Video mashup of Walk Disney’s speech at the opening of Disneyland and one of Hitler’s speeches. All footage sourced from YouTube.
This video is a meditation on Walt Disney's involvement with fascism and nationalism for educational purposes. I in no way condone Nazi politics, and nor do I condone the identity politics of Walt Disney. I am not claiming he is a Nazi - but I am interested in the connection between fascism and Disney. As Alex Cox writes, "If you're a fascist in Hollywood, you work with great regularity. If you're not, you don't so I don't.. There is no place in Hollywood for certain directors. It has to do with the big corporations owning the studios and being tied to the military-industrial complex." (Halliwells Filmgoers Companion)
“Werner von Braun entered the consciousness of America as its prophet of space travel on a Sunday evening in 1955. He had been hired by Walt Disney to develop a series of stories for his Disneyland television program With his smooth German accent, von Braun came across as foreign as outer-space; yet with Disney as his patron, he became familiar as Mickey Mouse and he seemed as squeaky clean as Snow White. We eventually learned – if we did not know already – that von Braun had designed the V-2 missile that had rained terror on London during World War 2 According to his story, von Braun had little choice but to let his genius be exploited by the Nazis. Now, in the mid-1950s, he was working for the United States Army to build rockets that would defend us from the Communists. About a decade ago, as many government documents from the end of World War II were declassified, von Braun’s true story began to emerge. The documents told of the Nazi activities of von Braun and other German scientists who came to the US after the war. It was no longer credible for them to say that they were not dedicated Nazis and only did what they did to protect their jobs. They belonged to the Nazi party, the SS, and other Nazi organizations. They were honored by the Nazi party and by Hitler specifically. They were indirectly – and in some cases directly – responsible for the deaths of thousands of concentration camp slave laborers.” (Dennis Piszkiewicz, The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War, http://tiny.cc/hts4w)
In 1933, the German American Bund was founded by Fritz Kuhn. An association of German immigrants to America, the Bund had a definite pro-Nazi slant. Disney animator Art Babbitt claimed his boss had a strong interest in, if not outright sympathy for, the Bund; “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." The German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, whose documentaries in the mid-30s had helped to glorify the Nazis, claimed that “after Kristallnacht , 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.” (Marc Eliot, Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, http://tiny.cc/xo4s3)
"In view of the detailed records kept by Hitler's Sekretariat, it is unlikely that [Walt and Roy Disney] met with Der Führer in an undocumented meeting. However, after leaving Munich the DIsney brothers did drive on to Rome where they were greeted as cultural heroes by Il Duce, Benito Mussolini." (Dialog International, Uncle Walt and Der Fuhrer, http://tiny.cc/lw3cb)
"On the surface of things, Walt Disney's political sensibility seemed elusive, if not nonexistent One of his only political forays was printed in the small magazine Overland Monthly, when he tried to extend his analysis of Mickey Mouse's appeal in political directions, and it culminated in embarrassment. Mickey, he explained to readers, had become a favorite of international figures and groups ranging from "Mr. King George and Mrs. Queen Mary" to "Mr. Mussolini" to "Mr. F. Roosevelt and family" to the warring Chinese and Japanese. "Mr. A Hitler, the Nazi old thing, says that Mickey's silly. Imagine that!" Disney concluded rather childishly. "Well, Mickey is going to save Mr. A. Hitler from drowning or something some day. Then won't Mr. A. Hitler be ashamed." (Steven Watts, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life, http://tiny.cc/om4c8)
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