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The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney: Corrections, Clarifications, and Second Thoughts

The Animated Man

This is a list based on the hardcover edition of the book. Almost all of the actual errors were corrected in the first paperback printing.

Page 1: "A few years later..." The incidents I had in mind actually took place less than two years after Walt's speech in February 1941, so "Not many months later..." would be more accurate.

Page 1: "By the spring of 1938..." A typo: the year should be 1939 (it's correct in the endnotes).

Page 14: Although the transcript of the Pete Martin interviews has Walt referring to "Irish law," and that's a plausible version of what he said, after listening to the tapes I think it's much more likely that he was speaking of "Irish lore."

Page 17: Bellefontaine Avenue, not Street. Like the error just below, a baffling mistake, especially since the address is correct in my photo-essay on Walt's old haunts in Kansas City.

Page 30: The American Legion convention at Kansas City in 1921 was the Legion's third annual convention, not its first. That's correct in Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. I don't know why I got it wrong here.

Page 51: Although Walt did prepare typewritten scenarios for the Alice Comedies in their last couple of seasons, he almost certainly had begun preparing such scenarios much earlier. There is even one for Alice's Wonderland, the first Alice film, which he made in Kansas City in 1923.

Page 65: Contrary to Walt's recollection, Harry Reichenbach was not exactly "managing" the Colony Theatre in November 1928. According to an item in Variety for November 14, 1928, "After working on a week to week basis, Harry Reichenbach has signed a year's contract at a flat salary with Carl Laemmle as special exploitation man for Universal pictures and theatres. Reichenbach also has a percentage inducement if his publicity and exploitation can send the Colony, under U. lease, over a certain figure each week."

A Variety item published less than six months later, in the issue of May 1, 1929, indicates that Reichenbach's tenure at the Colony was actually much shorter than a year. The Colony had just closed, ostensibly for repairs, but Variety said Universal, the Colony's lessee, was giving up on the theater after losing $400,000 there in two years. ("It is called Broadway's jinx house.") Efforts to revive the theatre by booking more expensive live stage acts had "jacked up the budget above the $5,000 minimum which Harry Reichenbach had it for a few months before when, it was claimed, the cut in the overhead realized an even break for the first time in years."

Since Reichenbach got the Colony out of the red by cutting expenses, that makes it seem even more likely that he got Walt to agree to let the Colony show Steamboat Willie for little or nothing. When Mickey Mouse cartoons next turned up on Broadway—Gallopin' Gaucho opened there in January 1929, followed by The Barn Dance in February and Plane Crazy in April—they were booked at the Strand, not at the Colony.

Page 77: Although Walt did refer to Carl Stalling as "the organist" in his 1956 interviews with Pete Martin, he also referred to Stalling by name.

Page 81: Frederick W. Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management was published in 1911, not 1919, as my Italian translator, Marco Pellitteri, has pointed out.

Page 85: The only good indications of the dates of Walt and Lillian's cross-country trip in 1931 are an article in the Kansas City Times for October 16, 1931, reporting on the Disneys' visit to that city and their plans for a "gypsy jaunt" across the U.S. "on the advice of Mr. Disney's physician," and the passenger and crew list for the California, a ship that sailed from Havana on November 3 and arrived at Los Angeles on November 14. Walt was probably away from the studio for a full month, if not longer.

Page 86: Typo: "had" is missing in the fifth line in the third full paragraph.

Pages 113-114: My brief account of the Disneys' visit to Europe in summer 1935 includes two significant errors—Walt did not receive an award from the League of Nations in Paris, and he did not have audiences with either the pope or Benito Mussolini (despite Roy Disney's baffling memory of a meeting with Il Duce), as established definitively by Didier Ghez in his book Disney's Grand Tour: Walt and Roy's European Vacation Summer 1935 (Theme Park Press). This is a copiously illustrated, meticulously researched book that follows the Disneys across Europe. No one with a serious interest in Walt Disney and his studio's history should be without it. So definitive is this book that other sources about the trip can now be disregarded. I've deleted earlier entries about the trip on this page, although I've saved them in my own archives if for any reason they're needed.

