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.
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.]
Agenda: An I.B. Singer story set to klezmer, Lou Reed reads in Brooklyn, the Steins in Paris, Chagall in Ontario, and more