Author Josh Spiegel wrote, “If Walt Disney is a personification of America at a certain point of its history… he’s an equal reflection of its grim underbelly.” Walt Disney is seen as a savior in most eyes. Especially around the time in which he began his work, he was appreciated the most. Between the work he created in the studio, and those he touched through his inventions, he has been a beloved and important man to America as a whole. Disney has always been labeled as the “hero” due to all the things he has created along with the opportunities he has enabled for some.
However, despite his inventions in the past, Walt Disney has proven himself as being a totally different man than the one he has presented himself as to most. He has always been a man to be cautious of since young. Due to the man’s rise to fame, inability to be equal to all, and his obvious controlling tendencies he cannot be considered to be a “hero”. His ability to change others, lives, and point of views has been something that can be commended for. But in all reality, the “heroic” Walt Disney who had made most of America’s childhood better than most is actually a villain if anything. Considering who he is thought to be, it’s surprising how relevant this idea is considered to be so relevant, but not surprising considering the time in history he was in. The severity of them cannot be overlooked in today’s standards. There are few reasons, but they are reasons to be taken seriously.
At first glance, Walt Disney comes off as a very kind and well put together man. He is taken as a role model since young, with few complications of course. The way he carried himself along with how he had acted in selected presences had given off a whole persona of sorts, and that persona is what those who look up to him see. Walt Disney was a man to have been feared in all reality. His rise in the industry had actually taken some part as to why he is considered to be a villain more than a hero in today’s standards. Walt Disney had some difficulties in the industry as he rose to stardom as a very well known man in American culture.
And the way to the top had been a rough and yet successful journey. This journey had been a force to have been reckoned with. On his journey, Walt Disney had encountered serious dangers that could have destroyed his and his family’s lives. Considering the time Disney had created a character that would help him rise in the ranks and bring his family up, it had been stolen by his partner at the time. He had run himself into a depression of sorts after this occurrence. His depression had caused a spark of creation though and it thankfully was able to help him get back onto his feet.
If Walt Disney was never able to create the existence of Mickey Mouse, Disney and his family would have been destroyed. So in pursuing his career and what he enjoys, he had sadly put his own family at risk and he had his own mental health affected as well. Even when investing into Technicolor in 1932, when his brother, Roy Disney, had warned him of the financial cost of it. Basically he had only success in his mind since day one. Achieving his dream was the goal of course, but the way he had gotten to where he was when he had passed was a very risky and unsafe bet when considering his family.
Walt Disney was a particular man. He had the persona, or a mask if that, of a very bright and kind older gentleman that would be very accepting to all. Though in all reality, Disney was a man unable to be equal to all. He was a man that was unable to give equal pay distributions to all of his employees. Animators would go on strike when he would reject their pleas for better pay. His company would cycle through staff members frequently; old staff had come together after leaving the company to create their own company to compete against Disney’s own company. Given the fact that there is seldom information on the said company, it can be inferred that it did not do very well.
When considering Walt Disney’s line of business and how he was a role model to children and adults alike. It would’ve been expected of him to be an accepting and non-judgemental gentleman. In all reality though, Disney was a very conservative man who has been confirmed to be anti-semite, anti-communist, racist, as well as a mildly sexist man.
An anti-semite is a person who is hostile to or prejudiced against jews. There has been past concerns on whether he can be considered to even be associated with this term or not. But due to certain actions as well as animations of his, it is thought to be the truth. Disney had created an animation titled The three Little Pigs in 1933. It is an animation based off of a story created by a 14th century Jewish sage from Gdansk, Rabbi Meshuam Yerachmiel Yankovich of Gdansk. The original intent of the story was of Jewish background and this animation had just come during a grim time against Jews that had escalated greatly.
Another reason is Disney’s invitation to Leni Riefenstahl in 1938 for a tour of his studios, shared sketches for an upcoming project, and then a private screening of her latest film. When all other companies including Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros had said that she was unwelcomed for her possible connections with the all known and hated Hitler.
Disney had also been connected to and attended a few Nazi party meeting before World War II. There is also information in history to have the belief that Disney was a anti-communist. Anti-communist is a political movement and ideology opposed to communism, where it is believed that all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paind according to their abilities and needs. The reason for this connection is that he was involved in the conservative group Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Idols. So as stated, it isn’t very heavily supported that he is in fact a anti-commuist. But there are reasons as to why it is believed that he is.
Racism is also one of the biggest components as to why Dsney is considered to be a villain in today’s society. There are more factors into this concern than the others. For starters, the characters in his created animations. The black nymphet in the “Pastoral Symphony ” sequence of Fantasia. The white female nymphets are being attended to by other creatures as well as black and less attractive nymphets. And this scene has actually been censored in newer released versions of it to hide the fact that they are attended to by the black nymphets. This scene could also be considered to be sexist in the ways the characters interact and just by the name in which they are addressed as, nymphets. A nymphet is an attractive and sexually mature young girl; they are portrayed in this way in the film as well.
Then, Cliff Edward’s performance in Dumbo as the black crow. He is portrayed as a “typical African American” as in coordination with the way he talks and holds himself. The scene in which the circus is being put together also only shows the animals and African Americans working to put everything up during a terrible storm, with no white man in sight. More characters that prove racism would be the Native Americans shown in the 1953 animation, Peter Pan. They had acted in the “typical” Indian fashion, hooting and hollering around with paint on their faces and little to none clothing.
More animations and shows released by Disney that are taken to have racist intentions include: Song of The South, Mulan, and Aladdin. Song of The South is the most famous yet well covered up show yet. It was first released in 1946 and at the time it was accepted and watched well by most. But now it is a subject of controversy. The film’s portrayal of African Americans is considered to be racist and offensive. It maintains the black dialect and other qualities as offensive stereotypes. As for the other animations, they take the ethnicities mentioned and put in stereotypes that are very offensive to the said ethnicities. After Disney’s death animations were created in “apologia” for possible past racist animations.
The animation Pocahontas was created in apology for Peter Pan, while The Princess and the Frog was created in apology to Song of the South. They had been created to erase the companies dark history, but things like this can never be erased. Sexism is another reason as to how Disney was unable to be equal to all. He had sent out multiple rejection letters to women who had applied to work for him. Given the time, it is not surprising that he rejected women due to her gender. But he could’ve hired her anyway, despite women “not being fit for this sort of job”.
A man in this line of work is expected to be responsible and cleaned up, in order to have a successful business. But Walt Disney had controlling tendencies that could’ve used some toning down on. He harbored some “bigoted” tendencies, which is the belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudicial intolorance of the opinions of others. His opinion was always made very clear and unable to be argued with. Appearance was also a very big role in his life. Everyone had to be cleaned up and presentable at all times. No facial hair was allowed, with his own as the only exception. Men were kicked out of his studio if their hair was off or if they were not cleanly shaven. Which is a very controlling way to enforce his opinion on others.
Who is the real Walt Disney? The man who made everyone’s childhood full of joy? Or a man who chiansmoked till his lungs turned black? Walt Disney was a man living two lives. He had created joy for all ages with his films and theme park. The wrong messages came along with all the joy though. With all he created in the time he was alive, he had brought the message of hate. Hate for those different and unsuccessful in life. The accomplishments that carried him throughout life had indeed helped him build an empire of joy. But the credit that was due to others was never given out. He was indeed a master at what he did, but wanted more than that. The projects he took part in were all credited to him alone and not to those that helped him to make his dream come true along the way.
A man who presented himself to be the embodiment of perfection does not deserve the title of a hero. A hero lives up to their misfortunes along with their shortcomings. Disney did the exact opposite. He had two whole personas, only one being the one that he would put on display for the world to see. While the other was that of a man who smoked more than a chimney. He has even stated outright that the him on the big screen is not really who he is. Disney was not the man who America believed him to be.
To sum up, despite all of Walt Disney’s accomplishments, he was not the man to look up to. He was a man full of secrets that could be understood and found out if looked for. From the young man on a small Missouri farm to the man who created animations and more for the world to see. Disney had more to him than anyone would’ve thought. Walter Elias Disney was an American villain in the eyes of those that seek the truth, rather than a hero for what was put to the surface.