Page 132: Typo: In the paragraph starting, "In another interview," in  the third line, "phase" should be "phrase."

Page 134: As Jeff Pepper has shown on his 2719 Hyperion blog, Walt began investing in the Sugar Bowl ski resort in 1939, not 1938. There's also some question as to when he really gave up polo, since the Los Angeles Times showed him participating in a match (substituting for Spencer Tracy) on June 12, 1938, after he had ordered the sale of most of his ponies and shortly before the appearance of a This Week article on June 19, 1938, saying that he "used to play polo."

Page 146: Leopold Stokowski recorded most of the score for Fantasia in April 1939, not May. Like the error on page 30, this is one of those how-the-hell-did-that-happen errors that authors particularly hate, or at least that this particular author hates.

Page 154: Although John P. Miller identified his father as a banker and shipbuilder when I interviewed him in 1991, John Canemaker's research, as embodied in an excellent two-part article on Miller in the ASIFA magazine Cartoons, shows that "insurance executive" would be more accurate.

Page 190: I write on this page of Disney's being in New York with Joe Grant for the opening of Make Mine Music on the Saturday before Easter in 1946, but I believe now I misunderstood what Grant told me and that the incident he described took place seven years earlier, in 1939. Disney was in Philadelphia at the time for the recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra of the soundtrack for Fantasia. The New York Times reported on Saturday, April 8, 1939, that he would be in Manhattan that evening to attend a showing of Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains, the French-language version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was opening that day. Most likely Disney and Grant and perhaps others went to New York to see Blanche-Neige, spent the night, and then returned to Philadelphia on Easter Sunday. I've found no evidence that Disney was in New York when Make Mine Music opened there.

Page 204: I call Jonathan Bell Lovelace a "new member of the Disney board," and that's technically correct since he joined the board in 1947, but he had served on it before, for a few years starting in 1940.

Page 236: As explained in my note for page 366, there shouldn't be a "sic" in the fourth line from the top, in the quotation from Charles Luckman.

Pages 236-37: The chronology is a little vague on these pages, although it's as precise as I could make it before I read the records of two court cases (from 1953 and 1961) and a number of copyright assignments that I wasn't able to see before I finished the book. Even now, some residual vagueness is inescapable. Rather than try to mend individual sentences in the text, I'll lay out here the chronology of the events mentioned on these two pages as I now have it, with a few other events tossed in to provide context:

June 1952-April 1953: In strenuous negotiations, Walt's attorney and attorneys for Walt Disney Productions try to agree on a new employment contract for Walt.

Mid-1952 (probably): Walt hires Nat Winecoff, a promoter, to help him with the Disneyland park he announced in March 1952.

October 1952: Walt begins negotiating with Mitchell Gertz, Johnston McCulley's literary agent, to buy the rights to McCulley's Zorro stories so he can make a Zorro TV series.

October 27, 1952: A Daily Variety columnist reports that Walt is "shopping for a big tract of land."

December 1, 1952: A contract between Gertz and Walt bearing this date is drawn up but not signed, probably because of questions about the actual ownership of the rights that Gertz was conveying. Although McCulley had ostensibly assigned rights in many of his stories to Gertz, only one such assignment, for the story called "Zorro Rides at Dawn," was ever registered with the Copyright Office (in 1950).

December 16, 1952: Walt forms a private company, Walt Disney Enterprises.

February 19, 1953: Walt signs a contract with Gertz that permits him to make a Zorro TV series. On the same date, Johnston McCulley assigned the copyrights on 52 Zorro stories to Walt, personally, presumably in an effort to resolve any questions about the actual ownership of the rights conveyed under the contract with Gertz. All but one of the Zorro stories had been published initially in West magazine; the exception was published in Argosy. The assignment did not include the first Zorro story, "The Curse of Capistrano," published in book form as The Mark of Zorro and the basis for the feature films of that title starring Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power, or "Zorro Rides at Dawn," the story whose copyright McCulley had assigned to Gertz.

McCulley's assignment to Walt, as recorded at the U.S. Copyright Office, includes this provision: "Excluded from the rights herein above assigned, however, is the right to publish in their form and content as originally published, any of the stories comprising the 'work', and the assignor reserves to himself and/or his assignors such magazine serialization rights as shall have been reserved by publishers of magazines in which said stories have heretofore appeared, to the extent that said serialization rights have been reserved by such publisher in and by assignments of copyright running from the said publishers, respectively, to the undersigned Johnston McCulley."

In other words, McCulley reserved the right to publish the stories as they originally appeared. The rights conveyed to Walt were otherwise very broad, encompassing not just every kind of dramatization but every kind of tie-in merchandise.

March 1953: Walt Disney Enterprises changes its name to Walt Disney Incorporated.

April 3, 1953: Walt puts his brother-in-law and longtime employee Bill Cottrell in charge of the Zorro project. (According to Dave Smith of the Walt Disney Archives, Cottrell transferred from the studio's payroll to "Zorro Prod." on that date.)

April 6, 1953: Walt signs a new employment contract with Walt Disney Productions that explicitly gives him the right to pursue outside projects.

April 7, 1953: Walt leaves for New York and London, for the filming of Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.

April 30, 1953: Walt returns to L.A.

Early May 1953: Walt hires Richard Irvine to act as liaison with the architectural firm Pereira and Luckman, which is still involved in the search for a site for Disneyland. (That date is from a Richard Hubler interview with Marvin Davis, who followed Irvine onto what was to become the WED staff two weeks after Irvine was hired. I thought when I wrote the book that Davis was probably mistaken about the date, because events would have had to move so rapidly if he were correct, but I now think it likely that he was correct and that events did move rapidly.)

May 11, 1953: Walt assigns the Zorro rights to Walt Disney Incorporated.

Spring or summer 1953 (probably): The TV networks scuttle Walt's Zorro project by insisting that he make a pilot.

June 3, 1953: Walt meets with Harrison "Buzz" Price, who begins work a few days later on a twelve-week location study.

July 1, 1953: Walt leaves for England, New York, and New England.

August 22, 1953: Walt returns to Los Angeles.

August 28, 1953: Buzz Price submits a location study that identifies Anaheim as the best place for the park.

November 14, 1953: Walt Disney Incorporated changes its name to WED Enterprises.

June 1, 1957: WED Enterprises assigns its rights to the Zorro stories to Walt Disney Productions, which paid WED $150,000 for those rights. Construction of sets begins that month.

October 10, 1957: The first Zorro episode is broadcast by ABC Television. The show runs successfully for two years, leaving the air only because of a dispute between Disney and ABC.

February 1, 1959: Walt Disney Productions buys the rights to "Zorro Rides at Dawn" (and associated material that includes a screenplay by Irving Wallace) from RKO Teleradio Pictures. "Dawn" was the one story whose assignment of copyright from McCulley to Mitchell Gertz was recorded at the Copyright Office in 1950; Gertz had transferred his rights to a company called Moon Productions later that year, and the rights subsequently passed to what was then known as RKO Radio Pictures, Disney's distributor until 1954.

In April 1961, McCulley's daughter and executrix, Beatrix Maurine McCulley, filed a lawsuit against Gertz, Walt, and other defendants, claiming that Gertz had cheated her father, who had died in 1958, when he made the deal with Walt. On March 4, 1965, as part of a settlement, Beatrix McCulley executed two assignments to Walt Disney Productions covering a total of 64 Zorro stories. (She retained the rights to "The Curse of Capistrano"/The Mark of Zorro.)

