Walt Before Mickey is a movie based on a book of the same name by Timothy S. Susanin. It’s the only movie approved by the Disney family and even has a forward by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller! It tells the story of Walter (Walt) Elias Disney’s Early Years, 1919-1928, from his days in Kansas City, MO, at Laugh-O-Gram Studios to Los Angeles, CA, and Disney Brothers Studios, now known as Walt Disney Studios or the Walt Disney Company. The tentative release date is April 18 or 19, 2015.
Walt Before Mickey is directed by Khoa Le, was produced and written by Armando Gutierrez and Arthur L. Bernstein, and has a pretty stellar cast for being a low-budget independent film. Some of the cast includes Thomas Ian Nicolas (American Pie) as Walt, John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) as Roy Disney, David Henrie (Wizards of Waverly Place) as Rudy Ising, and Jodie Sweetin (Full House) as Charlotte Disney!
I started this interview by telling Arthur that I had a laundry list of fan questions for him, and after two long, late-night conversations, this is what he had to say.
C: How many months did this movie take to shoot?
Arthur: 18 days! It took from December 17 till December 23, 2014. Then we took a break, had a conference, and when we came back to finish the remaining 11 days, we came back with a new director and a new direction for the movie. Shooting resumed January 18, 2015.
C: Where was the movie filmed?
Arthur: We filmed the movie in Deland and Sanford, FL, and actually put the actors in an allegedly haunted hotel called the Artisan Inn! (Side Note: I didn’t ask if any ghosts were seen.)
C: Will this be a family friendly movie? I know Walt had a hard childhood.
Arthur: Yes! The whole family will love it! It’s definitely geared more toward older children and adults, but there are no curse words.
C: Were you a big Disney fan before this movie?
Arthur: Yes, of the man, a big fan of Walt! Not so much of the company. Walt was such an amazing man with so much to offer.
C: What was something new you learned about Walt that you didn’t know before doing this movie?
Arthur: Walt was the first to do live-action with animated characters. He wasn’t a very good business man, but became one with the help of his brother Roy! He was great at taking things apart and figuring out how they are made.
C: What made you decide to do this movie?
Arthur: No one had ever done a movie about Walt’s early years. We wanted to show the man behind all the magic! We want people to see that he is more than the movies and theme parks. He was a man who came from meager beginnings and truly lived the American Dream, and he built a kingdom from that dream.
C: Let’s talk about the amazing cast you got for this project! Do you think Thomas Ian Nicholas did a good job portraying Walt?
Arthur: Thomas did a fantastic job. He was the last actor we hired. He got sick with a really bad cold and never took off work. He worked like a dog! He came prepared every day and even carried a copy of the book around and frequently read it so he could be as true to the character as possible. Thomas is going to really shine in this role.
C: What about John Heder? We are used to seeing him in comedy. Tell me more about him and his portrayal of Roy Disney?
Arthur: John did a great job portraying Roy, and he was perfect for this role! He was the first actor we hired for the film. John is a very low-key person, very family oriented, and very driven. He and Thomas randomly sat next to each other on the flight from California to Florida and bonded on the flight! By the time they landed, they were very good friends, which made shooting so much better!
C: You play Frank L. Newman in the film. What made you decide to play this particular character?
Arthur: I was originally going to play Charles Mintz, but we decided I resembled Newman the most out of our cast. He was the first to give Disney the opportunity to present his animation on the big screen through his theater and film studio Newman Laugh-O-Gram Films.
Arthur: Honestly, we had a fantastic cast! It was a pleasure to work with all these former child stars such as Jodie Sweetin, David Henrie, Ayla Kell, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Hunter Gomez, & Taylor Gray. There was a lot of synergy on set.
My wife and father have small roles. Armando (executive producer) and I are in it. It was truly a family affair and everyone did a great job!
C: I know I am looking forward to this movie, and to seeing the man who built a kingdom come to life! Thank you for your time, Arthur!
Here are 5 facts about Walt Before Mickey, the movie and its cast:
1. Both executive producers play small roles in the film.
2. Actor John Heder is into geocaching.
3. There are 8 child actors in the film.
4. The original title was The Dreamer, but then they got the rights to use the book title.
5. Diane Disney Miller was actively involved with the process until her death, and they are planning to dedicate the movie to her memory.
Walt Before Mickey should release sometime in April 2015.
Here is a trailer for the film:
Visit the official site at:
Here are some set pictures that Arthur wanted me to share with you!
I’d like to do a shout out to all the people who made this interview happen and who helped me along the way!
First, let me thank Arthur for taking the time to talk with me and give me so much information! You can find more info about Arthur and his future projects on his website: www.arthurlbernstein.com.
Thanks to my amazing husband Wyatt for all his input and advice!
Thanks to Jodi Whisenhunt from Magical Mouse Schoolhouse for supporting me and editing this article. Jodi went through this with a fine-toothed comb and I couldn’t have done this without her!
Thanks to Terri Miller from WDW Hints for all her help promoting and supporting me and this project!
And finally, thank you to all these other amazing blogs, Facebook pages, and people for their support:
Jeannifer- Peace Love Disney
Becca- Love Our Disney
Anna- Beyond Cute Boutique
Josh- Discovering the Magic Kingdom
Mike- My Dreams of Disney
Krista- Disneyways & Disney Parks Podcast
Jason- Sasaki Time
Amy- Mouse Ears Mom
Stefne- Stefne Miller Author
Megan- Big Ears Adventures Travel Agency
Janice- The Adult Side of Disney
Kimberly- Disney Runner Mom
Lisa & James- Home is Where the Mouse is
April- Pixie Dust Savings
Deb- Focused on the Magic
Diane- Can Do It Mom
Becky- Disney in your Day
Amanda- Great big beautiful blog/living with the Magic Vacations
Shawn- Disney Pinholics
Lauren- Focus on the Mouse
Jenny- My Disney Cloud
Tony- Disney Parks Podcast
Christopher- Walt Disney World by GrumpyMickey
Stacy- C & S Designs
Arthur asked me to give special thanks to all the great people and companies who made this project happen.
Special Thanks to
City of Deland
City of Sanford
State of Florida
Walt Disney Museum of San Francisco
Robert Murray Miller
Michael J. Napoleone
Tampa Comic Con
Palm Beach Student Showcase
Chelsea Pulver-Started with a Mouse
Terri Miller- WDW Hints
Anna Farris- Beyond Cutie Boutique
Jodi Whisenhunt- Magical Mouse Schoolhouse
Al Packer Ford
Deland Police Department
University of Miami
Bret Jones PA
Main Street Deland
Richard Bernstein & Associates Inc.
City of Tavares
Creative Artist Agency
Creative Ideas Advertising
Central Florida Railroad Museum
Tavares Historical Museum
Orange Blossom Cannonball
Marshall Rosenbach PA
Special Thanks to:
Executive Producer Michele Packer for her hard work and belief in this project. Thank you Michele.
EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS
Timothy Susanin & Diane Disney Miller
I would like to give an additional shout out to Associate Producer Max Nunziata. I’m sorry for the loss of his father, Jerry Nunziata.
Hope you enjoyed this interview and I’d love if you would follow my blog and share it with your friends!