Tag Archives: Bill Peet: An Autobiography

Disney and Me:A Memoir

A memoir is usually focused on a specific thread or time period of a writer’s life, whereas autobiography is “my chronological life story.”

One of my favorite books is an autobiography that I would argue is a memoir because of its focus on the writer’s artistic life as an artist and writer. It’s a children’s book that is also a book for adults.

I’ve mentioned the book here in a previous post: Disney animator, illustrator, and writer Bill Peet’s Caldecott Honor BookBill Peet: An Autobiography.

Autobiography for children and adults of one of Disney's great illustrators, Bill Peet

Autobiography for children and adults of one of Disney’s great illustrators, Bill Peet

The book is 190 pages–longer than a traditional picture book; however, it won an award as a Caldecott Honor Book in 1990 because the book is fully illustrated–there is at least one illustration on each page, along with engaging text.

Bill Peet worked for Walt Disney on many movies, shorts, TV shows, books–even Peter Pan peanut butter. He wrote the original (1961) 101 Dalmatians, working from Dodie Smith’s book. Disney asked Peet to “plan the whole thing: write a detailed screenplay, do all the story boards, and record voices for all the characters. That had been a job for at least forty people on Pinocchio in 1938, but if Walt thought I could do it, then of course there was no question about it.”

Throughout the book, Peet’s desire to pursue his own artistic endeavors is constantly at odds with first school and then his job at Disney. If you are an artist or a writer, you will feel that, in some ways, his story is your story.

In many great memoirs, readers learn about other characters in addition to the narrators. Peet’s book presents a complicated and somewhat frightening Walt Disney. The simplest disagreement could cause Disney to put an employee “in the doghouse,” and then other employees would give that person “the silent treatment.” He even shows a scene where Disney comes in to Peet’s office and unburdens himself about his own difficult childhood. While there isn’t anything in the book that isn’t appropriate for children, there is enough texture–enough “teeth”–to the book that makes for a fascinating read for adults, too.

Pear Blossom checking out Bill Peet's book

Pear Blossom checking out Bill Peet’s book

The illustrations are all by Peet himself, and you will recognize the classic Disney look. By the story, you will learn how much of Peet’s creations are part of that Disney look and of the Disney stories you or your parents have grown up with.

Something about this book stimulates my mind and my heart. I think I have a crush on the book. I love chatting about it.

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Literature, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing