goes to show you never can tell". 

Another criticism I can see audiences making against the film is that it is repetitive.  The crux of this claim is that starts out with an initial conflict that is soon resolved at the midpoint of the picture, only to have it come back for what amounts to a retread of the first act.  What makes this critique untrue is that it stands as a misreading not only of Le's film, but also of the actual, real-life history on which he is directly drawing from in order to tell his story.  The entire first act is concerned with an abortive effort to go into business as an independent animation studio, and the venture's inevitable collapse.  This is all something that happened to Walt in real life.  When "Laugh-O-Gram" went belly up, it proved to be the lowest point in his life.  In that sense, the first act of both the film and the real artist's life is concerned with a downward trajectory towards the lowest point possible.  With the arrival of the second act, the film and the life switch gears, as the story becomes an uphill climb to the top style success story.  It's enough to mark out a vital difference in both halves of the picture that ought not to escape the audience.

That's not to say it isn't possible to have a few legitimate criticisms of Le's work.  Is there any room for improvement, for instance?  The most logical answer has to be "Of course there is".  The trick is that the criticisms I have for the movie hinge less on professionalism, and more on the less accurate level of personal tastes, and preferences.  Some of the things it's possible to wish the filmmakers had done with this material is to try and create a better sense of Walt's historically verified rich and imaginative inner life.  He was, to put it mildly, one of the world's great dreamers.  The difference in his case is that he was able to succeed at what Stephen King once called, in an apt phrase, "dreaming awake".  In Disney's case, it meant the ability to have well thought out mental pictures in his head of what he hoped to accomplish on the cinematic canvas.  It was usually a kind of vision that he was so dedicated towards, that it often resulted in a perfectionist streak that never failed to drive the rest of his staff up the walls.

Still, Walt was never the kind of guy to apologize for trying to realize the idea in his mind, especially not when he knew they could work.  He was so good at seeing the story, that he was often able to get others to realize it as well.  It was his main artistic strength, and I wish more had been done with this angle in particular.  There should have been more scenes of Disney and his crew brainstorming ideas.  Everything would appear at a standstill, and then Walt's eyes would light up and he starts to detail his ideas to the rest of the staff.  Here is where I think a real opportunity was missed.  One of things that everybody who worked with Disney described about him was how good he was at telling them of his ideas.  He wouldn't just sit and narrate.  Instead, he'd get up and act out the scenario as he envisioned it.  It was something he did with all of his best ideas, and the most famous example of this was the night when he gathered the Nine Old Men into his studio to tell all the story that became Snow White.

There's a real good way that sort of anecdote could have been portrayed in a biopic.  How it could work is the script has Walt get up and start pacing as he rattles off details for a new cartoon.  The scene would start out, at first, with Disney just simply describing his idea.  However, as he begins to hit his stride, he gets up and starts pacing the room, making all the appropriate gestures needed to make the Nine Old Men understand the pictures he sees in his head.  At last, there should come a point where the art of animation is brought back into the spotlight, as the figures in Walt's mind begins to take a solid, ink and paint shape.  The sequence would then consist of Walt both describing and interacting with his own creations, just like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  It would have to consist of the live action actor, along with a character like Mickey, and whatever shenanigans Disney might be describing to the other animators.  The whole scene would go from real life and into a fantasy, from which we'd get to see Walt observe his characters as they have a brief, vignette adventure.  Maybe what could happen is Mickey would slowly take shape, and then as Walt continues on, the setting and players from the original Steamboat Willie cartoon would appear around Walt, as he begins to observe the story take shape around him.  Such an idea could be a tour-de-force, if done right.  Though this is no real complaint.

Le is a small, indie filmmaker working, by his own admission, on a guerilla budget.  It's the same type of filmmaking situation that made guys like Robert Rodriguez famous.  Le, of course, isn't in quite the same league as the director of El Mariachi.  The good news is he doesn't have to be in order to accomplish the goals he needs to make his own efforts work well.  All he needs in order to achieve the goals required by a story like this is to keep a steady hand on the wheel, and let history do the talking.  Le is able to accomplish this task with a sturdy and brisk professionalism that makes his study in the growth of the artist's mind both enlightening, and above all, entertaining. All that's left to point out is that while the efforts here count as a success, this shouldn't be looked upon as the final say in the matter.  When it comes to telling the cinematic biography of an artist like Walt Disney, one of the key things to keep in mind is that we're dealing with a history that is multifaceted by nature.  The reason there's still plenty of room for improvement to build upon from Le's film is because there's no way any one filmmaker can ever exhaust the life story of one of the most famous cartoonists in the history of American cinema.  When it comes to the creation of the Magic Kingdom there's always more to tell.

Not long before starting this review, I came across a faux movie poster for another shot at telling Disney's story.  The difference was it was the poster for a film that never even entered production.  Instead, the created image (done with surprising skill by an artist known as Pascal Witaszek) amounts to nothing less than a movie pitch told through a paint-portrait format.  It includes an ideal casting choice list for the actors that Witaszek thinks would be perfect for this alternate film idea.  Ryan Gosling would play Walt, Michelle Williams is chosen for the role of Lillian Bounds (Walt's future wife), with Ewan McGregor cast as Roy Disney.  I have to admit, there's enough sense of genuine merit in Pascal's idea that I'm willing to say that perhaps Gosling and and the others listed should take the fan up on his offer, and try to green-light it.  It's an easy choice to make because, as I said, there's always more to the Disney story that's worth telling.  Khoa Le's film, in this sense, is best seen as a decent and usable first effort.  It's a movie that can stand just as well on its own.  At the same time, it can be used as a scaffold from which other fans can launch their own try at the story of the Mouse House and its creator.  It's for all these reasons that I can call Walt Before Mickey a good start to an ongoing story.   

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