By Jonathan W. Wind
Christmas with Walt Disney
Christmas with Walt Disney is the latest effort to humanize an icon, but somehow there is a lack of warmth even in this one hour special feature. Narrated by Diane Disney Miller, Walt's daughter, now in her mid 70's, the movie shows the Disney family over the years on foreign vacations and the Christmases spent at Disneyland, at his studio and at home, for his family and of course the fans. Diane and her adopted sister Sharon are shown enjoying all the perks of the rich and famous, a big house, a 40 foot Xmas tree in the living room and a Xmas gift playhouse complete with running water and electricity, their excitement caught on film. Most exceptional of these perks was their access to film and photo equipment. How many near octogenarians have home movies of themselves splashing in the family pool at age 2, or vacationing in France as toddlers.
Walt Disney was married to Lillian, she appears ethereally here and there, but is mostly, well, ignored. I noticed even in the Walt Disney Family Museum itself, where this feature is being screened, there is a vast array of Walt Disney memorabilia over two floors, but Lillian seems rarely mentioned or acknowledged. I found a wall of photos with one of Walt, Lillian and a shiny automobile that read Walt with new Studebaker, it just struck me as odd. In the movie there are some interesting home movie clips of the original Mouseketeers attending a Christmas benefit for flood victims in Southern California, Annette and the gang, all looking very professional really, much of their talent was real. Walt is also shown over successive years in the Main Street Christmas Day Parade, puttering down the street in a Model T with his many grandchildren.
Christmas with Walt Disney is Directed by Don Hahn, the legendary producer of the Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and many other Disney features, but there is an underlying ripple of discord even in the presentation. Directed without any real depth, the feature screens in the the museum's very intimate little wide-screen theater.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is a vast array of memorabilia about Walt Disney, did I mention Walt Disney, it's about Walt Disney. I recall when Wednesday nights were special in anticipation of an hour in the Magic Kingdom, the extraordinary animation and cinematography - and the full length spectacles, one princess after another, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. So I am willing to listen to his biographical detractors, but perfection takes work and cooperation, just look at the luminous results, but some cannot forgive poor tyrannical Walt, his struggles with his artists and the unions have taken on a life of their own.
This special holiday screening includes scenes from Fantasia and snippets of many more holiday cartoons. I could spend all day watching Disney epics but the man was just was not as funny or Santa-like as you would hope him to be. I say see the museum and enjoy the hundreds of interactive displays and learn some cinematic technique and history, but wait till they edit down this "movie" and offer it for free.
Movie Magazine International