Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Disney’s World

Nearly 50 years after Walt Disney’s death, biographers and fans still debate if he was an anti-Semite. A better question might be why we still care.

Print Email
(Tablet Magazine)

Walt Disney was not a controversial figure during his lifetime. But after his death in 1966, historians began putting forth a variety of disquieting revelations about him: The animator and studio chief had testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, it turned out, and he may have been an FBI informant. He was allegedly interested in cryogenics. And he was reportedly prone to making anti-Semitic remarks. But subsequent biographers disagreed, sparking a long battle over Disney’s legacy.

Eric Molinsky worked in the animation industry, and has long wondered not only if the claims of Disney’s anti-Semitism are true but also why they remain a point of fascination and ridicule among cartoonists and others nearly a half-century after his death. For this week’s Vox Tablet, Molinsky, now a radio producer, spoke to an animation historian, a Disney-obsessed playwright, and a fairy-tale scholar in an effort to understand if Disney the man, or Disney’s world view, was truly bad for the Jews. [Running time: 10:37.] 

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Rob Braun says:

What about the Sherman brothers? Apparently they met with him every Friday at the end of the day and they’d serenade him with his favorite Disney/Sherman brothers tunes. How anti-Semitic could he have been? They were jut as instrumental to the success of Disney as, well, Walt Disney.

Yale Gancherov says:

allegedly, the backstory includes Disney’s history of abuse by major studio execs, mostly Jews, before he went solo with his own company and achieved financial independence from the existing Hollywood system.

One of the more popular Mouseketters in
the original TV Mickey Mouse Club was Doreen Tracey whose father was Jewish, Doreen lived for a while with her Uncle
Ben Blue who was Jewish. Disney must have known this and it didn’t seem to bother him. At least two other Mouseketeers were also Jewish.

It is conceivable that “Uncle Walt” was such a thing, one thing he was not was an artist/entertainer/animator of any genuine true social value. Disney takes timeless folk tales, literature, and art from various cultures and crafts them over into vacuous, inane, and simply banal crap with mindless Mickey Mouse merchandising tied in. I can easily see Disney as an uneasy racist so it is hardly a stretch to see him and imagine him in the light of an anti-semite. Who but a simple boob or an idiot would want to be a glib and idiotic Mouseketeer though is perhaps the more relevant question in this modern age as the 2000s open up and Tinkerbelle fades off into “The Song of the South.”

Walt Disney was a beautiful genius who not only embraced and inspired my Jewish father and uncle, the Sherman Brothers, but had many other Jewish employees and had dined every month with his dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Goldwyn. People can read anything into anything and a lovely, giving man like Walt Disney is, sadly, an easy target.

From D.W. Griffiths’ “Birth of a Nation” on, virtually every classic filmmaker and studio head of that era put out some product that, by today’s standards, would now seem sexist or racist or in bad taste. I’m 54, a child of the 1950’s, and I’ve seen many, many radical and, yes, positive changes in my own lifetime in this regard. To take any of his work out that context and single out and vilify Mr. Disney is silly and really wrong.

Two of his favorites of my Dad and Uncle’s songs were “Feed the Birds” which is about charity and compassion and “It’s a Small World” — a message of peace for all the children in the world — regardless of race, color or creed or gender. Mr. Disney inspired these messages and made sure the whole world heard them loud and clear. They are still heard all the time, in theaters, on television, on radios and in theme parks all over the world. How many others have had such reach and effect.

Some people, I suppose, just aren’t listening. Walt Disney was a great, great man and not at all deserving of this nonsense.

M. Burgh says:

To Jeffery C. Sherman – Love you father’s and uncle’s work. To everybody else, watch the doc about the amazing Sherman Brothers and judge for yourself No true anti-semite would spend so much time with Jewish creators, or give them such respect, much more than say, the Warner Bros or Harry Cohn would have.

He was slandered by leftists because he testified for HUAC. End of story. The man was not an anti-semite. The slander itself is proof that the left has descended into mindless name-calling.

Moishe Pippick says:

Jason Jay Murphy – don’t put this slander on the political left. The right plays the same game when it suits them too. When Disney’s great-niece came out in favor of boycotts and sanctions on Israel, the right attacked her and her uncle as anti-semites as in this insane column (warning – some of the comments are offensive):


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Disney’s World

Nearly 50 years after Walt Disney’s death, biographers and fans still debate if he was an anti-Semite. A better question might be why we still care.

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree