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David Hockney, who I suppose still classifies himself as English even though he's lived in Los Angeles for years, once told me he considers Walt Disney the greatest American artist of the 20th-century. He may be right. Certainly Disneyland's 50th anniversary this summer (the theme park kicks off an 18-month celebration today) is a reminder that at the very least, Uncle Walt was one of the great visionaries of our time.

American feature-length cartoons didn't exist until Disney released Snow White, in 1938, followed two years later by another hit, Pinocchio, which Disney considered even better than his first masterpiece. But a crippling labor strike and the loss of European revenue during World War II nearly bankrupted the studio in the early '40s. Those Donald-Duck-in-a-sombrero cartoons, Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros, were an attempt to create a new market during the war years in Latin America.