Was Walt Disney a Nazi? | Americana


Walt Disney, the man of a thousand stories. I’m sure you’ve heard your share of things
about this cartoon mogul from him being a closeted Nazi, to a currently frozen head
in a tank of liquid nitrogen right now. For just one person, he certainly made a mark
in the world. Let’s talk about… Disney. Hi, I’m Tristan Johnson, and this is Step
Back History. Be sure to click the subscribe button as well
as the bell notification to never miss a new Step Back video or live stream. Remember a few videos back when I said this?
*clip from Swastika video* Well, I wanted to follow up on my thrown shade,
and for good or ill Walt Disney’s a key figure in cultural history. He was actually born in Chicago in 1901, but
his family moved around a lot throughout his youth as his father made stabs at farming,
delivering newspapers, and working in a jelly and fruit juice factory. Walt himself was more of an artist than a
student dropped out of high school at age 16, and with a forged birth certificate managed
to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps to aid the US army in the first World War. Hey, that rhymes! Disney magic! He arrived in France to help out… in late
1918, shortly after the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War. He helped out with some random tasks before
eventually getting a discharge the next year. He moved to Kansas City after that, hoping
to become a newspaper cartoonist. He quickly became an illustrator for magazine
ads, as they didn’t use photos all that much in magazines back then, and did some
drawings for movie theatres. He reportedly enjoyed it but was more interested
in animation. Enter into his life making cartoons. The most famous mouse in history was born
early in the Disney timeline. After a few successful cartoons based on Alice
in Wonderland, he developed an original character he called Mortimer Mouse. He eventually decided Mickey would be a better
name. His debut was in the 1928 short film Steamboat
Willie and was one of the first cartoons ever made to have synchronised sound effects. He was the late 20s version of a viral sensation. There were Mickey mouse clubs for children,
and in the truly American fashion the success quickly followed up with merchandising and
comic strips. The first voice over for Mickey premiered
in 1929 The Karnival Kid. Mickey’s first words were hot dog. Eventually, Disney decided to voice Mickey
himself, which he did until 1947. His animation company became a massive empire. He got into feature films with Snow White,
and during his life collecting something like 22 Oscars and another 59 nominations. But Old Walt wanted more. Disney wanted to start a little theme park
near his studio in Burbank, but these plans became more and more ambitious. It got to the point where in 1953, he had
to hire a team of researchers to find the perfect place to build a theme park, factoring
population growth, weather patterns, and transportation routes. They eventually found the home of Disneyland,
a 160-acre grove of Orange trees in Anaheim California. They broke ground in 1954, and on July 17
a year later Disneyland opened and it was a… disaster. There was a surge of counterfeit tickets,
leading to too many guests. Rides broke, the park was unfinished, oh and
there was a gas leak that forced part of the park to close. The TV broadcast celebrating the park opening
even had technical difficulties. Early jitters aside, Walt Disney loved his
park. He even kept an apartment there. One of his projects was a utopian city concept. There was a terrifying angle to what he considered
Utopia, but we will talk about that later. Now, we should discuss how Disney was not
some magical creature divorced from his dark side, nor from historical context. As many of you have likely heard, the Disney
company was involved in creating propaganda for the United States during the Second World
War. It began with some short educational films,
such as a 1942 film “The New Spirit” which taught people how to file their taxes to support
the war effort. Many of the propaganda films starred Donald
Duck and were in thousands of movie theatres. One even got an academy award nomination. The education videos turned into military
training videos, and Disney also designed a lot of military insignias. Disney was initially hesitant to get involved
in such a way. He had built a reputation for himself in such
politically divisive times as a non-political maker of cartoons. However, he began to come around, producing
blatant works of propaganda for the US army like the probably famous film “Der Fuhrer’s
Face”, a film making fun of Nazis starring Donald Duck. He started to take this seriously, producing
some pretty terrifying films such as Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi. He also became obsessed with a book called
Victory Through Air Power and adapted it to drum up support of the use of long-range strategic
bombing. It apparently worked, getting the attention
of both President Roosevelt and British Prime-Minister Winston Churchill. I can’t show these in this video due to
copyright, something else we can blame Disney for. If you can go find these wartime Disney films
they’re quite a surreal watch, and with no more than a little blatant racism when
depicting the Japanese. Either way, they are quite a fascinating blip
in American cultural history. Here’s where we start to see an infamous
side of Disney, however. He criticised a lot of parts of the Nazi ideology
through these propaganda films, but one thing he never criticised was the Nazi regime’s
antisemitism. Disney was a very socially conservative man. He was a staunch capitalist, and despite criticising
a lot of Nazi ideology in films like Education for Death, embodied many of the very things
he railed against. Rumours are still commonplace that Disney
was a Nazi, and while it would be unfair without evidence to call him a Nazi with a capital
N, he definitely had aspects of their ideology in his politics. The better term would probably be Nazi-sympathizer. Before the war, there were meetings of people
openly supporting and interested in the Nazi form of government. These groups were small, but reportedly fiercely
loyal and were open to the public. On a few occasions, Disney and his lawyer
Gunther Lessig were spotted in attendance along with a lot of other of the Nazi-aligned
Hollywood elite. This organisation was the German American
Bund, which would eventually become the American Nazi Party of today. More on them in my Neo-Nazi video, or my video
on hate groups. I’m getting so sick of Nazis… why did
they have to become relevant again? He also hosted a visit from the Nazi filmmaker
Leni Riefenstahl when she came to America to promote her film Olympia in 1938. You might remember her if you ever took a
film class as the director behind the infamous Triumph of the Will Nazi propaganda film. This was only about a month after the notorious
Kristallnacht, a night of brutal assaults on German Jewish businesses and homes. You could write this off as the west’s all
too comfortable relationship with the Nazi regime that we try hard to forget happened,
but his peers even criticised Disney for this act. Even after the war, this whiff of antisemitism
spilt over into his 50s politics. Amongst the hardcore anti-communists of the
red scare, there was a common association between Jews and communists, which might have
fuelled their… enthusiasm for destroying the lives of anyone a little too far left
of centre, but I don’t wanna spoil too much of next week’s video… oops!
Disney was a full and happy player in Mccarthy’s purges. He was a member of many of the 50s witch hunting
organisations like the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which
was associated with the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. The former being notorious for it being quietly
a very anti semitic organisation. Some folks like Disney’s own grand-niece
Meryl Streep have confirmed the Alliance was an anti semitic industry lobbying group. Not too surprisingly then, Disney also had…
opinions about organised labour. That utopic city EPCOT he imagined? It was a place where unions would be illegal,
democracy nonexistent, and of course no social safety net. All enforced by his own written laws, and
a proto-police security force. It was like a prototype of the gated community. And this ethos followed into the corporation
he created. In the 1960s, the Disney corporation lobbied
to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and the government gave broad authority over
it to the Disney corporation. They to this day have pretty much complete
control over the land and do whatever they want with it. It’s political insulation to protect them
from labour regulations and competition. A true model for the corporatist worldview. Walt Disney was a longtime smoker, and in
1966 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Only a month later, on December 15th he died. Not long after he died, there was a rumour
that he had been cryogenically frozen. This is actually a myth. He was cremated, and his ashes are in a mausoleum
in California. The rumour probably persists because the first
person to be cryogenically frozen was put on ice in January of 1967, just a month after
Disney’s death. A history of cryogenic freezing that might
be a fun video. If only I had a know your sci-fi series… Today, Disney is a massive corporation, and
frequently lobbies governments to change policy to their will. The US’s extremely long-term for copyright
being an example, or the fact that Disney just flat out bought up a ton of Fox’s properties
in the not too distant past without the word antitrust flying anywhere. In many ways, the corporation Disney made
with his values is responsible for a lot of the corporate dominance in the United States
today. It’s also responsible for a lot, and I mean
like a METRIC FUCKTON of our cultural masonry. It’s as ingrained a part of America as apple
pie, burgers, and for-profit medicine. Welcome to the end! I wanna thank Cody from the Alternate History
Hub for making the Disney voices for this video! Sometimes, Youtube makes it a little… hm…
difficult to find out when your favourite Tubers have a new video out. To help out with that, I have a mailing list
you can sign up for. I’ll let you know via email when a new video
goes live! This video was made possible by these wonderful
people, as well as the rest of my Patrons over at Patreon. I’d especially like to thank Don and Kerry
Johnson as well as Kolbeinn Mani for their generosity. The theme song is by 12Tone, and come back
next time for more Step Back.




Comments
  1. American history gets ever weirder and more interesting. Watch some more discussions of American history and culture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t07J0IkgjIg&list=PLnpoOo7lhNnEdPq4uuLigw3lCnuedw13S

  2. That band Fishbone I mentioned in the livestream wrote a very relevant song called "Fight the Youth". Check it out! 🙂

  3. “[Disney] is as much a part of American culture as apple pie, burgers, and for profit medicine.” Ha! Fake laugh hiding real pain!

  4. Walt was a bogotted, ant semitic scumbag. I suspect he may have also been a closeted …………………Canadian!!

  5. It always seems surreal how many people praised Hitler and the Nazis before his crimes and the flaws in his policies came to light. Even Gandhi liked the guy! Just goes to show you what good marketing/politics can get you…and a well-hated scapegoat, like them Commie-Jews.

  6. Walt Disney Didn't create Mickey Mouse, Ub Iwerks did, he did almost all the work in Disney's early cartoons.
    Ub Iwerks designed the iconic character of Mickey Mouse and animated him, while Walt Disney the smart businessman took the credit and the money.

  7. Fantastic video as always, Triston! I would gladly volunteer to help in some way if only I had those pesky qualifications or education 😜 keep it up, man, I watch every new video that comes out because I just look through my subscription feed 🤙

  8. Well to be fair a lot of people were rasict and antisemtic during those times, many didn’t know the horrors of what the nazis would entailed(- does this ring any bells, cough single ethnic state supporters-). But on the other hand supporting the radical rasict is still very bad even in that times, it just that during that time, it was more likely to be rasict.

  9. Disney likes to pitch Walt as a progressive to its workers lol…. They didn't tell us any of this in "traditions" lml

  10. I wrote a scientific paper once on American Propaganda during WW2, and lets just say that Disney played a surprisingl big role in it.

  11. "I'm so sick of talking about Nazis." — Be careful you don't follow the History Channel's path: History -> Hitler -> Hurrr. I can't imagine you ever getting to the hurr stage ("I'm not saying it's aliens, but…"), but it sounds like you're almost halfway into the Hitler stage. 😉

  12. You forgot the part where he was given a spider mech body and tried to eat Elian Gonzalez just to be shot in the head by Fidel Castro.

  13. Interesting video about Walt Disney as a nazi very weird with the american propaganda films and how he supported of nazi beliefs great video though!

  14. So if you meet with these historians
    I'll tell you what to say
    Tell them that the Nazis
    Never really went away

    They're out there burning houses down
    And peddling racist lies

    And we'll never rest again…
    Until every Nazi dies…

  15. Voting for a 'Know Your Sci Fi' series!
    Any light you can shed on where some of these great (and some not-so-great) ideas came from, and how they evolved, would be more than welcome.
    Science fiction, real-world applications, and history are all merging in ways that are difficult to parse out at times, and the historical thread is really being ignored.
    Given that science fiction is inspirational to science (and I suspect some political movements), and given the significance of things like afrofuturism, what we can learn from the past of these very ideas can help us understand our emerging future better.
    Sci fi is one of the prime ways we engage the future, and we kinda gotta, at this point.
    We are living in the future, jet-packs aside; it takes sci fi thinking to keep up with the present.
    It's all in that increasingly relevant Gibson quote: "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."
    So yes! Tell us what you can about where that future (and perhaps it's faulty distribution vectors) comes from!

  16. FACT: Thursday is the most unless day of the week and it stands in my way to Friday.

    BETTER FACT: Step Back History videos being released on Thursday is the only thing keeping me from making Thursdays disappear forever. Definitely my favorite new channel to have subscribed to in 2018.

  17. Meryl Streep is not Disney’s grandniece, his grandniece agreed with Streep’s depiction of the group as antisemitic.

  18. I remember the first time I watched Disney propaganda in a class on the World Wars and thinking it was a joke. Nope! Just Disney doing animations for the war effort. Wild!

  19. Anti-Semitic and a HARDCORE Libertarian, pseudo An-Cap, whats more to hate about the asshole? People are complicated, but there is a line.

  20. No …. No he wasn't there were many Jews who worked as film director's for him and he even fired someone for being anti Semitic

  21. I don't think Disney would have made anti Nazi propaganda if he liked the Nazi's. I also don't think that the Nazi's would have taken too kindly to his pro capitalist views. As for his social conservatism, that was common for his time. MLK himself was a social conservative AND a socialist, yet no one accuses him of being a Nazi. Not every white guy with a mustache is a Nazi, guys.

  22. One thing to keep in mind two of the most vicious racist groups, the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan, didn't initially side completely with one another. In fact one Nazi propaganda poster showed a monster wearing a Klan hood on it representing the allied powers, and after the war not many Klansmen wanted any sort of connection with the Nazis because of the war. This did change but it points to the differences that existed between the groups despite their apparent similarities in ideologies (although it should be pointed out that Nazi ideology is based on a form of National Socialism which might be very different than the original Klan's political views.) I'm just hearing about Disney being at the Bund here for the first time, this needs to be confirmed, and chances are the FBI, which tracked everyone famous in those days, would have a file on Disney, especially during the WWII. It should be kept in mind that during WWII the military had control of the animation studios at the time and could approve or disapprove of what was being made. If they felt Disney, which was not the powerhouse in those days – Bugs Bunny was starting to become the major American character of the time, was not on their side they would have noted it somewhere in their files. Moreover, there were British agents also poking around Hollywood at the time, including the writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl who was working on a film about Gremlins with the Disney studios. Dahl was an invalidated Airman at the time but he was also spying for the British especially in Hollywood, and if he also felt that Disney was friendly towards the Nazis he was bound to report it to his handlers in England… Incidentally I saw Victory Thru Airpower and this was probably one of the reasons Germany got bombed into submition during the war. Before bombing were more punitive rather than strategic and the cartoon makes the best argument for using bombers as weapons of strategy rather than just terror bombing. Disney had views that were common for his time but not to our own. He was more a capitalist but not a Nazi. People forget you could be an anti-Semite but not sympathetic to the Nazis. If he was anti-Semite it might have had more to do with his religious upbringing than anything Hitler was shoving out. Something else the House UnAmerican Activities group also investigated the Bunds as well as the Communists before the war, and the FBI also monitored them as well. They might have targeted Communists – who were looking to overthrow America as well as the Nazis, but they certainly weren't trying to put the Bunds in power, who were always small compared to the rest of the American population – they never totaled more than eight thousand members or even less.

  23. Another fun fact: every noticed how Mickey Mouse, like other early cartoon charactors such as Felix the Cat, is Black? That's because they were based on the old Minstel shows, featuring white men in black face, which are regarded as racist by pretty much everybody.

  24. The Sherman brothers were Jewish. Everyone who writes condescending reports about Walt Disney seems to ignore inconvenient facts such as this.

  25. Hi, fellow Canadian and I love your stuff. Unfortunately, I believe you've mispoken. Meryl Streep is not Walt Disney's grandniece. Instead, after Meryl Streep ranted an indictment of Walt Disney and his racism, Disney's neice Abigail Disney spoke out and confirmed the bigotry of her great uncle.

  26. Do you think Europe would be better off today if the Nazi's had won WWII or the way it turned out today with the Allies winning WWII? (in hindsight) since Europe today is facing multiple waves of Islamic terrorist moving into their countries and people from Africa seeking to live off of European welfare.

  27. Fun fact- It was actually Disney's wife who came up with the name Mickey Mouse. She hated Mortimer and pestered her husband to change it. Thankfully he did because Mickey has a much better ring than Mortimer.

  28. I have personally seen pictures of Walt Disney and Hitler together. My aunt saved the newspapers of the stories revealing their friendship.

  29. Every white man in america was anti semitic pretty much in the 30s. Heck even the president hated the idea of letting jewish people into americam so refugees escaping persecution were banned- including Anne Frank's family

  30. My dad, uncles and aunts remember reading a lot of topolino(Topolino is Mickey Mouse’s name in Italian) comics back in Somalia. My uncle is still has contact with his pen pal from Verona to this day.

  31. Most of this video is bullshit. Disney was an anticommunist and had an enemy in the jewish leader of the screenwriter's guild, a communist front group, who threatened that he would destroy Disney's sterling reputation if he fired the communists that still lingered on his payroll. When Disney didn't blink that's when the claims that he was a nazi sympathizer started to emerge, all due to this guy, what you are recirculating is the smear campaign against him and presenting it as fact, it never was. P.S. Google the 'verona papers' if you want to see why anti-communism was so prevalent and why walt was 100 percent in their camp. Also the jews certainly had a large number of communists in their ranks, and firing commies meant plenty of jews would lose their jobs, walt was fine with that, but certainly doesn't mean he was a nazi sympathizer. PPS Here is an excellent rundown on the blacklist by a very good youtuber /watch?v=ZOtinTlx7yo

  32. tldw: NO! He wasn't! There, I just saved you 11 minutes of your life! You're welcome.

    Actually, if you're a liberal then the answer is YES! Because Walt Disney didn't vote for Hillary in 2016 and everyone who didn't vote for Hillary in 2016 obviously wants to kill Jews! It is literally the exact same thing! (/sarcasm)

    Of course, Hugo Boss and Henry Ford were both ACTUAL Nazis! But I don't see liberals avoiding their products! Henry Ford was a big supporter of workers rights/Unions just like liberals USED to be. And Nazis controlled the media just like liberals do today. And Nazis wanted to take peoples guns away just like liberals have wanted to do for decades! Even the word "Nazi" translates to National SOCIALIST party! Which Democrats are now trying to turn themselves into! Perhaps all this Nazi talk coming from the left is just them projecting their own intolerance on the right? After all, it's not the Republicans stealing yard signs, rioting, and protesting AGAINST free speech by hitting people with bike locks!

  33. "Der Fuhrer's Face" was also a hit song for a time after the release of the cartoon, which goes to show how shit the popular music scene was back then. The more things change, huh? Also, most of the caricatures were of the racist variety, not just the Japanese, though it's important to note that the Japanese had the absolute worst wartime type-casting of the war – they were basically dehumanized to a ridiculous degree. Also notable about this – unlike most propaganda of the time for the US, the Disney cartoons actually played up stereotypes of the Germans as well as Italians and Japanese – you wont see a lot of other bits of US propaganda doing that, for the obvious reasons that the Germans and Americans of the time weren't so different and a LOT of powerful Americans were in touch with their German ancestry to various degrees.

  34. Great video but a few minor nitpicks. if Disney didn’t buy Fox the company would have lost 50,000+ jobs. If Comcast bought it they wouldn’t have much use out of the properties since they already produce adult content and art films, the only thing they would need would be X-Men. But Disney has marvel and now they have basically all their characters back also before the purchase they had no Adult content and no Artsy Films (they tried some but it never succeeded). Blu Sky Is the only real thing they don’t need but I mean blu Sky might keep running. So the government and Fox had 3 options. Give it to a company that doesn’t need it (Comcast). Give it to a company that could use it and keep jobs (Disney) or give it to nobody and Fox looses everything. Also Walt Disney is not The Disney Company!!!!!!

  35. Not only was he a nazi. He was the original nazi. Disney was Hitler.The drawings of Walt Disney are the drawings of Adolph Hitler.The Hitler and the nazi scams can best be understood through the actions of Disney.This is why Disney turned it´s studios into slave camps.

  36. Somehow I can't get over how that one TV-program I saw as a kid apparently lied about the cryogenic stashing of Walt Disney's body. Nazi sympathy/antisemitism I knew about, but this… I often entertained myself with idea of Disney being resurrected in future and being shocked by bombardment of new moral standards.
    Edit: Someone citing diary's or personal letter's content at him would be pretty raw and hella confusing. "Whose Twitter and how do they know about that?!"

  37. In 1938, a month after Kristallnacht, Disney personally welcomed Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl to his studios. In Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (the most thorough biography of the mogul), Neal Gabler explores the rumors but argues that Disney practiced tolerance in his home life. “There is some dispute whether the same spirit of tolerance extended to the studio, but of the Jews who worked there, it was hard to find any who thought Walt was an anti-Semite.”

    Believability: Gabler posits that the charges stemmed less from personal behavior and more from Disney’s association with the very anti-Semitic Motion Picture Alliance, which the CEO founded after a particularly bitter labor dispute in 1941. Even if he wasn’t personally anti-Semitic, Gabler allows that Disney “willingly, even enthusiastically, embraced [anti-Semites] and cast his fate with them.”

  38. I like these new groupings under categories. Even if I don't know what the topic is or why I should care, these taxonomies are hard to do and reflect well on your ability as a historian to ground these things in a reality we can see from our present POV.

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