On November 18, 1967, Walt Disney Productions reassigned the copyright on 22 stories—presumably the ones that had not been used for Zorro TV episodes—to Irving Gertz, the son of Mitchell Gertz, who was by then deceased. The assignment says that WDP acquired the copyrights "as successor in interest to Walter E. Disney of all rights acquired by said Walter E. Disney under and by virtue of a certain agreement dated December 1, 1952 between said Mitchell Gertz and said Walter E. Disney." Walt himself had died the year before, and Walt Disney Productions was now washing its hands of Zorro.

Page 241: As Reijo Laaksonen points out, it's borderline accurate at best to say that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of the first CinemaScope features. It was released late in 1954, and by the end of that year a total of 38 CinemaScope features had been released, starting with The Robe in September 1953. So 20,000 Leagues had lots of company.

Page 244: The Disneys signed their contract with ABC on April 2, 1954, not in March, as the book says. Thanks to Todd Pierce for that catch.

Page 247: Although Disney sources have routinely identified July 1954 as the month when construction of Disneyland began, Todd Pierce points out that there's no evidence of "physical work" on the park until an August 25, 1954, report in the Los Angeles Times that grading of the site was about to begin. In other words, the construction schedule was even more abbreviated than we've thought.

Patrick Jenkins has added some information drawn from his collection of aerial photographs of Disneyland: "The first photograph is dated July 16, 1954, and is listed as the date the property was purchased.  The next photograph and date is August 20, 1954, which shows burnt trees as part of the first work.  By the next photograph dated September 22, 1954, the cut and fill for the river boat ride in Frontierland was done." 

Page 260: As Mike Vaughn, a Disneyland cast member from 1977 to 1998, has pointed out, the park's Matterhorn, monorail, and submarine ride opened on June 14, 1959—not July 14, as the book has it. I must have had Bastille Day on the brain when I wrote that passage.

Page 265: Reijo Laaksonen points out that it's incorrect to say that Francis Lyon, who had been a film editor, had no directing experience before he directed The Great Locomotive Chase (1956) for Disney. He was credited as director on three earlier features, Crazylegs (1953), The Bob Mathias Story (1954) and Cult of the Cobra (1955), the first two of which were assembled in large part from footage of athletic contests involving the football player Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch and the Olympic athlete Bob Mathias. He is also credited in the Internet Movie Database with directing some of the "Spin and Marty" episodes for Disney's TV show The Mickey Mouse Club, and presumably it was that work that led to his otherwise inexplicable assignment to direct Fess Parker's first theatrical starring vehicle.

Page 301: Through my careless reliance on Buzz Price's misspelling in his own book, I misspelled the name of the insurance magnate John D. MacArthur as "McArthur."

Photo captions

Second photo section, fourth page: As Dana Gabbard has pointed out, the photo at the bottom of the page is of Walt at the controls not of the monorail, but of the Viewliner, a short-lived futuristic train that began boarding passengers in 1957. I've tried to reconstruct how that mistake happened, but suffice it to say that Murphy's Law was very much at work. (In the corrected version, "Viewliner" is spelled with a lower-case "v," a mistake that will be fixed in future printings.)


Page 366, continuation of note 2: As Todd Pierce has suggested, and other sources (like early concept sketches) indicate, Walt could have had a monorail in mind as early as 1952, as Charles Luckman wrote, even though there was no monorail at Disneyland until 1959.

Page 374, note 84: As Marco Pellitteri points out, the correct date of that New York article is November 12, 1973, not November 17.

[Posted March 28, 2007; updated March 29, April 3 and 7, May 20 and 22, June 12, 19, and 21, July 6, 7, and 17, October 21 and 25, and November 3, 2007; January 19, March 11, May 22, June 9, July 30, and December 30, 2008; September 15, 2009; July 24, 2011; January 22, 2012; and June 7, 2014.]