Posted by Tom Bricker
on Aug 7, 2013 in Reviews
| 15 comments
Dream It! Do It! My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms is Walt Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar’s long-awaited autobiography detailing his 50-some years working with Walt Disney, and being a part of every single Disney theme park that opened after Disneyland. His resume alone should make buying this book a no-brainer for most Disney fans, but this review will take a look at the book anyway just to see how Sklar did in telling his tales.
Right from the Introductions, one pulled from a 1991 piece by Ray Bradbury and another loving one from Richard Sherman containing an ode to Marty Sklar set to the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the reader knows they’re going to be in for a fun ride. Mr. Sklar’s book delivers on those expectations, and with each post-Walt chapter, the title becomes more engrossing.
Dream It! Do It! doesn’t start out this engrossing. The writing in the first 50 or so pages is a bit uneven. It’s interesting reading about Mr. Sklar’s upbringing and early years with Disney, and even the little anecdotes like his parents’ affinity for contests helps inform the reader more about what makes Marty tick. However, the topics bounce around, some without any resolution or explanation as to why they’re included. The issue partly seems to stem from Mr. Sklar’s juggling act of telling stories about both himself and Walt Disney in the early pages of the book. Obviously Walt Disney is going to bear some mentions in any autobiography from those with whom he worked, but some of Mr. Sklar’s anecdotes about Walt would seem more at home in a Walt Disney biography. I understand that the general public is probably much more interested in Walt Disney than Marty Sklar so this might help it sell, but Marty Sklar is very interesting man, too, as the subsequent chapters of the book demonstrate.
The Walt anecdotes are fun, to be sure, and they are frank. Walt’s anger over Henry Ford’s reaction to a pitch, among other stories, are presented without an attempt at carefully cultivating a certain image of Walt Disney. Fans are no doubt aware that authors of biographies on Disney artists Rolly Crump and Ward Kimball have elected to release their titles outside of The Walt Disney Company’s publishing arm to preclude Disney from having editorial control. Marty Sklar’s book is published by Disney Editions, and he seemed to hold nothing back. There are certain details about Walt the man, Imagineering, and the Company that I wouldn’t expect to find in Disney’s “official” version of its history. Mr. Sklar’s dislike of Dick Nunis is quite clear, and he makes no effort to sugarcoat that or his opinions of Paul Pressler or Peter Rummell. He also doesn’t hide his fondness for Dick Cook, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Matt Ouimet, all of whom have been fired from or forced out of The Walt Disney Company. There’s certainly nothing scandalous or offensive in the book–just the types of stories that show Walt and the people who have run The Walt Disney Company as real people, instead of painting them as the “Patron Saints of Magic & Dreams.”
Once Mr. Sklar’s career with Disney starts to take off, the book does as well, and here is where the author really finds his groove. His early days at Disneyland begin this portion of the book, and while his Disneyland days are intriguing, it’s the chapter on the New York World’s Fair that really grabbed my attention. From that point on, I couldn’t put Dream It! Do It! down. The chapters on the initial design and construction of Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center are equally interesting, and I recognized a few of the stories in these sections from panels Mr. Sklar has done at various D23 events over the years. It’s great to see these finally memorialized in writing for a wider audience to enjoy, because some of these stories are great. (more…)