Walt Before Mickey

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Walt Before Mickey Movie Poster Image
Watered-down "young Disney" biopic is too bland to appeal.
  • PG
  • 2015
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 5 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Core messages include staying true to your dream, learning from failure, and realizing that success takes time, effort, and setbacks.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Walt Disney -- and, to a lesser degree, his brother, Roy -- are portrayed as intelligent, loyal, and ambitious.


Disney and a couple of his animators nearly get into a fist fight, but they don't come to full blows.


A couple of kisses; some flirting.


Sparing use of words like "hell" and "stupid."


Part of the Disney brand/myth.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Walt Disney was a chain smoker, and the movie reflects that. He (and other characters, but mostly him) smokes cigarettes throughout the whole movie (which was more prevalent in the era it takes place in)>

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Walt Before Disney is a biographical drama about the early stages of Walt Disney's career, starring Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie) as the legendary animator in the years before he created Mickey Mouse. There's nothing really iffy except for a fair bit of smoking, which is historically accurate given Disney's documented cigarette habit. Disney also almost gets into a fist fight with animators, and there's some flirting and a couple of kisses, but otherwise this is fine for older tweens who might be curious about the early failures of arguably the most visionary filmmaker in Hollywood history.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byehutchison April 29, 2016

Just Bad

I was interested in this movie because Walt Disney is such a creative and inspiring person with such an interesting tale. Unfortunately, they somehow made this... Continue reading
Adult Written by14footprintz April 15, 2016


D_! was said towards the end and didn't appear in the review.
Kid, 10 years old April 17, 2021

A Great Movie.

This move is the best! I really liked it, but there's a lot of smoking and swearing...
Teen, 15 years old Written byShowman movie13 July 6, 2019

Maybe could do better .

I thought the movie could have done a-bit better. It had some language that kids should not really hear. Lots of tough situation and screaming. I think Kids 10+... Continue reading

What's the story?

WALT BEFORE DISNEY chronicles the early stages of animator Walt Disney's (Thomas Ian Nicholas) career. The movie briefly shows him as a child on his father's Missouri farm but then fast forwards to his first job at a Kansas City art studio, where 18-year-old Walt first meets cartoonist Ubbe ("Ub") Iwerks (Armando Gutierrez). They eventually form a company, and Walt starts to focus on animation and hires more cartoonists specializing in the emerging art form. He also enlists help from supportive big brother Roy Disney (Jon Heder). Despite several setbacks, bailouts, and failures, Disney remains single-mindedly focused on building a successful animation company.

Is it any good?

Few visionaries are as fascinating as Walt Disney, so it's particularly frustrating that this drama is so uninspired. It seems more like an adaptation of a student's book report than a compelling look at one of the most influential men of the 20th century. Remember the annual Hallmark movies of the week that used to air on network television during sweeps? This is even tamer and more vanilla than those, with absolutely none of the fire and ambition that it's attempting to capture about Disney's quest.

Although Nicholas and Heder (as well as Gutierrez and David Henrie as animator Rudy Ising) are clearly making an effort, several of the supporting characters are played in a laughable, amateurish manner. Except for the accurate depiction of Disney as a chain smoker, Walt Before Mickey is so squeaky clean that it's hard to believe that it's about an actual person, much less someone as equally beloved and derided as Disney. The movie's only tension seems to be about money -- and how Disney's lack of it tanked a few of his early endeavors. But since there's no real depth to the way Disney is characterized, it devolves into a soporific, overly earnest bore of a film that Disney himself never would have approved. If there's one thing Disney wanted above all else, it was to entertain -- something this movie does not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of biopics. Why are stories about real people so compelling?

  • Do you prefer biographical dramas that chronicle an entire life or career, or slice-of-life ones like Walt Before Mickey that focus on a short time in a person's life?

  • What did you learn from the movie about Disney's life? Does the movie make you more interested in him and his work?

  • How does the movie portray smoking? Is it all presented in the name of historical accuracy, or is it glamorized at all?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories and Disney

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate