Monday, May 11, 2009

To All Who Come To This Happy Place...WELCOME!

...err, unless you're Jewish, or African-American, or from India, or a woman with a desire to do anything but clean up after and serve at the foot of a man. But as long as you're not any of those things, then yeah, welcome everyone! Welcome!

'To all who come to this happy place...Welcome!'

Famous words known to all Disney freaks- like myself- spoken by Disney himself in July of 1955 on the day Disneyland opened for the first time.

Now look: I'm a Disney nut and the obsession has been (happily!) getting 'worse' since I've had kids (we go to the park every month or so), since I've been devouring the behind the scenes books I get at the theme parks, and since I've discovered a number of like minded Disney nuts in real life and on the internet.

And in my growing fandom, I've been searching for info about Walt Disney. What made the man tick? What did his family think about him? How did he respond to his success?

There are lots of books out there, but frankly the biographies are too damn long for me to read (900+ pages for the one that folks say is the best). So I did what most lazy folks do: I went to Youtube and tried to find a movie version of what I wanted so I could digest it fast and over a lunch break. :)

And in my search, I came across this documentary:

If you've watched it (and there are 5 other parts beyond what I've embedded above), you can tell: The story of Walt Disney as the kindly, creative 'Uncle Walt' ain't true. And what is true ain't pretty.

And some of the most incriminating stuff comes right from Walt's mouth. A lot of the other bad stuff comes from folks who worked with Walt and were relaying things he was reported to have said to them.

And so IF this doc is to be believed, I'm really turned off to the man who was Walt Disney at this point.

And what I wonder is: is it fair that this information should affect the way people feel about the current Diseny brand? Or even the classic Disney stuff that Walt had a direct hand in creating? Or was Disney just a man of his time and it's unfair to hold him to today's standards of what it means to be a likable, kind person?

These days, it's impossible for me to associate the new Disney with the real Disney and for that I am grateful. The new Disney seems very much about diversity and teamwork and imagination and hope for the whole world, all races and types. The old Disney? If the doc is real, not so much. If the doc is real, I imagine Walt is rolling over in his cryo chamber over the casting of an African-American Disney Princess in The Princess and the Frog.

Also, if the documentary and all the research I've done on the parks and the older Disney flicks show anything, it's that the vast majority of stuff we all love about Disney (Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Dumbo, etc...hell even Mickey Mouse!) was created or lead or turned into the great magic we love by many other folks along with and/or instead of 'Uncle Walt'. And so with that knowledge, it keeps me from turning my back on the whole thing.

But I ain't gonna lie: if that documentary is true, the individual Walt Disney seems like someone whom I would not care to meet and whose work I would not care to support with my cash.

Granted, documentaries have a point of view and perhaps this one is not all true. But it's hard to argue with actual footage of Disney turning colleagues over to the government during the McCarthy witch hunts (and it's even worse if his views on Jews, African-Americans, women,etc. pan out). But I did read somewhere that towards the end of his life Disney tried to change or actually did change his assholian ways (altho I've seen no evidence of that). So who knows.

Either way, it's pretty shitty stuff to discover (again, assuming even a touch of it is true). And it makes me:

a- wonder which of today's celebrated people that we hold up as being the epitome of a specific virtue or a set of admired virtues is really full of shit? For example: are Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg REALLY nice guys?!?
b- perhaps it's naive to assume that people- and especially creative people who see the world a bit different than most- would and should be holier that the rest of us and less susceptible to the negative human traits that the rest of us must deal with. But in that case, these celebs should not present a totally fake image of who they are and fool the public. I think that is the worst part about my whole Disney discovery...a sense of disappointment and betrayal.

Later ya'll



Gazzo said...

I've actually heard of Disney's racism, and it's slightly ironic given the branched, large, and open armed atmosphere the company has generated. But, know this, one man isn't an entire company, especially not when he's dead.

And, really, I think judging people at all can be dangerous. Honestly, the first time I saw an interview of you I thought you were a giant asshole, given that you were drunk at the time. Boy, was I wrong. :) (I think. :P)

Those are two my cents.

David Jaffe said...

Well I hear you Gazzo and you DO need to be careful judging folks. But when a documentary is SHOWING you someone doing things that you find reprehensible , doesn't that seem like it's ok to judge in those cases assuming you have the context of the situation correct in your mind?

Catherine Rector said...

I've heard about this as well. You can find a lot of information on that subject of Walt Disney not being the role model we all assume he is. The best way to find this information it to search out books that are not made by the Disney Corporation. The views will be less biased that way.
Your statement about Disney being a man of his time is absolutely correct. It was a period of hate and discrimination. It doesn't make it right in any way, shape or form, however it does make it easier to understand why he would have been that way.
It makes you wonder, how can a man with such views create an enterprise with such magic and allure? It seems almost impossible for someone with such a hate for certain types of human being to create something designed to show love to the world.
Keep reading, but I don't think I'd give up the memories I'd be sharing with the young people in my life for something that one big creep did when my parents were kids.

Unknown said...

hmm, my drama class teacher worked with the folks at disney for a commercial on a local news channel, he told us that they were fucking strict. I remember him saying they weren't allowed to put any text when the magic kingdom castle was on the screen...

Andrew said...

I too had heard about Disnye being racist and having affiliations with the Nazis, etc. (maybe he will be a boss in the new Wolfenstein), but just because he was a creative genius in one arena doesn't mean he wasn't as bat sheet gone as the rest of us. Ironically enough he was simply a puppet on a string dancing to his unconditioned programming.

You asked if it's okay to judge him based upon what came out of his mouth...from the egoic world of course that is all we can do..however if you can see him as part of the huge collective mental illness in our society I believe it becomes easier to simply accept this is what he did.

I am glad you can still enjoy Disney. It would be a shame for one crazy guy to take that away from you.

Unknown said...


all i can say is that ill still love his movies... but if i could i would spit on the man

people like that just makes me sick
but damn man his movies are awesome

one thing i know is that he would have hated me

puerto rican/ egyptian


CosmycMyndFuhk said...

There was a lot racism back in the day, ever try watching a old school Warner Bros cartoon?

starblinky said...

Hey Jaffe, wana hear a story I read in an art book about Walt Disney?

At one of his birthdays they had a surprise birthday party for him, one of his animators made a quick animation of mini mouse fucking micky mouse. Then Walt acted as if it was very amusing and he 'loved' it and asked who it was that made it.

Once the person revealed himself as the one responsible for the animation, Walt fired him on the spot and Walt left the building.

Interesting eh? Read it a looong time ago and remembered it over the years for some reason. Kinda a funny little story I guess.

Anonymous said...

i fall in to one of those categories.

Joe said...

I've met a lot of people who have worked for Disney and they all have said that it's one of the worst experiences they've ever had. They said that Disney basically treats you like a slave and even tells it to you.

Sean said...

there are some banend disney movies with a racist daffy duck. and one with bugs in a nazi uniform. but i think the bugs one was makin fun of em to boost US troop morale. i never heard that he hated black people but i have heard he hated clue if its true. but who cares the movies are good and he is dead

Mike said...

think how liberal you are. everything you say is just how america is now a days.not saying i agree with you but its just how this country is. 50-70 years from now people could think that you guys are crazy for some of your choices. its just the way it was back then.

T_Tokyo said...

Simply disgusting that this could be the person that most of America thinks of as a historic icon. Guess people never really know the truth until it's let out in the open.

Off topic, Mr. Jaffe if you ever feel like doing a developers interview on PlayStation Home please respond back to me as myself and my group would love to have you. You may or may not have heard of us, we are the Nameless Ones (N1's), a group of mature adults with a deep passion for what we love, games and PlayStation home, amongst other things. Our website is look us up. IF this would be possible or impossible please let me know. You can contact me on the Nameless ones webstie or email me at Thank you very much.

P.S. Glad you decided not to stop blogging. What would I read a lunch time from now on, lol.

Unknown said...

Ya, its sad how Walt Disney doesn't match up to the hero he's portrayed as. But that does not take away anything from what he's created and provided to us.

