Thursday, 15 December 2016

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-2wLWyAjpnjs/U3MO7nzsbuI/AAAAAAAAFjU/Iz-A1EnQDKY/s1600/Mickey_Globe_Crying.jpgThe event I am recalling happened fifty years ago today...

I am getting ready for school and, suddenly, my father is calling up the stairs: "Brian, Walt Disney has died..."

Downstairs, I heard the murmuring drone of radio voices as my father – busy brewing early-morning tea – listens, as he does every day, to the BBC’s morning news programme.

I ought, perhaps, to have dashed downstairs to listen to the reports, absorb the details, gather up the tributes. After all, Walt Disney was my hero. A strange idol for a teenage lad, maybe – but that is what he was.

I collected every book, magazine and trivial snippet that I could find about Disney and his studio. I was forever copying pictures of Disney characters in my sketchbooks – in fact my youthful ambition was to be a Disney artist, to animate those fabulous beings that appeared in his films. I longed to be a part of that mystical process that created characters out of ink and paint and then imbued them with a power to move people to laughter or tears; I was obsessed by the man and his movies.

Later that morning, on my way to school, I would buy the daily newspapers and – in a corner of the playground at morning break – pore over the obituaries; but, at the moment of first hearing the news, I had only one response: I sat on the edge of my bed and wept.


For the first time in my young life I experienced that bizarre phenomenon: a feeling of overwhelming grief at the death of someone whom I did not know. Not only had I never met Walt Disney, I had – rather surprisingly – never even written him a fan letter. Yet, I had been bereaved of someone who held a truly unique place in my affections and the loss felt achingly huge.

During the fifty years since that day, I have continued to study and, occasionally, write about the life and work of Walt Disney and, in the process, had the privilege of meeting many of those who knew, loved and (occasionally) loathed the man. Now, once again, I am working on a book about Disney and am realising that I am passing on a torch to those who will come after who will not have the familiarity of having lived when Disney was still known throughout the world as a flesh-and-blood person as opposed to just a corporate name represented by a copyrighted signature.

That knowledge, as much as anything else, is what fires my enthusiasm, because, whilst my experiences and encounters have brought me very close to feeling that I understand much about the personality and character of Walter Elias Disney, I have never been – and never will be – as close to him as I was on that morning when my father called upstairs to tell me the news that Walt Disney had died.

7 comments:

Beth Stilborn said...

This is such a beautiful tribute, Brian. There are tears in my eyes as I read this. That teenager sitting on the edge of his bed and weeping has done so much to honour Walt Disney in the intervening years. Thank you.

Michael G. said...

Thank you Brian! Hard to believe it was 50 years ago! Thanks for your lovely tribute!

François Monferran said...

"The Death Of Innocence" ... The Sherman Brothers have written a song about it, haven't they? They called it "The Age Of Not Believing"! Your tribute and remembrance are so moving that comments from me would ruin them! I know that Walt is smiling!

Nancy Reyes said...

thank you for remembering a great man.

duns37 said...

איזה יופי! אתה פלא של אדם!

Galen Fott said...

Brian, have you been to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco? It is the most gorgeous, fantastically-designed museum I have ever been in. It charts a more-or-less chronological path through Disney's life, and when you get to the end, it's quite an emotional experience.

Brian Sibley said...

Hi, Galen,
No, sadly, I've never been there, although Diane Disney Miller gave me a tour of the shell of the building when it was under construction and I got see many of the exhibits that were then being kept in a storage space.