Was Walt Disney An Anti-Semite?

This blog post is a revision of a July 2013 post. The original was quickly written and it showed. The US movie Saving Mr. Banks was released December 13, 2013. The movie which portrays Walt Disney has greatly increased the interest in the subject. I decided to update and improve the original post. The update turned into a complete re-write.

Popular culture in the united states promotes the idea that Walt Disney hated Jews. American comedies like Seth MacFarlane‘s Family Guy , Saturday Night Live, and Robot Chicken have all prominently parodied Walt Disney by focusing on his supposed antisemitism. Recently Meryl Streep made public comments that Disney was a sexist and a racist in addition to being anti-Semitic. The most common accusation is antisemitism. Was Disney corporation founder Walt Disney Anti-Semitic? Was the creator of theme parks like Disneyland, and iconic characters like Mickey Mouse prejudiced and discriminatory against Jewish persons? What is the evidence for these claims? “Pop Culture” wants us to believe that Mr. Disney hated Jewish people. Claims about Disney’s antisemitism is all the rage now almost 30 years after his death. Popular knowledge does not mean accurate so I decided to see if there was any truth to the rumors.

Walt Disney’s name is synonymous with entertainment. He was the face of a corporation, that grew into a multi-national entertainment and media conglomerate. He was instrumental in producing cultural icons such as Mickey Mouse, Pixar, and Walt Disney World. Disney innovated the film and entertainment business to such a degree that his films became a style of films. By his own self promotion, his films, and theme parks he has become an almost mythological figure. Deceased public figures of great note are often plagued with myths. In Walt Disney’s case some of these myths are decidedly not true. Examples include “Mickey Mouse was a stolen concept/picture”, or “that Walt Disney’s head was cryogenic frozen after his death and is under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.” That legend is easily proven untrue. The first human cryogenically frozen occurred one month after Walt’s death. Walt Disney’s remains were cremated on December 17, 1966, and his ashes interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Still it is common to hear the pirates myth. The fact that Walt has false myths surrounding him does not exclude the possibility that he was antisemitic. They are just examples of a man, who’s life and death have been subjected to myth and rumor in the popular imagination. He will not be the first or last pop culture icon to suffer from post-mortem mythology.

Is there any evidence that Walt Disney was Anti-Semitic, or is it all just Urban legend?

There are strong claims that Walt had associations with Anti-Semitic groups and individuals. The biggest claims are as follows.

  1. Old employee’s accused Mr. Disney of visiting Anti-Semitic meetings.
  2. Early Disney production has examples of Anti-Semitic caricatures.
  3. Disney had relationships with known Nazis.

On the surface these accusations seem to strongly support Disney as a rabid Anti-Semite. Lets take a look at the evidence. Lets review what is known and what is unproven about Walt Disney.

Walt was accused of keeping company with rabidly antisemitic people. The German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl is the prime example. Her documentaries (primarily Nazi propaganda films) in the mid-30s had helped to glorify the Nazis. Despite the obvious nature of her work and associations. Mr. Disney did have a face to face meeting with her prior to WWII. How much time did he spend with her? How close was Walt to Riefenstahl? Long after his death she was quoted as follows-

“after Kristallnacht [1938], she approached every studio in Hollywood looking for work. No studio head would even screen her movies except Walt Disney. He told her he admired her work but if it became known that he was considering hiring her, it would damage his reputation.”

There were other damning accusations about Walt Disney. He was accused by senior animator Art Babbitt of a relationship with Fritz Kuhn leader of the German American Bund. Babbitt was at Disney studios from 1933-1951. Mr. Babbitt notably created one of Disney’s most enduring characters Goofy. He claimed that Disney had outright sympathy for Kuhn. Babbitt made other accusations about Disney and Disney’s lawyer. He claimed that they attended several German American Bund meetings. Mr Babbitt specifically stated that he had seen Walt and his attorney attend a meeting.

“In the immediate years before we entered the War there was a small, but fiercely loyal, I suppose legal, following of the Nazi party . . . There were open meetings, anybody could attend and I wanted to see what was going on myself. On more than one occasion I observed Walt Disney and [Disney’s lawyer] Gunther Lessing there, along with a lot of prominent Nazi-afflicted Hollywood personalities. Disney was going to meetings all the time.”

Walt also had a well documented association with a known anti-Semitic group the MPAPI. Mr. Disney was a member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals until the 1950’s. The MPAPAI was an anti-communist, anti-fascist, and Anti-Semitic organization.

There is evidence of antisemitism in Walt Disney’s signature artistic works, his cartoon shorts. There are racist and vaguely anti-Semitic caricatures in Disney studios early production. The best examples are the Three Little Pigs, and Opry House. Walt Disney kept a very short artistic leash on his staff in the early years. He personally approved all short films produced by his studios at that time. Meaning nothing hit the screens unless he approved it.

In the original Disney short Three little Pigs the Big Bad Wolf is dressed as a Jewish peddler attempting to fool the little pigs. It was excised from the film after its release drew criticism, and was re-animated so that the Wolf would be a Fuller Brush Man. It was reanimated but the character kept a Yiddish accent, plus the nose, glasses, and beard disguise. Airings on American television have edited this further by using the Fuller Brush Man footage and re-dubbing the Wolf’s voice so that he does not sound stereo-typically Jewish. When the film was released on home video, the scene was further edited. The topical ‘Fuller Brush Man’ line “I’m the Fuller Brush Man…I’m giving a free sample!” was changed to the incongruous “I’m the Fuller Brush Man – I’m working my way through college.” This change remains in all subsequent home video releases.

In Opry House Micky Mouse performs vaudeville acts notably as a caricature of a Hasidic Jew. This is the Jewish racist equivalent of Blackface.

Even the Walt Disney Museum admits that Disney also had some business and personal relationships with Jewish individuals that were “difficult”.

Superficially this evidence seems to support the contention that Walt Disney harbored, at least racist tendencies, if not an outright anti-Semitic views. As listeners well know the Skeptoid podcast looks beyond the superficial. I will try to do the same. Lets point a skeptical eye at some of the most compelling evidence.

There is no doubt Disney did in fact offer to meet Riefenstahl, it is also undisputed that he kept that invitation open to her even after news of Kristallnacht broke in November 1938. That is the limit of the evidence. We only have her word about the contents of the meeting. I couldn’t find any concrete evidence, other than her claims, about the discussion. We will assume that the null hypothesis is; he met with her at least once, and had a personal discussion with her. Certainly he had no long term relationship with Riefenstahl. That is the limit of the evidence.

He met with a Nazi but there was no contemporary evidence that Walt had any strong political views of any kind. Allegations aside, there is no evidence he had any prewar sympathy for Nazism. Companions of that time say he paid little attention to politics. Hindsight allows us to to convict Disney because of Riefenstahl Nazi status. How convincing is a single meeting? This meeting was prior to onset of WWII in Europe, 6 years before the truth of the final solution would be discovered. The visit was not a social call, planning session, or political rally. It was a business and filmography visit. The relatively politic neutral film Olympia was showing in the United States. Olympia was a film about the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Not her most “infamous” anti-Semitic film. The 1936 film Triumph of the WillIt would be easy for us to assume this was a “Nazi friend”visit. A visit to share their mutual hatred of all things Jewish. That is a post-hoc analysis of the meeting. The available evidence gives another, more plausible explanation.

Walt was a true film innovator. Olympia was truly a revolutionary film from a filmmakers perspective.  Olympia contained many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards. Now common and even dated to some extent they were groundbreaking at the time. Riefenstahl used unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups, placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers, and the like. Does a apolitical business man, trying to build his business, spend his very valuable time to have a chat with a minor Nazi figure? Only one visit? Taking time to endorse his silent support for the Nazi Party? No, I do no think so. There is a more plausible explanation that fits the evidence. He met with another filmmaker who was innovative. Probably primarily to develop/steal those techniques for his own pictures. In addition he was probably currying favor for German marketing and distribution of his films. Others have stated that if not for her associations, Riefenstahl may have been recognized as one of the most innovative filmmakers of the time.

