As Dreamers Do: The Amazing Life of Walt Disney

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
As Dreamers Do: The Amazing Life of Walt Disney Movie Poster Image
Unauthorized, overacted Disney biopic falls flat.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Perseverance; the role of art in bettering others' lives; support for artistic endeavors; believing in yourself; kindness toward others; thanking those who've helped you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are simplistic but overwhelmingly kind, compassionate, supportive, and helpful. Walt Disney is portrayed as sensitive, idealistic, and kind -- always willing to help others, often at his own expense, forgoing basic necessities to pay his partners before his work takes off, and rewarding those who believed in him after it does.

Violence & Scariness

An aunt shown ill in bed and out of sorts is later said to have died of Alzheimer's.

Language

"Hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Era-appropriate cigarette smoking throughout. One section discusses Disney's pack-a-day habit. Two men are shown sipping flasks and appear drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that As Dreamers Do: The Amazing Life of Walt Disney is a biopic that tracks Disney's childhood to success as an animator and visionary. There's some era-expected cigarette smoking, an aunt shown bedridden (later said to have died), and one use of "hell," but otherwise it's a poorly acted but well-intentioned look at Disney's life that doesn't reference Mickey Mouse or show Disneyland. Though it's a sweet, simple tale of his growing artistry, the acting is alternately wooden and over-expressive, and the dialogue feels overblown, with every line packed with big messages about art and life that don't feel like accurate portrayals of how people might've actually talked.

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What's the story?

Track the growing artistry of legend Walt Disney from his childhood in Missouri to his outsize life as an animator, and look at the people and ideas that influenced him along the way.

Is it any good?

AS DREAMERS DO: THE AMAZING LIFE OF WALT DISNEY has a fascinating subject at its core: A legendary American artist whose work still touches nearly every Western child's life in some way or another. So it's disappointing that this biopic is so poorly done. It's shot well, and Olan Rogers as Walt Disney is the best the film has to offer, not to mention the sweet tale of Disney's optimism and perseverance. But here, every character he meets has a big message about life and art, and Walt Disney is precocious in every scene, always willing to absorb every good idea and lesson about being grateful and perfectly prepared to do whatever it takes. This gives the feeling of a story written very much in reverse and meant to paint every moment with hushed reverence.

What we miss is something that feels realistic and flawed, and instead another shrine is resurrected. There are positive messages about the work it takes to be an artist and an interesting, all-too-brief section about how animation works, but there's too much sheen here for it to feel like an authentic portrait.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fascination with Walt Disney's life. Why do you think his cartoons and characters are so popular?

  • Does this biopic feel like a realistic portrayal of Disney's work or life? Why, or why not?

  • Inspiration comes from mysterious places. What inspires you?

Movie details

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