Walt Disney was not an anti-semite

This is more than creepy. The story behind the accusation that Walt Disney was both a misogynist and an anti-Semite and why it has suddenly surfaced once again. Via Hugh Hewitt:

Defending Mr. Disney

By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute

As a child, I was fascinated by Walt Disney. Not by his cartoons. Not by the Mouseketeers. Not by Davy Crocket. But by Disney himself, the creator of the company that produced all those films and TV shows. So I was dismayed two weeks ago when, as you have no doubt heard, actress Meryl Streep accused Disney of being a “gender bigot” and an anti-Semite.

Ms. Streep leveled the charges in the course of presenting a best actress award to Emma Thompson for her work in Saving Mr. Banks, which is about Disney, the children’s book author P.L Travers and the making of Mary Poppins. Commentators have noted that Streep spoke midway through the voting period for the Oscars. In a Hollywood meets Washington move, Streep was, some suggest, attempting to deny Thompson that highest profile Best Actress nod, and if so, she succeeded. Thompson and her film failed to snag a single major slot on this year’s lists.

Of course, Streep said the other day that she was “shocked” at Thompson being bumped from the Oscar lists, “shocked,” some say, in a Claude Raines Casablanca style. Ms. Streep is among the five nominees.

But what about the charges? Was Disney misogynous or anti-Semitic?
Streep quoted from a 1938 letter describing the division of the tasks between male and female artists. Animation, as opposed to coloring and other support tasks, was confined to men. But if that in fact was Disney’s practice in 1938, it was short lived. The lead animator in Bambi, made four years later, was a woman. And assigning her wasn’t a matter of finding someone could be paid less. Disney’s rule was, as he put it, “If a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man.”

Regarding anti-Semitism, Disney had numerous Jewish friends, business associates and employees, supported a number of Jewish charities and in 1955 was named the Beverly Hill’s B’nai B’rith’s Man of the year.

But here is one reason I am telling this. It happens that some of those friends, business associates and employees were the parents of friends of mine.

As a child, one of my friends played in Disney’s office. His father was in charge of some critical operations at the Disney studios. His mother was the model for Snow White. When he had days at the office with Dad, he would at times be deposited in the boss’ office, where one wall slid open revealing another room filled with Disney character toys and dolls. Today, on a wall at his home, this friend has on display framed Disney cartoons and animation cells, several made especially for his father and mother.

As you might imagine, my friend and his wife bristled at Streep’s accusations, noting that she was recycling smears that originated with the communist attempts to take over Hollywood following the Second World War. This was the same period in which Ronald Reagan was fighting the communists in the Screen Actors Guild, first as a member of the union’s board, then as its president. When Reagan said at his first presidential press conference that the Soviets “openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat,” he was speaking in part from his experience with Hollywood communists. Disney, my friend and his wife attest, was a target of the kind of lying and cheating to which Reagan referred.

The father of someone else to whom I am close was an investor in Hollywood in the 1950s. He was also among the Americans who provided instrumental support for the foundation of the State of Israel. He had a “radar” for anti-Semitism, I am told, and no use for anyone in whom he detected it. He knew and liked Disney and may have invested in Disney’s movies.

Here is the other reason I am telling this story.

It strikes me that, in addition to (if reports are true) grotesque ambition, Ms. Streep reflects a certain warped mindset that is all too prominent in the fashionable circles of our time. I am talking about a predisposition to believe that anything iconically American is corrupt. That anyone who has achieved great things in this country did it through exploiting power differentials derived from gender and ethnicity. That nothing is deserved, except, perhaps, the fashionable circle’s own fashionable achievements. That no other life’s work can be credited, particularly if it comes from, say, a dirt-poor kid of itinerant parents who grew up in the unfashionable precincts of the Midwest and never received one of the fashionable circle’s fashionable degrees.

Ronald Reagan was such a kid. So was Walt Disney.

UPDATE: I have done a bit of research into the issue of Walt Disney’s anti-semiteism. This accusation has apparently been in part based on this 1929 Mickey Mouse cartoon, “The Opry House”, since it has a section in it where Mickey, in “his caricature of a Hasidic Jew”, dances to a Hasidic tune. You should watch it, and also what comes just before (starting at 3:19), to see how vile this accusation is. On the basis of this 85 year old cartoon, animation aside, Disney not only was but still is a man ahead of his time.

FURTHER UPDATE: This is from an article trying to substantiate Disney’s anti-semitism:

Disney was plagued by allegations of anti-Semitism during his life and after his death. Sure enough, ethnic stereotypes common to films of the 1930s were included in several of his early cartoons.

For example, Three Little Pigs featured the Big Bad Wolf sneaking up to the door dressed as a Jewish peddler. And The Opry House, during which Mickey Mouse dresses up and dances like a Hasidic Jew.

The Opry House we have dealt with. As for “the Big Bad Wolf sneaking up to the door dressed as a Jewish peddler”, the peddler was specifically stated to be a “Fuller Brush Man” (see 5:59 in) which was the farthest thing in the world at the time from a Jewish peddler (think Avon Lady if that makes any sense today). But irrespective, the person at the door has to be seen as utterly trustworthy which is why the wolf chooses it as a disguise since his aim is to get the three little pigs to let him in. And if he’s Jewish, the most important question is why does he want to eat pigs at all?

These people and their accusations are disgusting, pitiful and sickening. Jews have enough trouble without inventing enemies who were actually their friends and allies.

Movies and the absence of truth

My favourite story about the film “Mary Poppins” was told to me by one of my housemates in London. He was acutely embarrassed at 15 by being asked to take his eight year old cousin to see the movie but from the moment he heard Dick van Dyke’s cockney accent, it was his cousin who ended up embarrassed because of my friend’s hysterical laughter through the whole of the rest of the film. It’s a movie I have never warmed to and even seeing parts of it again in “Saving Mr Banks” did nothing to make me think different. But “Saving Mr Banks” we did like as we watched it, and the Australian scenes were better than you might have hoped, but now that I have learned a bit more, it is quite a disgusting event we have been party to.

As for the accuracy of the story, it’s a Disney movie about Walt Disney, so it was never going to be an honest portrayal. But there is a level of accuracy that is a minimal requirement. Because having seen the film I have now read this, Nine ‘Mary Poppins’ facts ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ did not get right. The first one, though, is the most compelling and makes you see the film in such a very different light that the real question is why did they even pretend they were dealing with an actual event of any kind. The story is about how Walt Disney finally gets P.J. Travers to sign the rights to her book over to the studio. Interesting story if it were true. But this is the first of the facts that the movie did not get right:

Disney already owned the rights when Travers went to L.A.

Yes, the central conceit of the film is fictionalised. Travers had already handed over the rights when she traveled to Los Angeles to consult on the script. Saving Mr Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel also admits that the conversation Disney has with Travers, when he convinces her to hand over control based on their shared experiences with troubled fathers, is total fiction (although the stories about Disney’s childhood are true).

You go to the movies expecting at least some integrity – not a lot but at least some. How really strange this film now looks to me. We now live in a virtual world in almost nothing beyond what we see, hear and do ourselves – the kinds of things we read in the news or watch on TV – has much of any basis in reality. If this is what they do to P.J. Travers, imagine how much the true story has been distorted, covered up and ignored in the film about Nelson Mandela. A communist, revolutionary Marxist murderer as secular saint. Find the truth about any of it, if you can. You certainly must not expect to find out about it in the film.