Home Entertainment Up Close & Personal With Tim Disney on His Film – “William” and Family Matters

Up Close & Personal With Tim Disney on His Film – “William” and Family Matters

In Part 1, Tim Disney’s “royal” lineage was laid out.  To recap, he is the son of Roy Edward Disney, grandson of Roy O and Edna and great-nephew of Walt and Lillian.  In the family tradition, he has produced documentaries on the environment as well as directing and writing independent narrative films.  We spoke at length about his latest film William,which could be categorized as a sci-fi family drama about two scientists who decide to create a Neanderthal child by extracting DNA from a 35,000 year-old preserved specimen.  The story covers the development of William from infancy through adulthood and stars Will Brittain in the key role.  The cast includes, Maria Dizzia, Walled Zuaiter, Susan Park, Callum Airlie, Beth Grant, and Paul Guilfoyle.   The following exclusive interview has been edited for content and continuity for print purposes.


Maria Dizzia and Will Brittain discuss a scene with director Tim Disney
Maria Dizzia and Will Brittain discuss a scene from “William” with director Tim Disney. Photo: Richard Hubbs

Why do you like directing?

Tim:  When I’m directing I can’t think about anything else.  I find it a relief to be completely occupied with one thing because then I can’t think about myself.  It’s fun.  It’s the most stimulating, challenging, exciting thing.  I’m so blessed that I get the opportunity to direct from time to time. 

How did working at the Disney studio influence your filmmaking? 

Tim:  I got a chance to work in the animation department as a young person, which had a big effect on me.  What you learn from that is how to tell stories without words.  It’s always better to tell a story without words if you possibly can.  It’s like writing without adjectives.  You have to really distill the story to its essence, always striving to create a scene where nobody sells anything. 

William Brittain plays the role of the cloned Neanderthal
William Brittain plays the role of the cloned Neanderthal in “William.” Photo: Richard Hubbs

Getting back to the film for a moment.  It’s kind of a cliffhanger.  Are we going to get “ William” 2?

Tim Disney
In the Disney tradition, Tim Disney is a filmmaker with an assortment of documentaries and narrative films under his directing belt. Photo: Courtesy Photo

Tim:  Spoiler alert.  I have no comment.  (Laughs)That said, now that I’ve finished this film, I really want to make another one.  I’ve been re-infected.  (Laughs)

You chose to be an independent filmmaker.  Why no studios?

Tim:  I’m not saying I would never work with a studio, it just has never worked out that way.  Also, I’ve always pursued other businesses and so I never made a full-time profession out of moving making. Maybe I should have or maybe I never could have.  I don’t really know.  It’s just how it’s worked out.  It takes a couple of years to make a movie so you have to make sure it’s something you really feel strongly about.  The last seven or eight years I focused a huge amount of my time working on arts and arts education programs. It been very rewarding and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way.

The name Disney.  What’s the upside and what’s the downside?

Mickey Mouse and Pluto
Tim: “People like to share with me their positive memories about movies they saw or trips to Disneyland.” Courtesy Photo

Tim:  It’s such a global brand name.  It’s one of the most recognizable names on earth.  It would be like being name Tim Coca Cola.  I got to be exposed to amazing things and got to meet really interesting people and I’m grateful for all of that.  I guess the negative is not being anonymous.  I can’t use my credit card without someone asking me about what’s it like being a Disney.  That’s a little intrusive at times.  I respect that people are interested. Most of the feedback I get is positive.  People share their memories about movies they saw or trips to Disneyland. I do my best to honor that for them.  I would never say “quit bugging me. I don’t care about your happy memories.”  That would be rude.  My dad said to me one time that you have a name you can be proud of rather than to be ashamed of.

Walt and Roy Disney
Tim’s illustrious bloodline includes Great Uncle Walt Disney and his grandfather Roy O. Disney. Courtesy Photo
Roy Disney
Tim’s dad, the beloved Roy E. Disney. Courtesy Photo

What was like growing up as a young Disney?

Tim:  Like any kid, you just live in the world that you were born into. It was normal to me.  The Disney family were mid-western people.  My grandfather Roy and his brother Walt were essentially covered wagon people.  Roy died when I was very young, but I have very early childhood but hazy memories of him.   My grandparents were big figures in our lives.  They were straightforward, direct, honest, loving, kind, decent, people.  I still run into people these many years later who knew them or interacted with them and speak so highly of my grandparents. That’s a beautiful legacy. 

How is the Disney brand different from the days when it was family-owned and run?

Tim:  Disney now is an enormous corporation.  Walt could never have imagined what it would become.  It is no longer a family company.  I have the name and I think that entitles me to a cranky opinion and nothing else.  In terms of shareholders, it’s widely held and is too big for any individual to have complete control.  I have immense respect for Bob Eiger and the job he’s done running the company.  He’s a good person and he understands the importance of maintaining the brand as a trusted name that stands for something real and trustworthy.

Tim’s home in Silver Lake
Tim’s beautiful home in Silver Lake. Courtesy Photo

What about your personal life?  Do you have time to date or are you in a relationship?

Tim: I’m a single dad.  I have three kids – 23,18 and 7.  Two of them are boys and I know about boys.  And, I have a little girl.  They split their time between me and their fantastic mom.  My daughter has really changed my life.  Having a kid later in life is really a good thing.  Sometimes I see my contemporaries who are able to travel.  I can’t really do that.  What would I do if I had more time?  Surf the internet?  There isn’t anything I’d rather do with my time than to be with my daughter.  I’m old enough now to savor her more and I’m more patient than I used to be.  In the past, putting kids to bed was like being taken hostage.  My older one wouldn’t let me leave the bed until he was asleep and would feel me if I tried to get up.  Now, as long as it takes for her to fall asleep is all good.  When I was younger, I was in a hurry.  Not now.

It’s been delightful getting to know you.  The best of luck with your film and of course you role as dad.  

Tim: Thank you.

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