In my opinion, I find Riefenstahl’s quote about Disney apocryphal and inconsequential. She outlived Disney by more than 30 years and these statements came well after his death. Obviously it is easy to make claims without the possibility of denial. Especially when you are trying to foster a sympathetic version of events. Riefenstahl had ample opportunity to make these statements before his death yet she didn’t. After World War II Riefenstahl persistently tried to paint herself as a victim of American discrimination. She steadfastly deflected/denied her impact on the death of millions.

There is independent evidence that Walt was completely naive to her influence on the German propaganda. Witnesses attest that Disney had no significant idea of her strong Nazi associations.

“In 2006 Disney biographer Neal Gabler also claims in regards to Riefenstahl’s visit, the invitation was suggested to Disney by Jay Stowitts and that although Walt knew who Riefenstahl was, he didn’t know exactly what she represented in terms of politics, as he had no particular political leaning during the 1930s.”

Overall I find this claim of ignorance to fit the available facts. Given the time frame (pre-war), plus all German film makers had to be in the Nazi party at the time, making her associations less distinctive to Disney. If you were not in the Nazi party you did not make films in Germany in the late Pre-War era.  There were only three people in Germany that could approve foreign films for showing in Germany at that time, Leni Riefenstahl, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, and Adolph Hitler.  Riefenstahl was the only German filmmaker who produced films without Nazi party oversight (due to Hitler’s direct support). Overall it very plausible that Walt was not as concerned with her political associations.

If you start off with the null hypothesis” We do not know if Walt was Antisemitic or not” Riefenstahl is not very compelling evidence.

Next bit of evidence involves a Jewish eyewitness. He claimed to have seen Disney and his attorney attending a German American Bund meeting “several times”. Although a compelling claim, the source of this evidence does pose several red flags. Mr Babbitt was the lead animator at Disney in 1938-1939. In 1941 Babbitt was one of the key organizers of the Cartoonist strike for better working conditions. It was a fairly acrimonious dispute and Walt felt personally wronged that Babbitt was a leader. Disney felt that Babbitt made an excellent living with Disney during the great depression. He was very angry that Babbitt had betrayed him. Worse, Disney was forced to rehire Babbitt at the end of the strike. Witness at the time indicated that they hated each other from that time forward. In the end Babbitt was fired, sued Disney, and won a large settlement in the supreme court. From 1938-1941 he continued to work for Disney.

Another red flag is the time frame. Babbitt made the anti-Semitic accusations decades after all the court cases and acrimony. At the time he had no problem working for a man that he observed attending German Bund meetings. Plus after he was fired no one would have blamed him for walking around and saying some form of “Walt Disney is a Nazi and I have proof.” Yet he did not do that. He waited until almost 20 years after both Disney’s and the Attorney’s death to give this quote to the author of a book. There are no other supporting witnesses. So it is Babbitt’s word against that of a dead man. Even more suspicious was the format for disclosing this information. The quote was never given in a public forum. It originates from a book, Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, by Marc Eliot (Birch Lane Press, July 1993). Clearly a book attempting to paint a compelling agenda for publication.

I find the whole scenario problematic at best. Would Babbitt be anywhere near a German Bund meeting? If he did check it out, what are the odds that it was a on a night that included a visit from Walt Disney. If Walt attended many meetings, where are the other witnesses? Even if you accept the quote as fact, it suggestive but not proof of antisemitism. There may be many reasons why Disney and his Attorney were there. We just don’t know what really happened.

On a personal note, I found the inclusion of the attorney to be suspicious given the legal battles Babbitt and Disney had fought. Not evidence of innocence. Just very telling in my opinion.

Disney’s membership in MPAPAI is by far the most well documented Anti-Semitic indiscretion. There is no question that he was a member. There is no question that MPAPAI had rabidly anti-Semitic members and leanings. Disney tried to distance himself from the organization in the 1950’s after McCarthyism and anti-communist Blacklisting of the MPAPAI became public knowledge. Does that make Disney guilty of sharing the association’s anti-Semitic views? Guilt by association? Maybe. He was later ashamed of being associated with the group’s antisemitic leaders as well as the blacklisting. This evidence is not open to opinion.

The only other point I would make is that it was common for influential members of the entertainment business to be associated with this group. Mr. Disney does not stand out from the list in general. There is no evidence that he was a leading, or more active member of the group. On a personal note; I hope that being in the group is not synonymous with antisemitism. I would hate to have to give up every movie involving ” Robert ArthurMartin BerkeleyWard BondClarence BrownCharles CoburnGary CooperLaraine DayCecil B. DeMilleIrene Dunne,Victor FlemingClark GableCedric GibbonsHedda HopperLeo McCareyJames Kevin McGuinnessAdolphe MenjouGeorge MurphyFred NibloAyn RandRonald ReaganGinger Rogers,Morrie RyskindNorman TaurogRobert TaylorBarbara StanwyckKing VidorJohn WayneFrank Wead and Sam Wood“. More troubling than Disney is the fact that there is a Modern X-US president on that list. Ayn Rand admittedly not very surprising except for the fact that she is Jewish.

Did Disney studios turn out anti-Semitic caricatures? Yes, absolutely no question. Did Disney personally approve anti-Semitic caricatures of Jewish people in the 2 shorts The Three Little Pigs and Opry House? Best evidence says yes. Did he personally animate and write those shorts? No he did not. To be fair to Disney and Disney studios, this sort of racist fair was not isolated to Disney cartoons. For example Warner Bros also produced racist fair. The so called “Censored Eleven”.  Negative stereotypes and blatant cartoon racism; black-face, native american stereotypes,  Japanese racial stereotypes, and obvious racist characters.

Disney studios was not the only studio to suffer from complaints about an antisemitic character in their short films. Warner Bros. was also accused of producing a stereotypical anti-Semitic character. When Bob Clampett made the 1944 short “Russian Rhapsody”  he used caricatures of all the Schlesinger staff as the gremlins who are wrecking Adolf Hitler’s airplane in mid-air. Warner Brothers got a complaints about a gross drawing of a Jew, looking just like a Nazi caricature of a big-nosed Jew. Warner felt the complaint was an ironic twist. He felt the caricature was of staff cartoonist “Friz” Freleng,”who really did look like an exaggerated parody of a Jew.”

I have seen pictures and I would not agree with that excuse.


Despite the WB’s cartoon gaffe no one would accuse Mr. Warner of Antisemitism post-mortem or in popular culture(he was Jewish). Bottom line, racism and apologies were not unique to Disney.

Walt Disney’s more cultivated congenial public image is portrayed as a sham but was it? Biographer Neal Gabler, the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concluded that available evidence did not support accusations of antisemitism. Floyd Norman, an African-American active in anti-prejudice organizations did not think Disney was a racist.  He was hired by the Disney studio in the 1950s and often saw and worked directly with Disney before his death. Norman has said emphatically that Disney showed no sign of being racist or having any objection to hiring Black employees.

As for Jewish employee’s, one of Disney’s earliest animators was Isadore “Friz” Freleng. Freleng went to work for Disney in Kansas City, and when Walt moved to Hollywood he asked Freleng to join him. Freleng had worked with Disney on the “Alice” comedies and “Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit” until 1927 when Charles Mintz notoriously hired away all of Disney’s animators except Ub Iwerks. Trying to retain Freleng is hardly the actions of a man trying to exclude or discriminate against Jews in his studio. I can find no credible evidence that Disney attempted to exclude Jewish workers from his film making or corporate structure.

On the other hand, there was a lot of antisemitic feeling to those Disney’s shorts. While no one can specifically attribute bias to Disney himself, Jewish people were ready fodder for the animators’ gags. Walt Disney approved every scene, in every short the studio made from that period. The Three Little Pigs and Opry House are an examples of anti-Semitic cartoons that had to be edited after Walt had Okay’ed them.

In my opinion, Mr. Disney did on some level have anti-Semitic tendencies. He personally let a film with negative Jewish stereotypes go to public showings. It took complaints from the Jewish community to spur Disney to edit it. That qualifies as Antisemitism in my book. Still, I do not think there is any evidence that he was any more racist than any other entertainment outlet from that era. Disney produced racist and sexist fare, but does not appear to stand out from other entertainment from that era. Entertainment that suffered from a host of racist and derogatory fair.

There is no evidence that he systematically tried to discriminate against Jewish people or that he held any extremist type views. It is clear that he suffered from racist, sexist and antisemitic views. Overall, was Walt Disney a rabid Anti-Semite with Nazi leanings and support for Nazi ideals?  In my opinion, no. That is revisionist history in current popular imaginings. There is evidence that he had bigoted ideas about comedy, but not that he acted on them. If you look past the suggestive nature of the evidence and focus on the substance you will find a few weak lines of evidence. Yes he was Anti-Semite on some level, no doubt. Was Disney a Nazi supporter, “Jew Hater”, or discriminated against Jewish people in his business? No, there is no good evidence to support those claims/portrayals.

I think it is hard to understand cultural changes over time. We can be ashamed of what our grandparents say or feel uncomfortable when we see old racist fare like Amos and Andy. By our standards the 1950’s entertainment was rampant with racists. If you compare 1930’s culture to Colonial America, US President George Washington (Slave owner), they were progressive. In the future people will be amused by the fight to prevent homosexual marriage, or the failure of the ERA. I have a hard time inditing entertainers for the cultural norm of the time. I do hold people responsible if they refuse to change with the culture, or worse try to perpetuate old racist views. Walt Disney did seem to regret his mistakes as time went on. Evidenced by his changes to the Three Little Pigs and distancing himself from MPAPAI.

I am glad that the Warner Brothers 11 were banned and the Three Little Pigs were edited. Still I think it is unfair to quantify Walt Disney as rabidly Anti-Semitic all things being equal.


Walt Disney Timeline

Watts, Steven, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life, 1997

Gabler, NealWalt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination (2006). New York, NY. Random House

Eliot, Marc, Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, 1993

About Stephen Propatier

Stephen Propatier is a board certified acute care nurse practitioner specializing in spine and sports medicine. He is a member of the Society for Science Based Medicine.
This entry was posted in TV & Media, Urban Legends. Bookmark the permalink.

102 Responses to Was Walt Disney An Anti-Semite?

  1. mindsurfer1 says:

    He’s long gone. WGAS?

  2. Gustav says:

    Excellent summary of the evidence, Stephen.

    It brought to mind my grandfather telling the story of my grandmother buying a new hat but never wearing the hat again after seeing a black woman [he used the n word] wearing the same hat. Were my grandparents prejudiced? To some degree but if you place them in context of their time their behaviour, right or wrong, was the norm in white dominated society.

    I think it is the same with DIsney, we have to place him in the context of his time. It is not difficult to smear all sorts of people from the past if we ignore the historical context.

    I will mention, before my grandfather and I get ‘attacked’, my grandfather’s grandfather was an ardent abolitionist who spoke out for years for the rights of coloured persons from his pulpit. And I use’ coloured’ specifically as he also fought for the rights of persons from Southeast Asia [Indian subcontinent primarily] and other Asian people subjugated by the British Empire at a time when it was not ‘appropriate’ to do so.

    Keep up the good work, Stephen

    • Gustav says:

      Oops. Meant to mention that coloured’ was the historically appropriate term at the time — early 1800’s.

  3. Reg. says:

    Only half read so far, but it occurs to me that if one wanted to pick up some comical ideas, a Uniformed German/US Bund meeting of the 30s would be a good place to go. High Stepping Arm waving with the occasional accidental entwinement and floor flop. Disney on Ice couldn’t beat it..

    Hang about; “Witness at the time attest that Disney had no significant idea of her strong Nazi associations(which throughout her life she denied).” Which? Is she denying that Disney did not know or that she did not hold strong Nazi associations? If she didn’t hold strong Nazi views then she was strangely proud to put her name to the propaganda she produced.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      To be clear, like many post war nazis she denied her role in Nazi politics, or just following orders the usual mouthed platitudes for many x-Nazis.

      • Reg. says:

        Stephen, I’m sure there must have been one gigantic double-take amongst US German supporters in 1941 when Germany declared war on the USA, not the first of Hitler’s gigantic strategic mistakes.

        I would guess that Lindbergh went to ground, but what happened to all the other supporters of whom Disney appears to have been one?

        Surely November 1941 would have created widespread deck-chair shuffling, leaving trails of brown in all directions. Disney would not have been alone in reconfiguring his allegiances.

        Leipzig April 1945 would have created yet another psychological jolt with the uncovering of proof of wide-spread atrocities at the core of the Nazi system. So for Disney to retain anti-Semitic ties until as late as 1950 must raise suspicion. Especially as it included removing anti-communist ties at the time of McCarthy and the Korean War. It looks as if McCarthy scared him more than Hitler or Stalin did.

        “Triumph of the will” was Hitler’s primary obsession and as such would have been -as well received- by the many US admirers as it was by the Germans. Even if Disney was not interested in politics it would seem that the idea of “willing” success was something that he and Hitler had in common. Roosevelt’s death was to Hitler, proof of positive thought and upon failing, motivated his cursing of the German people for letting him down and the subsequent issuing of orders for total destruction.

        Perhaps Disney was in agreement with this attitude of mind from his experiences in the depression which coincided with the rise of Nazism and the display of its successes.

  4. Watty says:

    While I appreciate your somewhat compelling piece on Disney and anti-Semitism, you’d really do well to find yourself a good editor, as this is rife with grammatical errors and typos. That really tends to discredit your work.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Yes I agree it was sandwiched in during holiday. I will attempt to polish it up later today.

      • Stephen Propatier says:

        Thanks Denise but this post is quite old. It gets a lots of attention even prior to the movie. W press and punctuation had that period glitch at the time. If I get chance I will fix your points. That said it really needs a re-write. Weekly blog posts rarely pass journalistic muster, and there is no spell check to run. Thanks for the help.
        Truthfully I am considering as second post on this subject.

      • zante says:

        The rule about two spaces after a period has changed. I am happy to see other people notice grammar errors, though.

      • Wait .. what?

        “In general, you should leave 2 spaces after every period. You seem to only leave 1 space.”

        Really? And it seems you do not either, or am I missing something?

        (sincerely curious)

        • Zeke says:

          If you don’t mind a late reply, I can explain this. One of the main reasons two spaces are no longer recommended is that they don’t show up online unless you force them to. HTML collapses all “whitespace” into a single space; you need to use code to get an extra one to appear. The commenter you were replying to must not have known that — and probably deleted her comment in frustration when she noticed her own double spaces hadn’t shown up.

    • thujone33 says:

      I was about to say the same. Quality writing. But it’s a strange thing. To read. So many. Incomplete sentences.

      The motion picture association seemed to be the most damning — until you listed all the very famous people who were in it.

      • Reg. says:

        Pardon me but the motion picture industry, by which I assume you mean Hollywood, did everything it could to meet the requirements of the Nazis. Even to the extent of writing to Hitler for directions of what would be acceptable. Scripts that mentioned the slightest reference to Jewish suppression were banned by Hollywood heavies. Then Hitler pressed the point even further demanding that cuts, made to movies to be acceptable for the German market, should extend to every other part of the world.The fawning enquiry finished with a Heil Hitler.

        Even Warner Brothers who had been banned from the lucrative German market, agree to conform to Nazi demands.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes that is undeniably true, but when studios conformed to those standards they did so to pursue greater profits, not necessarily to support Nazi ideals. For the big-wigs profit was often more important than artistic or political integrity. Also, as the author of this piece mentioned, people sometimes look back at these events with their modern mindset; at the time there was nothing inherently wrong about Nazism or fascism. During the great depression there were plenty of people calling for a change to America’s political organization, even the president at the time (30’s-40’s), FDR, decided to break the long standing gentleman’s agreement to a two term presidency (he served three terms, may have gone longer if he hadn’t died). It was a different time influenced by a radically different social and political climate from what we’re used to today.

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            I would most certainly not agree with the statement there was nothing inherently wrong with Nazism. From the beginning of the movement. Nazism was characterized by brutality and intimidation. As their influence grew so did the degree of their misdeeds. Fascism and Nazism was looked upon with great fear, even by the German population that eventually grew to embrace it, because of it’s nationalistic pride, successes, and the Versailles perceived indignities. you cannot equate thought with action. Nazis were brutal murders from their inception. They were not accepted they were feared.

      • Peter Young says:

        The state of being “very famous” and dubious racial views are not mutually exclusive, and some of those listed had rather extreme right wing views (not that having right wing views necessarily involves holding racist views, although the two often go hand in hand). I’ll leave it at that for lack of energy to find the supporting material I would want to have at hand to say more about the views of these “very famous people.”

        How strange that Hollywood should kowtow to German Nazis before war was declared and that following the war federal and state investigative agencies, with the help of some of the same “very famous people,” should spend the next decade pursuing charges that Hollywood’s wartime films were influenced by Communists following Moscow’s party line. Those who were blacklisted were, of course, mostly Jews.

        It seems Hollywood had no mind of its own back then.

        • Jim Johnson says:

          Hollywood today makes movies that will not offend the Chinese authorities that it needs to get approval from to market their products in China. They have at times altered scripts or re-cut scenes to curry favor with the Chinese. Does that mean that the producers of these films endorse the often authoritarian nature of the Chinese regime? Absolutely not. China is a huge market where lots of money can be made. I suspect this is the same reason Hollywood chose not to offend the Nazi regime.

        • cruiser says:

          right wing views and racism often go hand in hand? I think I’ll just call you Obama voter from now on, your mentality seems to prove it(and here we go again lol, I dislike Obama because of his purposeful destruction of America not his skin color).I’ve met a lot of people and let me tell you Democrats are more racist than Republicans, they just hide their jokes in the locker room! They are the perfect party for people that are easily fooled,case in point your comment about conservatives and racist going hand in hand.

          • JuiB1966 says:

            Seriously? Obama’s “purposeful destruction of America”? Seriously? Not sure what this has to do with the question of Walt Disney’s anti-Semitism, but your statements are fallacious, without merit, and not germane to the topic.

            In my opinion, your rant is paranoiac drivel without a shred of evidence for your outlandish statements.

            The article is well researched and the author makes cogent arguments for his conclusion, while also allowing for different opinions from the reader.

            Your comments suggest to me that the brew you sip at your tea parties is caustic and bitter. Your platitudes ring hollow, and your vitriol invalidates whatever the message is you are trying to communicate.

            A quote from Mark Twain seems appropriate in closing here: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

  5. Jon says:

    The most compelling evidence against him being a racist: Mickey Mouse, the hero, is black. Donald Duck, the antihero, is white. Nuf said 🙂

    • Reg. says:

      Are you a man or a mouse? I’ve never noticed that Mickey Mouse was BLACK. You aught to be ashamed of yourself for noticing that.

    • Chase says:

      How about the scene in Fantasia? Where the little black girl centaur is the slave girl to all the other centaurs. Must not have seen it. There’s no doubt in my mind after seeing these animations that he was indeed a racist.

  6. Missy says:

    I have connections to Disney through family, and I am Jewish. I was born in Los Angeles, my stepfather was supposed to work for Disney after the Korean War. He had been promised a job as an animator, but the job fell through. Later in another job he dealt with Disney, yes, Walt was racist against Jews. He objected if his family members (daughters) wanted to date Jews, he was pretty racist. I know this for a FACT through REAL people. There is not going to be much WRITTEN EVIDENCE, but I want this out there. That said, I am a fan anyways, and great artists and visionaries have great flaws, and can be racist/or morally corrupt in many ways.

    • zante says:

      And my step mother’s Jewish father disowned her for marrying a Christian. Times were indeed different, and it is difficult to judge the past by the standards of today.

    • Ian says:

      My uncle’s cousin’ hairdresser’s dog was a jew, and disney wouldn’t hire her!!

      Anecdotal evidence is not admissable evidence. I don’t think you have any legitimate evidence to back your spurious claims.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry but your evidence clearly suggests that he was in fact an anti – semite. But one who knew he had a public image to maintaine, so he didn’t push it too far. You don’t have to be going to Nazi party meetings to be an anti semite, Disney clearly did his part in his cartoons and in choosing people he worked with.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I would agree but the most interesting thing is that the ink and paint staff on the Opry house was mostly Jewish, as was the color animators on three little pigs. So I would not agree that his staff choices supported antisemitism.

  8. Rivka Shaw says:

    This is such nonsense. All your evidence supports the fact that he was anti-Semitic. It is a very superficial defence to say things like “just because he had Nazi friends does not make him a Nazi”. Just because he may not have been politically involved does not absolve him. Have you never heard of a Nazi-sympathiser?

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I can only speak to the evidence and there is no credible evidence that he was a “Nazi” sympathizer. I believe I indicated that I though he was antisemitic. Given temporal and cultural adjustment not significantly deviated from many others in the entertainment business and not deserving of special elevation above other racist entertainers of the era.

      • timmyelliot says:

        I agree with Rivka Shaw. While Riefenstahl was a Nazi sympathizer, she’s mentioned she was not antisemitic, and, has often pointed out that _Triumph_ and _Olympia_ contains “not one single antisemitic word.”

        With your guilt through degrees of separations, a stronger argument might be linking Mel Gibson to Walt Disney (he acted in _Pocahontas_, so there you go).

        • Stephen Propatier says:

          I see what Rivka is saying but no one can “prove” that they weren’t Nazi-Sympathizers. Leni’s movies were the cornerstone of Nazi propaganda. No one would argue that the Nazi party was not rabidly anti-Semitic. To equate Riefenstahl’s denial with Disney defenders is not a equal measurement. The Nazi’s did not run snow white or the three little pigs at rallies, they ran her work. To try to equate her denial with Disney apologists is not a fair analogy. They used her work because it ran the message they wanted to deliver. They cornerstone scapegoat for the Nazi’s propaganda was “Jews”, it is hard to convince me that a national nazi filmaker’s denials somehow supports the claim that Disney has the same level of association that she has even, if he did speak with her once.

  9. So your argument, Stephen, is – he was a bit of an anti-semite but no more than most other non-jews in the US at the time. This is deeply offensive to the vast majority of Americans alive at the time. Yes, a culture may have thrived where many more people were making jokes about jews being cheapskates and talking like fiddlers on the roof… but your evidence suggests he took matters much much further than that. Never mind the stereotypes in his cartoons – he was in an organisation that actively persecuted jews, associated with Nazis, and went to Nazi meetings. These sympathisers – in the US and the UK – were in a MINORITY and the notion that every grandad of Joe Bloggs was behaving in the same way back then is a hurtful insult to all the great people who believed fervently in the liberal and tolerant ideals America was supposedly built on.

    • Pierre says:

      I think what he’s trying to say is that there were a number of professionals in the entertainment industry who found their way into these organizations, and that being in such an organization, while shameful and unethical, is not necessarily damning. When he said he was not out of the cultural norm for that era, he didn’t mean that everyone at that time was extremely racist. He’s saying that at that time, some anti-semitism was not unheard of.

  10. Thank you. I typed this question into google out of the same curiosity about the pop culture representation of Disney. So nice to find such a thoughtful, agenda-free, and well reasoned answer.

  11. That was one argument, Pierre. (And I have to say Stephen’s claim that Disney was no more anti-semitic than ‘any other entertainment outlet from that era’ is a lofty one when there were very many in the US and beyond… and he dishes out only a couple of examples to support this.) But he also presented this rhetoric: “I think it is hard to understand cultural changes over time. We can be ashamed of what our grandparents say…By our standards the 1950′s were rampant with racists…” This is basically saying, it was a different time. Get over it. Which would explain away Walt’s dodgy stereotypes in cartoons but not his nazi/anti-semitic affiliations… this was a minority sport in society and in the entertainment industry. Disney’s reputation as the ultimate anti-semite is probably overblown… but he still deserved it. If you don’t want to get botulism, don’t eat from the trash.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Paul I agree. I would like to clarify my point you quoted me on. It was not specifically about Walt. It is not a gee everyone’s a racist lets get over it type of statement. I do understand it can be interpreted that way. It is rather a statement that shows that prejudice/bigotry is hard to understand and quantify unless you lived at that time. WWI and II were scary events and the people at that time did not have the perspective that we now enjoy. Do I fault a WWII vet for using the term Jap in 1944 in his writing from that era? No I don’t unless he is using it now. Expression of racism and bigotry is very period dependent. My point being, that it is easy convince ourselves through confirmation bias that it was OK to be racist now because it was OK then. It is not. The answer is that is not OK. We must accept the fact that mistaken concepts/prejudices exist in all human society. If we are going to quantify racist thoughts expressed or verbalized(not actions) as rabid/severe/Nazi. It is important to place it in the culture of the time to judge. Should Michael Richards be ostracized because he made stupid racist statements. The answer is yes, clearly the meme of the time makes it socially unacceptable. Are racist actions IE: terror, threats, mental or physical abuse or neglect always wrong regardless of the time. No question. There is no question he was racist, I find no evidence that he deserves the elevation and scrutiny that he currently enjoys as deceased public figure. Certainly I can find no evidence that Clark Gable, or President Reagan is universally perceived as anti-Semitic yet they shared many associations.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have been saying, for a long time, it is unfair, inaccurate and in some cases unjust to use the yardstick of today’s morality on the actions of yesterday’s man.

    • Reg. says:

      Then considering the message of peace from original Christian principles and its later reduction to inquisitorial values of burn ’em all and let God work it out, it would seem you could find an excuse for anything. You have no values?

      • Ian says:

        That’s a ridiculous assertion your part. My objection to outdated cultural values does not immediately mean I have no values. Get your strawman argument out of here.

  13. Martin - UK says:

    Stephen, loved the piece, very well researched. One thing, the 1936 olympics were in Berlin not Munich. Munich was in 1972. Just a smal popint but it needs changing because in this day and age people will focus on that and say the whole piece is wrong and badly researched just for one error

  14. Derek says:

    Don’t forget the anti-nazi material that disney studio’s helped produce. Everyone’s so quick to jump on another’s faults. Never the other way around.

    • Elena says:

      Not only did Disney pay out of pocket to make ALL the Allied war films (and he never was a rich man); not only was he never fully reimbursed for having done so; but his filme of de Seversky’s “Victory Through Air Power” almost certainly won the war for us.

      Furthermore, the charicatures were drawn by the (often Jewish) Eastern Europeans who were using imagery they had grown up with.

      And, you are damn right that his views changed for the better over time with regard to everything, racism, religious differences, women, homosexuality.
      “IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL” (written by 2 jewish men, his favourite composers, The Sherman Brothers aka “the boys”).

      Read more, not less, and ALWAYS account for societal norms of the day.

      And, dammit, if you’ve not listen to Floyd Norman, you seriously have no business talking about it.

      The strikes, as mentioned, were beyond contentious. He sacrificed so much, and he simply didn’t grasp how those he employed turned on him so brutally.

      Again, READ MORE.

      Stephen – thank you for this very fine piece. I hope you will continue your research.


  15. Neil says:

    I am curious how exactly the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals was anti-Semitic? They may have had some anti-Semitic members, but what exact statements or actions made the group itself anti-Semitic?

  16. Alter says:

    First of all you should all know that Nazi was not anti Jews or Anti-Semite . Adolf Hitler just forced all Jews from Germany because of Big names of jews wanted to create a new country for Jews and Adolf just helped so with one stone two birds . He never burned them or sth else .

    • Jon says:

      The European society was showing such anti tendencies even since at least the teens of the 20th century, of this there is no doubt – as evident in historical descriptions and actual accounts from both sides of the fence. So Hitler was in no way the first, however, if you would read his Mein Kamph, published in 1925 it is very very clear what his views were on Jews and anti is indeed an accurate description.

      Speaking generally of the Nazi party: In its original 25 point program, two points directly addresses Jews stating that Jews are not to be considered equal to Germans and German rights, and that the Party most fight against the Jewish spirit …. in other word, Hitler and those supporting the Nazi party was by definition anti Jewish….. Unless of course they were all lying to gain popularity or to hit “one bird with two stones” as you say… The Second World War, however, should disproof any such claims irrefutably.

  17. Martin says:

    Stephen. Not enough was known about Nazi’s in the 1930’s, either in the States or in Europe. Many looked at Germany and thought they had the right idea (the only western country to not be affected by the great depression.) In the States there was a Nazi political party set up with many volunteers. They held a massive conference in 1938 at Madison Square Gardens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPGT7EaCiIY
    The general public would not have known or thought that Nazi’s were murderers. I would urge you to read Harpo Marx’s book Harpo Speaks. He traveled to Russia via Germany in 1934. He was greatly looking forward to visited his homeland having never been. He arrived at YHamburg and what he saw there made him get out as fast as he could. He couldn’t understand how this was not being reported about in the rest of the world. Not long after he changed his name from Adolph to Arthur. The general masses simply did not know what was happening in Germany. Every western country had their own form of fascists (here in the UK we had The British Union of Fascists led by Oscar (Hitler was a guest at his wedding)Mosley and they had great support, also a great lot were against them causing a massive riot during a fascist march in 1936, known as The Battle of Cable Street). I would say that many joining fascist movements in the 30’s really didn’t know what was happening politically (as the media didn’t seem to be reporting it very well- possibly waiting for their heads of state to make a decision as to what side the countries were on before taking sides when reporting, though should be reporting from a neutral standpoint). Had more been known about Germany in the 30’s I doubt the fascist parties in other countries would have had the support they did.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I recommend you read” rise and fall of third Reich” by William L. Shirer. He lived in France from 1923-1933. He also lived in Berlin during that time. He also took excerpts extensively from Nuremberg trials. You will be surprised and disappointed about what was truly known and about the Nazis on their rise to power. Post war all tried to distance themselves but they were not in the dark. First the Nazi were dismissed then underestimated finally embraced. Then once they had a death grip the gloves were off. The anti-Semitism and violence were never a secret the were the cornerstone of the movements initial attraction during the Weimar government.

  18. fnn says:

    “Prominent members of the Alliance included Robert Arthur, Martin Berkeley, Ward Bond, Clarence Brown, Charles Coburn, Gary Cooper, Laraine Day, Cecil B. DeMille, Walt Disney, Irene Dunne, Victor Fleming, Clark Gable, Cedric Gibbons, Hedda Hopper, Leo McCarey, James Kevin McGuinness, Adolphe Menjou, George Murphy, Fred Niblo, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Ginger Rogers, Morrie Ryskind, Norman Taurog, Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, King Vidor, John Wayne, Frank Wead and Sam Wood.[3][5][6]”

    Ayn Rand is in the above group-and she was certainly Jewish.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Excellent point I did not cover thanks!

    • Jim Johnson says:

      I think Morrie Ryskind was Jewish too. This looks like a list of Who’s Who among Hollywood conservatives. Not sure what documented evidence there is for their anti-Semitism. If some individual members of the group made anti-Semitic statements how does that mean the organization was anti-Semitic? A group with many members rarely speaks with a single voice. Did the organization put out any press releases that were anti-Semitic? Did they make broad statements of principles that were anti-Semitic? I’ve never heard of this group before. I’m open to evidence.

    • Jimmie Sorrento says:

      So because of all these people who joined Does it make it right ?
      Charles Limburgh had the same feeling these people had
      He promoted nazism in the thirties
      Using his fifteen minutes of fame to get more people to join
      Luckily far less joined than he thought

      • Jim Johnson says:

        Oh, come on. Lindbergh was not a Nazi. He didn’t promote Nazism. He opposed American entry into WW2 pre-Pearl Harbor. So did millions of other Americans. And in the original post, this group is described as anti-Fascist, anti-Communist and anti-Semitic. How can an organization be anti-Fascist and pro-Nazi? Lindbergh sometimes gets the Nazi rap because he once went on a fact-finding tour of the German aircraft industry – at the request of the United States government. During the tour, a dinner was given in his honor and he was presented with a medal by the German government. Was he supposed to turn it down and thereby insult his hosts? That would have been the end of his fact-finding tour. After Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh tried to get his Army commission back but FDR held a grudge against him. Lindbergh contributed to the war effort as a civilian consultant for the aviation industry.

        • The Kingdom of Denmark gave Herman Gôring a knighthood in 1938 (aka Dannebrogordenen). Hardly makes the Danish King a nazi either – like Lindbergh, he too was following the etiquette at the time….

          Anyways, Lindbergh was in fact openly racist, and on more than a few occasions he expressed sympathy to the Jewish conflicts in Germany prior to the World War – although never a fan of the militarily approach Hitler fronted.

          His personal diary is said to hold several deeper anti-semitic ponderings as well. Interestingly, Einstein once considered him as one of the guys to inform Roosevelt about the potential threat and destructive possibilities of splitting the atom, but upon further reflection Einstein and a few other scientists decided not to use him, as they deemed his level of connections to Nazi Germany too difficult or complicated to asses; not so much because of his German medal (which was in fact a Nazi medal, invented just one year earlier and with swastika on it and everything), but more because he spoke up against American intervention in the war, and that he was for changes happening in Europe.

          Bottom-line is, I would agree; he was not a full blown Nazi. A racist for sure, and not completely against the European conflict … but still, not an okay guy.

          • Correction: I end my above post with “…… but still, not an okay guy.”… to more correctly express my opinion it should read; “… so still, not an okay guy. “.

          • Jim Johnson says:

            I agree that Lindbergh was racist, even for the standards of his time. I agree that he was anti-Semitic. I still disagree with your characterization of Lindbergh as a “not full blown Nazi’. I don’t think he was any kind of a Nazi. Nazism was Fascist ideology with a racial superiority myth grafted on it, which led directly to the slaughter of millions of innocents. It bothers me when “Nazi” is tossed about as a casual epithet (I’m not accusing you of that). I read a biography of Lindbergh about 15 years ago, so my memory is a bit sketchy. I’ll have to dig it out to see what sort of statements he made that were sympathetic to the Jewish conflicts in Germany, as you characterized it.

          • Fair point, the term Nazi should indeed be taken very serious. I will also say that my knowledge of Lindbergh is limited to these two decades – if he changed his view of life later in time, is unknown to me. I suspect he did, as much of the really rough knowledge first became clear after the end. I have read extracts of his diary some time ago, specifically on his position on what was happening in Germany and here it is quite clear that he held sympathy with Germany and their “Jewish problem” – I recall he actually called it “jewish problem” – but I could be wrong. Anyways, his diary is clear cut source if you wish to dig.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The evidence is there. Attributing his in involvement to an excuse such as “it was the times” is a copout. People make their own decisions regardless of era.

  20. Jobeycarl says:

    To imply Walt Disney was not anti-semetic or hated blacks is ridiculous. This makes you ridiculous. To prove my point ask his past employees who happen to work for and with him. Make sure you post there names. They are already on record of how racist he was. What are you basing your writings on, fiction? Check the past employee records on how racist DISNEY was. They leave no doubt. Simply because you don’t want him to be racist because you may like Mickey Mouse is ludicrous.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I think you have skimmed not read my piece. I have clearly stated that he was racist. Secondly I care not a fig for Mickey mouse, didn’t note the character, don’t care for most Disney products as a whole.
      So not really sure what your point is?
      Please feel free to state names and quotes of employees whom you referencing. I couldn’t find many.

    • Martin says:

      @Jobeycarl. You haven’t bothered to truely read Stephens fine piece here yet feel fit to bully. Why do you feel it right to tell Stephen to interview past Disney employees? I would not think this an easy task but you seem to think so. Yet you have failed to post links to people, addresses, contact numbers, even names. You also state that Stephen should post these people’s names yet you fail to mention anybody. Apparantly these un-named people are on record of how racist Disney was. Where? Why have you not posted links to this information. You ask, “What are you basing your writings on, fiction?” Another clear indication that you haven’t bothered to read it as Stephen has made reference to all his sources throughout his piece. Now to turn around your last statement as Stephen has leart his subject, referenced and stated all sources yet you can’t even be bothered to A. read Stephen piece and B. not one named reference or source is in your post, I can easily conclude that you WANT Disney to be racist, without finding or sourcing any evidence whatsoever to prove or disprove your stance, and you hate Mickey Mouse.

  21. darncat422 says:

    written like a true racist apologist.

  22. Joseph says:

    Yes, Ayn Rand, (who was Jewish), was antisemitic because she was a member of the same anti communist organization as Walt Disney.

  23. Sharlene says:

    Excellent piece. Unfortunately, we are all products of our era with the ability to rethink our direction, change lanes and move one. Thanks for pointing that out, mirroring our own imperfections and “prejudices” very well, Yes, our imperfect humanity.

  24. I’m no expert, and to be fair, I’ll confess I’m a Disney fan. This is just my perspective after reading the article a couple times and the comments.

    Mr. Disney suffers from the fact that he died before many of the improvements in race relations were realized and before he could demonstrate a personal growth so common in otherwise intelligent racists/bigots/sexists/antisemites/homophobes. Ronald Reagan lived long enough to prove that if he had been anti-semitic, he matured and learned enough to deny it and probably actually did change his stance somewhat.

    Humans have a tendency to divide people into “us” v “them”, and if you have little info about the other group, you can’t counter your own biases. Before WWII nearly everyone was in fact anti-semitic as well as racist. Denying it and getting offended is silly. Our tendency to see others as “other” dictates we will feel negatively toward most people in groups about which we know little. As we learn more, our feelings may eventually change. Today, nearly everyone works, goes to school with, and sees in their daily lives and on their televisions, examples of “other” groups… black, jewish, atheist, hispanic, disabled, gay… but then… not so much.

    If Disney were still alive, how would he act towards others? What would he think? Who knows. No one here does and people should stop asserting without any real evidence, or because their step-dad worked with him one time, that they know his thoughts and can class him so easily. I esp. find the claim that he objected to his daughters wanting to date Jews suspicious coming from someone who was not a close family friend. (How would you know that just because your dad worked with him in some capacity? Did you double date?) I think it probable he did have some such views, though I don’t believe he was a Nazi sympathizer. Sorry, the evidence of that is really poor and his patriotism and support of the Allies during the war run contrary to that assertion. On strength of evidence, he just wasn’t. But he may well have been anti-semitic. Had he lived longer, he may have matured in these biases. His later work and hiring policies seem to show this. He was pretty sexist early on… hiring no women in many departments, requiring them to wear heels, skirts and makeup all the time, etc. Yet later these views and policies evolved so that Mary Blair and others became very important in his organization. With more time, he might have moved further along his views. We are judging him as if he had one set of views his entire life, but few people’s views remain static throughout their lifespans, esp. in view of the changes and events he was witness to and even took part in.

    Sadly, we’ll never know if he would have fully evolved, because he died in 1966. If you think the counry as a whole wasn’t racist in 1966, you were living in a bubble then, or weren’t born yet. If admitting that is insulting to you, maybe you should ask yourself why it bothers you so much. Our country was embroiled in racial tension, and it wasn’t just in the south. Just because your white grandpappy wasn’t in the Klan and didn’t tell racist jokes at the dinner table, that doesn’t mean he would have welcomed a black son-in-law or didn’t have resentments or false beliefs about people in “other” groups. Racism takes many forms, and can vary in intensity from person to person and over time. You know your grandparents well enough to know their views are probably more subtly varied than all that. So maybe give Disney the same benefit of the doubt. He was a human. He had faults and probably didn’t think in black and white. We shouldn’t think of him that way.

    • Great point. Well argued and very true. Naturally, the world is not black/white although it makes dissective discussions much easier for someone like us. Disney is perhaps interesting because his brand is so immensely wonderful, and thus this particular topic so much more explosive (read: “edge of your seat interesting”) and the rebellion in us secretly push for the sensation. He, as everyone else, was a product of his time. However, the question is if he was more so than what his time/history would permit… some seem sure, some don’t. But as the article concludes; ceteris paribus, possibly not.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Well said!

  25. Stephen Propatier says:

    I have Updated the post as of this date Cheers!

  26. Darryl Pickett says:

    This seems like a good place to mention that in 1955, Walt Disney received the Man of the Year Award from the B’nai Brith in Beverley Hills, partly in recognition of his financial support for Jewish charities such as the Jewish Home for the Aged and the Yeshiva College. In 1958, the Kansas City Missouri chapter of the B’nai Brith honored him with a distinguished service award. If he is guilty of casual anti-semitism in his early life and works, he certainly seems to have been proactive in working against any perceived anti-Jewish bias. (If such a perception of him existed at the time. It’s awfully hard to tell.) There is a lot of unsourced speculation, a little bit of anecdotal information, and a near complete lack of documented proof that he harbored a committed personal animus to Jews. The offensive content in his cartoons is undeniable, of course, and as noted elsewhere, not unique to Disney Studios output.

    Art Babbit aside, there are Jews who worked with Walt and later remembered him warmly, and some who have taken the opportunity to counter the racist claims. (Notably the Sherman brothers songwriting team, and the recently retired head of Walt Disney Imagineering, Marty Sklar.)

    There is no way to make Walt Disney the liberal-hearted saint we might wish he had been, but the popular notion that racism was a defining characteristic of his seems to me overblown and unsupported by available evidence.

  27. Have you actually watched THE OPRY HOUSE?


    Mickey’s Jewish impersonation, such as it is, appears at 4:15 and lasts for all of seven seconds. It’s one of two “ethnic” dances he does, following a much longer harem girl spoof.

    About fifteen years ago I wrote the commonly seen Internet description of THE OPRY HOUSE for the “Encyclopedia of Disney Shorts” online fan site. I referred to Mickey as impersonating a “Hasidic Jew” because—as a Jew myself—I’d seen the dance done by Mickey, matched to that same tune, performed by some elderly Hasids in my own synagogue a few years before. The dance is called a Kazatsky.

    I said nowhere that the scene was insulting. But my description of the cartoon was copied to IMDB and is now everywhere. Its readers, yourself included, seems to have simply assumed that because the dance was Jewish, Hasidic, and in a Disney cartoon, it must be somehow negative.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Thank you it is my understanding that Jewish groups at the time of the release complained about the short.I could only find secondary sources. So maybe that is not accurate.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble but the claims about Jewish groups complaining from the thirties is from. Cohen, Karl F., Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America, 1997

      I’m am not getting that from imdb or any other source referencing you.

      • I’m looking at Cohen’s book right now. THE OPRY HOUSE is cited on page 72, but Cohen makes no statement about objections to it—either in the 1930s or more recently. It’s simply included in a short list of various cartoons with Jewish imagery.
        Cohen discusses objections to THREE LITTLE PIGS, but not THE OPRY HOUSE.

        • Stephen Propatier says:

          You certainly could be correct. I wrote this 6 months ago. But that is what I have in my column notes. I still don’t know your name. Didn’t ref imdb.

  28. Alan says:

    Stop trying to defend Walt Disney. Your own words make it clear what his personal values were.
    “… there was a lot of antisemitic feeling to those Disney’s shorts. While no one can specifically attribute bias to Disney himself, Jewish people were ready fodder for the animators’ gags. Walt Disney approved every scene, in every short the studio made from that period. The Three Little Pigs and Opry House are an examples of anti-Semitic cartoons that had to be edited after Walt had Okay’ed them.

    In my opinion, Mr. Disney did on some level have anti-Semitic tendencies. He personally let a film with negative Jewish stereotypes go to public showings. It took complaints from the Jewish community to spur Disney to edit it.”

    In other words, Walt Disney was anti-Semitic. Period. You can’t be “kind of anti-Semitic” or simply a man of your era but not really anti-Semitic. If you believe your own words, the avuncular animator, with a brilliant mind for storytelling was a bigot toward Jews, and apparently women, too. Talent doesn’t discriminate between right and wrong, moral and slimey.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Do what u r saying is that there are no distinctions. That Mel Gibson is no different from Hitler. I do not agree racist thinking is a broad definition. All are not created equal. I do not think I used the words kind of anti Semitic. That is your interpretation. On the spectrum of other entertainers from his era he does not stand out from the others based on the evidence and it’s quality. Was he more racist than Clark Gable, Warner, Ronald Reagan. I just don’t see evidence for that. Unless you believe 100% the testimony by an x employee with an axe to grind. who gave a quote for a Disney bash book. Not convincing. I could have missed other examples, if you have them please submit.

      • You're an idiot says:

        No he wasn’t “more racist thank Clarke Gable” or Jack Warner or Ronald Reagan, he was equally as racist as them. You are making apologies for a strain of racism that was endemic in American Culture at the time because you clearly have some personal investment in whitewashing this guy’s legacy. You are an idiot.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Riefenstahl was not a Nazi party member. While she was friends with Hitler, she never overtly embraced the politics of Nazism. You can argue that her “Triumph of the Will” film glorified Hitler and Nazism, but it did not depict anti-semtism, or hint at what atrocities were to come.

  30. Ray Smith says:

    I must say that the article and the comments were all wonderfully informative and gave me new insight. Mr. Propatier did a superb job of being temperate and chary of over-assessment of insinuation. I thank everyone for the superb and tolerant arguments on both sides. As for the trolls among us who prefer to worry about the author’s here-and-there misuse of verbiage, spelling or grammar – -I would suggest that when you graduate from the 3rd grade, let me know, and i’ll happily nominate you for a Lifetime Achievement Award.

  31. Anonymous says:


  32. Dan Shaffer says:

    It doesn’t matter if Walt Disney was sexist, racist, anti semitic or whatever. What matters is did he ACT on it, and treat them different. For the time, the sexist and racist part doesn’t count, sadly thats how the world worked back then. He wasn’t lynching anyone, groping women , or filling trains up.. He probably hated beard wearing socialists, like everyone else too (Stalin is the exception, but had a cool mustache)

  33. Amf says:

    I feel like this article concludes that Disney was just a little bit antisemetic – which is like being a little pregnant

  34. Sean Korb says:

    Biased apologetics. I have no idea if Disney was a Nazi-sympathizer or not, but you CLEARLY went into this article with the prejudiced goal of vindicating a hero, making your efforts worthless in making this determination.

    • Actually I have no real feelings about Disney one way or the other. I am not a fan of the overpriced parks or merchandise that bears his name.The relevance of this post to me was inspired by Seth MacFarland and his raking disney over the coals on his animated shows. Macfarland is a good skeptic and I find his work amusing his portrayal and other statements made by current actors inspired me to look at this. I hadn’t really looked into the history of Disney prior to that and frankly I was extremely disappointed by the evidence. When you follow all claims back to the original source and that source is tell all post mortem biography you have good reason to be skeptical.

  35. Alan Gardner says:

    My grandfather’s name was Jacob “Jack” Cohen. No mistaking he was Jewish. He was also an incredible talent at drawing. Like Leonardo, he could freehand a perfect circle. He loved creating personal cartoon drawings. I still have about 2500 of them.

    When Disney came to Los Angeles during the 30’s he offered Jack Cohen a contract as one of his head cartoonists. I know this isn’t a family fable because I saw and read the draft contracts with all the red ribbons and seals common at the time. My grandfather kept them in the bottom drawer of his dresser until his death in 1971. He didn’t take the job–he told me–because being paid for what he loved and having to follow someone else’s dictates would take the pleasure out of it.

    The rest of my family thought Walt did have anti-Semitic views, but if he was virulent why offer an obviously Jewish man such a high position in a critical area of your business.

  36. Regis Chapman says:

    I dated a woman whose grandfather was one of Disney’s Jewish animators. I heard this story from both the son of this Jewish man and this woman I was dating, who had heard these stories of Disney since she was a child. I’ve seen the drawings of various Disney characters he made.

    Disney reported the Jewish group as a business move- he had a seat on a panel that could have accused anyone of anything during that time;and most of those people used to to advance their business careers, regardless of ‘how it appears’. Much of white privilege is taken up by such things.

    The Jewish group of animators had founded a separate animation company in New York and were winning animation business from Disney’s animation house. If you’re a business person, and are able to use your privilege to quite literally destroy your competition, you will generally do so, regardless of their religion.

    The fact is, Walt Disney felt like he was a patriarch and a father figure, and wanted to be regarded as such by all his animation team, all the time.

    The least affected by this desire and the least reciprocal of these groups was Jewish, and if fact they didn’t like this attitude at all by this narcissist.

    As a narcissist white man with money and privilege, he simply excluded and destroyed those who didn’t provide him with narcissistic supply. The End.

  37. Elena Bennett-Goulet says:

    That is a most hastily written, shoddily (not at all) researched little bit of venom.
    Many of his most trusted, beloved animators were immigrants and/or Jewish. The Sherman Brothers (The Boys), his beloved composing team, were/are Jewish (Richard is still living).

    Another favourite Disney composer, Allie Wrubel, was also Jewish. He employed and promoted women, African Americans, and made countless anti-Nazi films (on his OWN dime – he was never fully reimbursed by the US government who’d commissioned the films).
    Please read this summation of the truth and cease your nonsensical accusations which spring from hindsight that Disney could not have had at the time and celebrate this man for all the good he did.


    • Noah Dillon says:

      If you read the article the author explains how he reached basically the same conclusion you have.

      • Elena Bennett-Goulet says:

        Dear me! My comment was in response to a an sketchy e-mail I received. To my shame and contrition, I didn’t realise that it was just a comment sent to me because *I* had commented on the actual PIECE well over a year ago! I mistook it for the piece itself. My apologies to Mr. Propatier, and my thanks to you, Mr. Dillon, for pointing out my gaffe.

        • Thank you Elena. Not for agreeing with me rather for taking the time to actually read the comments and the piece. It shows that you have the type of self assessment we hope for in critical thinkers. I may have been exactly what you thought I was but you took the time to actually check your assumptions and that is all we can hope for. 🙂

          • Elena Bennett-Goulet says:

            Thanks for responding so graciously, AND for altering your original piece to which I’d responded similarly and more eloquently in 2016.
            The comments her range from the fine to the absurd. I question whether some have even bothered to look beyond their preconceived notions or their privileged status as members of a more conscientious, enlightened society (although one might well argue that we’re seeing anything BUT conscientiousness and enlightenment these days. ).

            That said, I challenge all people to look closely at those they regard as “their people”.
            I doubt you’ll fine many who wouldn’t prefer – then and now – that their child marry within the faith/community/socioeco-nomic level/insert-your-bias-here. (<– to the person who, with anecdotal evidence, stated Disney didn't want his daughters to date Jewish guys, and the person who pointed out that many Jewish parents have responded terribly to their children dating/marrying non-Jewish people.
            Again, this is all too oftentrue across absolutely every imaginable "distinction" our human race can perceive or invent.

            As humans, our greatest weakness is isolating ourselves. Inbreeding is deadly. Literally.

            I'd also like to mention that open immigration is not only true to our roots as a nation — of immigrants who took over from multiple societies who were here alteady — has continuously led to much that allowed different people to interact. The first decades of the 20th century were probably our nation's best example of the "melting pot" ideal. Internationalism existed in COASTAL cities, and, to a lesser degree, in middle American cities.
            The primary centres for theatre, and film, and radio, and television were New York and Los Angeles.
            In these areas (especially in New York because there was no (known) limit to building structures that would not stand a West Coast earthquake like the one that devastated San Francisco in 1906). People were forced to be together. People WERE together. Many people clung to their religious and/or cultural backgrounds, but they were also exposed to OTHERS.
            The commenter who talks about "The Opry House" makes a great point. Recognising, spoofing, and genuinely celebrating multiethnic influences was done universally, if not always delicately.
            One of the ways peoples learned about and talked about cultural differences was through humour. "Guess what!? Our neighbours are hilarious, too!".
            Our greatest art and music has come from the the blending of cultures.
            People came here to be a part of something NEW.
            My paternal ancestors came here on the Mayflower. My maternal ancestors came here from Russia, Poland, and Romania. ALL of our ancestors came from Africa. All of us.
            Humans have been ghetto-ised AND have SELF-ghettoised for centuries.
            And even the most open-minded and open-hearted among us bear the shackles of the biases imposed upon us.
            Breaking this trend will be what saves our sole race — the human one.
            So, I extend my thanks to you, Stephen, for opening your OWN mind, encouraging ongoing critical thinking and research, celebrating evolution of thought, freely admitting your own mistakes and limitations, and appreciating when others do the same.

            It is a great comfort to know folks like you are still out there.

          • Elena Bennett-Goulet says:

            * Sorry about all the typos! These small website fields don’t lend themselves to editing.

  38. Andrew says:

    By blatantly calling the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals itself anti-semitic, in a unsupported, blanket statement, you pretty much lose all credibility in anything else in this piece. That’s completely untrue, and is the type of thing only those who were and are apologists for Hollywood’s golden age of communist influence would argue.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      If one statement was all it took for a person to lose all credibility, every single person on the globe would have zero credibility. I don’t know how you want to split hairs, but the Motion Picture Alliance was commonly known to have anti-semite members, which is pretty well documented, it seems like. I’m not sure who’s an apologist for Hollywood here. That seems like kind of a big straw man.

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