Walt Before Mickey full movie review - Huge waste of great potential
Like most of the other commentators, this reviewer is also struggling to find much that is good about 'Walt Before Mickey'.
There was so much potential here, being based on one of the most influential and interesting figures in animation history and in the 20th century, whose films and short cartoons shaped my childhood and my lifelong love for his work and the work after his death too still remains. Personally only don't care for four of the studio's films (none of them from the classic Walt era, the classic era stuff to me ranges from very good to masterpiece) and only three or so of the many short cartoons (have only seen those from 'Steamboat Willie' onward though, have been meaning to check out his pre-Mickey Mouse output).
'Walt Before Mickey' could have been a fascinating biographical drama about Disney's early life, before triumphing with the creation of Mickey Mouse. It also could have been an inspirational film about how to persevere in a difficult business and not getting knocked down by being rejected so many times or having many setbacks. Can relate here, it took two years for me to finally get into university/music college to study singing, having auditioned to almost all the big music colleges in Britain before getting into Birmingham Conservatoire, where I've spent a happy if sometimes stressful four years and shall be doing a postgraduate course after graduating. Back on target, 'Walt Before Mickey' unfortunately is neither of those things.
Visually, it has a very low-budget look even for an independent film. Some of the scenery is decent, but the film looks dull and drab and shot in a low-budget made-for-TV style. There is little interesting or memorable about the music, and it is also very over-dramatic and intrusive, often in inappropriate places. The script is a mess, with a lot of corny dialogue and the "inspirational" and "thought-provoking" dialogue on the subjects of perseverance and not giving up is predictable and delivered in a rather preachy manner. It honestly reads of a draft college student paper.
There was a good story somewhere in 'Walt Before Mickey', sadly it never emerges. There is a noticeable lack of accuracy, especially the romanticised portrayal of Disney himself where that he was a chain-smoker, a hard worker and that he was married to Lillian for 41 years were the only noticeable elements accurate (his treatment of his colleagues is pretty glossed over) and that senseless last sentence of Charles Mintz's biography in the closing credits (to me it was clear in the film that Disney did have a grudge against him, disliked him intensely and didn't trust him, but maybe that's just me) amongst other things. It's very leaden in pace, the same issues occur over and over with very little elaboration that it becomes repetitive, everything feels very stagy, under-rehearsed and never natural, it's often overwrought, contrived and attempts at pathos come over as cheap and manipulative. Complete with a completely tacked on and inaccurate ending (seeming to imply that 'Plane Crazy' was Mickey Mouse's debut cartoon, it was actually 'Steamboat Willie').
Khoa Le's direction has such an inexperienced feel to it, while the characters are not interesting in the slightest and few are engaging. The most interesting parts of 'Walt Before Mickey' actually were the footage of the pre-Mickey Mouse output with Alice and Oswald, which was quite interesting, however they were only shown for a very brief duration and there wasn't enough of it. It has made me interested in checking out the cartoons from this period though. The acting is poor, with the least bad and most sympathetic performance coming from Armando Guatierrez as Ub Iwerks. As the great man himself, Thomas Ian Nicholas (who struck me as a bit too young for Disney) is quite wooden, passionless and too earnest as Disney, his determination coming across as more desperate.
Jon Heder looks lost and somewhat too gormless as Walt's brother Roy, a prime example of one of the many uninspired performances in the cast, in an attempt to underplay compared to usual Heder forgets to bring any personality to Roy. Kate Katzmann looks luminous, but can do little with a flatly written character and stilted dialogue. The rest of the cast either don't try hard enough in their acting (David Henrie is pretty dull, and it is saddening to see another animation giant Fritz Freleng being played so forgettably, Frank Carici also mumbles his way through a very thick accent) or overact (Conor Dubin's Charles Mintz is very cartoonish).
Overall, a huge waste of great potential. Doesn't do justice to Walt Disney at all, surely his early potential was far more interesting than how it was portrayed here. 2/10 Bethany Cox