Today In Disney History ~ August 15th
‘Walt Before Mickey’ presents young Disney by H. Boedecker
Originally published 8/12/15
The people who made the movie “Walt Before Mickey” hope the audience takes away lessons about the young Walt Disney.
“We all know who Walt Disney is,” said Thomas Ian Nicholas (“American Pie”), who plays Disney in the movie filmed in Central Florida. “But eight out of 10 have no idea that he failed. You see it when you watch the film how he comes up with the idea of Mickey Mouse. It comes from not giving up on his dreams.”
Orlando businessman Armando Gutierrez, who co-produced and co-wrote the film, described the film’s message as tenacity yields results.
“When most people might have called it quits, he continued working,” Gutierrez said. “Imagine if he would have quit, we might never have had the empire he built. Orlando would be a different kind of city.”
The film’s opening day will be Friday in Orlando. Cast members will greet moviegoers and autograph posters from noon to 6 p.m. at AMC Downtown Disney 24 in Lake Buena Vista. Nicholas and Gutierrez, who also plays animator Ub Iwerks, will there at noon and 5 p.m. with co-writer/producer Arthur Bernstein, who plays theater owner Frank Newman.
The film is based on a book of the same name by Timothy Susanin and covers Disney’s life from 1919 to 1928. Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, wrote a foreword to the book. The cast includes Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”) as Roy Disney, Jodie Sweetin (“Full House”) and David Henrie (“Wizards of Waverly Place”).
The independent film shot for 25 days around Central Florida in Tavares, Sanford, Eustis, Orlando, Tampa and DeLand. Central Florida fills in for Kansas City and Los Angeles. Nicholas said the shoot was great. “Everyone was nice and excited to have us,” he said.
The plan is for the film to broaden to 85 screens by September, said Gutierrez, who described himself as a huge Disney fan.
“The imagination he had,” Gutierrez said. The lesson for young entrepreneurs is “you can dream big, anything is possible,” he added. “I’ve always respected that. Follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Gutierrez read the book and thought the story should be a film. Co-writing a script was a first for him, and very hard, he said. “Luckily Arthur has been writing for many years,” he said. “When I started working on it, it was a learn-as-I-go process.”
Then another opportunity arose. “I never went into it thinking I’d act. That role was a difficult one to cast,” Gutierrez said of Iwerks. He stepped into the role on the set, and director Khoa Le liked his resemblance to Iwerks, Gutierrez said.
“I’m not a trained actor,” he added. But now he is doing more acting.
“It’s funny how it works,” Gutierrez said. “After the movie trailer got released, people started asking if I wanted to be in more movies.”
Nicholas started playing Disney a week after accepting the role. “I had one week to delve in and research him,” he said. He watched Tom Hanks play Disney in 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks.”
“I realized the younger version of a person is vastly different from the older, more successful version,” Nicholas said. “I connected with his tenacity, his charm, his vision.”
Nicholas cut his hair to play Disney and relied on the magic of makeup for a mustache because scenes were shot out of order.
“You don’t hear a recording of Walt until he’s in his 30s,” Nicholas said. “The challenge was there wasn’t a lot of material outside a couple of photos.”
Disney is shown constantly smoking cigarettes. The showman died of lung cancer in 1966, but Nicholas said there’s no commentary in those scenes.
“It was a different time period. Cigarettes weren’t viewed as dangerous,” the actor said. “To play a period film, you play the period.”
Nicholas was struck by Disney’s charisma as a leader whose vision prompted workers to toil for free or even loan him money.
“The vision also has a cutthroat nature, not just a fluffy nature,” Nicholas said, citing a scene of a worker getting fired for sleeping on the job. “It’s show business, it’s not show friends,” he said. “I’ve been acting for nearly three decades. I had a lot to draw on.”
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart; Orlando Sentinel
- Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Celebrates Holiday Season with Array of Festive Offerings - December 9, 2022
- AD-SUPPORTED DISNEY+ PLAN NOW AVAILABLE IN THE U.S. WITH MORE THAN 100 ADVERTISERS ACROSS ALL MAJOR CATEGORIES AT LAUNCH - December 8, 2022
- CASETiFY pays tribute to Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas collection! - December 1, 2022