Walt before Mickey
Disney's Early Years, 1919-1928

By Timothy S. Susanin

Foreword by Diane Disney Miller

384 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 30 b&w illustrations, foreword, bibliography, index

978-1-62846-163-3 Paper $25.00T

Paper, $25.00

The untold story of ten critical, formative years in the great producer's life

For ten years before the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney struggled with, failed at, and eventually mastered the art and business of animation. Most biographies of his career begin in 1928, when Steamboat Willie was released. That first Disney Studio cartoon with synchronized sound made its main character--Mickey Mouse--an icon for generations.

But Steamboat Willie was neither Disney's first cartoon nor Mickey Mouse's first appearance. Prior to this groundbreaking achievement, Walt Disney worked in a variety of venues and studios, refining what would become known as the Disney style. In Walt before Mickey: Disney's Early Years, 1919-1928, Timothy S. Susanin creates a portrait of the artist from age seventeen to the cusp of his international renown.

After serving in the Red Cross in France after World War I, Walt Disney worked in advertising and commercial art in Kansas City. Disney used these experiences to create four studios--Kaycee Studios, Laugh-O-gram Films, Disney Brothers Studio, and Walt Disney Studio. Using company documents, private correspondence between Walt and his brother Roy, contemporary newspaper accounts, and new interviews with Disney's associates, Susanin traces Disney's path. The author shows Disney to be a complicated, resourceful man, especially during his early career. Walt before Mickey, a critical biography of a man at a crucial juncture, provides the "missing decade" that started Walt Disney's career and gave him the skills to become a name known worldwide.

From the preface by Diane Disney Miller:

"I have always loved to hear my dad talk about his life, especially the early part . . . his childhood, family, the Kansas City days, and especially how he met and courted my mother. Tim [Susanin] has done an amazing job of chronicling the lives of the people in that period who affected Dad's life. His research brought out the fact that some of Dad's early benefactors were his neighbors on Bellefontaine, people who had seen him grow up and were aware of his industrious nature. Dad, it appears, was never shy about asking for a loan. But he was diligent about repaying it . . .

"Tim continues on for several more years, all exciting for the brothers and their wives, though not without periods of anxiety. He ends with the loss of Oswald the Rabbit and the creation of Mickey Mouse. Dad's telegram to Roy as he, with my mother, were about to depart New York for home was 'Leaving tonight stopping over KC arrive home Sunday morning seven thirty don't worry everything OK will give details when arrive--Walt.' He didn't mention the fact that they had lost Oswald. They would need a new plan, a new character. Roy, who had been caring for my parents' chow dog Sunnee, recalls that nothing was said until Roy inquired, 'Tell me about it, kid . . . What kind of deal did you make?' 'We haven't got a deal,' Dad cheerfully replied. ‘We're going to start a new series.'"

Timothy S. Susanin is the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company. He is a former federal prosecutor, Navy JAG, and television legal commentator. Susanin lives in Villanova, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their three children. You can be in touch with him at

384 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 30 b&w illustrations, foreword, bibliography, index