Tim Disney Profile

by journojames on February 5, 2012

Originally published Feb. 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES – “It’s a David and Goliath story,” said Tim Disney, the executive producer of the environmental documentary “The Last Mountain.”

Scene from "the Last Mountain," Photo courtesy of Fastertimes

The movie is about the Coal River Valley, West Virginia citizens’ fight to save one last Appalachian Mountain ridge from being blown up and strip-mined for coal. He said the movie was a “project of passion.”

Disney, who considers himself an environmentalist, told a group of USC Annenberg students during an interview session that the movie’s purpose was to give the people of Coal River Valley a voice.

“We tried to tell the personal stories of the locals who lived on the mountain. That was what was most compelling,” said Disney. “I’m very proud that I’ve been given the opportunity to do something like this.”

Dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a dark button-down shirt, the filmmaker not only answered questions about his new movie but also about his life.

The soft-spoken, self-effacing and reserved 49-year-old said he grew up watching his father’s Sunday night Disney shows on TV, but he never planned to be in the entertainment business.

Disney, the son of Roy E. Disney and great nephew of Walt Disney, said that his famous last name has been both a blessing and a curse for him in the entertainment industry.

Tim Disney, Photo courtesy of Strategic News

“My last name helps,” said Disney. “If I call people, they take it. It also hurts in that people can be resentful or they make up something about me without having met me. People get a really inflated idea of what my name means. It comes in equal measures.”

He had a brief stint at Disney’s animation department in his 20s. In 1988, he wrote the hit “Oliver & Company,” but was quickly getting impatient with the slow pace of animation. After a brief stint producing a game show and making “The Giving,” a movie he described as “really bad,” he left the industry to start a computer software business. Ten years later, he sold it to Microsoft. While pondering his next move, he said that “The Giving” was still haunting him, so he decided to give the movies another try.

“I got back into it about 12 years ago,” said Disney. “I wrote and directed a movie called “Question of Faith” and that really gave me the bug for it.”

Disney, who is married to a costumer, has two young boys, ages 15 and 10; he is expecting a daughter in June.

When talk turned to his family and his life at home in Silver Lake, California, he paused momentarily and got a shy grin on his face.

“I’m not really a Hollywood-kind of guy,” said Disney. “I’m a bit of a stay-at-home kind of guy.”

His face then brightened and his smile widened when he was asked about his greatest passion.

“My biggest passion is being a dad,” he said.

The stay-at-home kind of dad said he enjoyed playing soccer and hiking when he was not working on movies.

He said he was currently working on a thriller that he hopes to direct in the spring of 2012, but, for now, his attention was focused on getting people to see “The Last Mountain.”

“People usually go to the movies to be entertained,” said Disney. “Not to see and hear tales of grim environmental devastation.”

Cast and crew of "the Last Mountain, Photo by Anna Webber, courtesy of Sundance

Disney, however, said that he was looking forward to taking this movie on the road and selling it to audiences by word of mouth.

He looked around the room of students and offered an easy-going smile.

“I’m a big believer in throwing yourself into something,” said Disney. “Then, figuring it out as you go along.”

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