I've seen paintings Hitler had painted before he became who we knew him as. I look at it and say, "You know, its not bad." It didn't matter to me who created it. It didn't have any holocaust message to it. It was just a grove. It was pretty. I'm still disgusted with him but not with the painting.

This is like that situation where a boy grows up looking up to his father as the greatest person who ever lived and then one night he sees him cry and that image is just shattered.

And here's that fact. No one is perfect. I've done horrible things to people intentionally and unintentionally. I know some kids look hold me up on a pedestal and I feel like crap because I know the truth about how I am. Its hard being human.

Itachi Uchiha said...

Hey Jaffe, hows it going?

Well, actually I researched this not too long ago after hearing Immortal Technique (a rappper) making vague references of Walt Disney being a racist. And honestly, I don't know what the truth is. He may have been, (just see the time period he lived in, many Whites were racist, or held some sort of stereotypical pre-judgements of blacks and others), but he also might not have been.

Here's a link to a website that claims to debunk this Walt Disney racist claim.

But if you're interested in some other things that historians thought would be better kept away from the masses, I'd suggest reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Its pretty long, I myself am not done with it yet, but it is very interesting. It goes into facts that mainstream America is not aware of, and things we were never taught during school. Things such as Christopher Columbus kick starting the rapid murder of Native Americans, but still being hailed as some sort of American hero, even though he was nothing but a barbaric murderer.

I don't know if this is covered in the book, but Martin Luther King Jr was no saint lol. I'm half African-American myself, so don't think I'm trying to put MLK down. But he was a plagiarist and womanizer. He plagiarised many of his famous speeches; yes, even his classic I Have A Dream speech. You don't have to take my word for it, even though its documented and proven fact. You can read more about it in Michael Eric Dyson's book "I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King"

Oh yeah, speaking of my being half "African"-American. What would we call a white person born in Africa who immigrated to America? lol

anyway, I guess these are just some ideas you might want to get into for your next post or something lol...

Anonymous said...

Hey David,
Im pretty sure this video can prove that Disney was a racist lol Its the trailer for Fantasia, just look at 3:07 - a black centaur with bad teeth scrubbing the hooves of an elegant white centaur...

- Kenny

Anonymous said...

Walt was a racist and EVERYBODY knew/knows it.

Today Disney touts itself as being family friendly and the 'greatest place on Earth" yet they do nothing to accept or even acknowledge the family dynamic of this new century. Look, I'm not saying they have to put on a gay pride parade with Mickey in assless chaps on Main Street USA or anything like that but realizing that the idea of "family" and "parents" has changed since the 50's would be nice.

Sure they can put out a great movie or two every year or throw up a fun ride but most of it and their products are outdated and crap with the Disney logo stamped on it which they're happy to charge $29.95 for.


Unknown said...

The way I see it, Disney was a business man he was in business to make money and sell an image or brand. You figure a of his success was before the major civil rights movement of the 60's. In a manner of speaking his perspective was a product of the times. Just like now. As a society there is a major push for tolerance of illegal immigrants and homosexuals. This idea that illegal immigrants are people too and human and deserving of basic human rights and that they are provide services to the foundation of the daily operation of the U.S. and their families deserve the same opportunities to have a better life with homes/education/healthcare etc. yet still many Americans are of the view point that they are criminals for coming into the country illegally and that they are the reason hospital treatment is so high, why schools are over crowded and many are hardened criminals that wind up in prison.

So taking current events and applying it to Disney's life of you have a person rooted in old beliefs vs. changing times. Does that justify behavior that's been reinforced over a period of a lifetime? That's something each person has to decide for themselves.

As for the results of that life, he created jobs, an industry and entertainment with paths to other industries and they all still exist in 2009 nearly 70 years later. In this tough economic time people still have jobs because of an empire he established over the course of a life time. Does the good outweigh the possible bad? I'd have to say yes.

Also let's keep in mind Disney is a Corporation and that very fact rubs a lot of people the wrong way and they take it personally especially when they charge prices they think are too high as if they don't have the right to or that they hold some obligation to fans not to.

Look at the game industry, we like to glamorize it and some people turn into fanboys all the while companies like gamestop, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft are in business to make money the people at the low end are the ones with the passion for the industry these companies represent but its the executives at the top, the legal teams, the marketing departments etc. that are earning six figures but ultimately they are all part of a business. Yeah the companies make and sell products the consumers enjoy but for those companies it's all about profit.

All I'm saying is people need to take a step back and really look at things objectively and not just a matter of what's right or wrong or try to force their belief system on others. People really need to try and understand what it is they have a problem with and try to get an idea where the people behind it are coming from.

Anonymous said...

I'm offended by the casting in The Princess and the Frog! What the FUCK where they thinking making the frog FRENCH!?!? Why does Lasseter hate America?!?!

Phil said...

On the flip side of this, I read an interview with Hitler's maid. She said that she worked for him because the previous maid had died suddenly and she was the replacement. On the annaversary of her death, she over heard Hitler crying in his room. Even someone who authorised the genocide of 6 million Jews has a human side. Pretty scary thought.
Similarly, people who are portrayed as nice men and create nice things for the world to enjoy can be bastards. Human nature is very strange.

Anonymous said...

In that case there are a TON of historical figures who are racist, anti semites, and sexist...many were presidents i'm sure you admire...(FDR, Wilson)

honestly they didn't live in the P.C. age we live in today so I don't think it's fair to compare them to todays views...

Disney rules and has brought happiness to kids of all color and who cares!

Portugal Friend said...

I've had that same dissapointment a lot of times (especially, but not only!, with singers/rock bands).

Not always about such clear issues like the ones you point out but just minor details in the matter of how those figures actually behave outside their art.

The best advice I can give (if I can give any of course!!) is that the work of art is ALLWAYS bigger than the artist himself.

Keep that in mind and you'll probably find that not only it's easier to appreciate any art form, with no strings attached, but also you'll free yourself to a whole new world of your own art pursuit.

Keep up the good work m8.

ConceptCreature said...

I think it's more of the fact that Disney touted being this kindly Uncle figure, when he was the complete opposite.
Having worked at Disney for four years in my youth, I can tell you from first-hand experience that they still exploit workers ("College Program" workers make up about 50% of their work force, live in Disney-funded "dorms" with no benefits, automatically having their rent deducted from their paycheck, with no union representation) and crookedly fight unions tooth and nail (it took a performer getting RUN OVER by a float five years ago to finally make them address major safety issues with the parade!)
That being said, it's the workers that make that place spectacular, and somehow amidst all of the abuses that happen, it's truly the worker's enthusiasm that makes those theme parks an enjoyable experience.

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Harlequiine said...

I knew previously that Walt was racist but honestly, that shouldn't change the way you view the cartoons.
This really is a completely different subject matter, but you could dislike many many bands in the world because they do drugs or are violent or curse. Hell, Lars Ulrich from Metallica is the biggest douche on the planet but I still love Metallica to death.
Of course, being racist is completely different to just being a jackass but regardless, if you love what they do, don't stop.

Josh said...

Hey David. I'm actually reading that 900 pg. book now. I'm totally with you on this as I felt the same way about Disney but also the studio. One thing I love about the Disney films are the innocense but behind the scenes, they would watch stag films and draw pornographic pictures of the cartoon characters. You can say "boys will be boys" but to me it's disgusting...

yog-sothot said...

I don't think it affects the quality of past and present Disney work.

Well, if they used children in chinese factories or something, that would seriously suck (like Nike and so many other companies), same if the cartoons contain racist messages or that kind of stuf.

But the personnality of Walt Disney himself doesn't change my opinion of the movies he produced.

Look at Lovecraft, a pure racist, but still a master of horror books. Louis Ferdinand Celine, a french writer, was very... friendly with the nazis, but his major book (Voyage au bout de la nuit) is a true masterpiece.

Finally let's not forget that at this time, Disney was probably as racist or homophobic as the next guy, he was just more famous...

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