Monday, August 10, 2009

The Feds and Disney

Our Donald? A Nazi? But why not, since there are other high profile people getting accused of being disciples of Hitler these days ... (c) Walt Disney Productions.

We've got the modern-day Federal bailouts, but then there was this one sixty-eight years ago ...

Representatives of the US military paid a call on Disney already in December 1941, right around the time that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Army wanted to transform part of the studios into defensive fortifications that would be used to help protect a nearby airplane factory against air raids. And then there was the Navy, which commissioned animated films used to train its sailors.

More contracts followed. In May 1942, the world's most famous duck reported for duty in "Donald Gets Drafted." In a cartoon called "The Spirit of '43," Donald showed Americans why it was important to save money -- so that they could pay their taxes fully and on time ...

Disney's studios churned out more than 62,000 meters (200,000 feet) of film in 1942 and 1943, five times more than it ever did in times of peace. And Walt Disney wasn't just active in animated films. The duck family advocated for war bonds in comic strips, too, as did Mickey in the comic book "Mickey Mouse on the Home Front." All of Disney's characters had now been mobilized, and even Bambi fought the Axis powers in Disney's "Volunteer Army."...

Starting in 1942, Walt Disney's artists designed insignia for American troop units. There was a mosquito riding a torpedo for the Navy's new torpedo boats, a bellicose crow from "Dumbo" for bombing squadrons, and a turtle with a broom for minesweepers ...

What isn't dwelled on in the article above is how Disney went from a smallish movie studio teetering on the brink of bankruptcy to an arm of the Federal government, cranking out films, insignia, and maps for the Allied war effort.

"Cost plus 10%" was the deal, and it stabilized Walt Disney Productions, keeping much of its staff intact at a time when it could have gone the way of the Fleischer studio in Florida -- out of business. (My Dad -- one of Walt's wartime employees -- told me about working on everything from training films to shoulder patches.)

I've always found it deliciously ironic that Walt Disney became a staunch conservative in his later years, even though it was F.D.R.'s government that provided him with a wartime bailout ... and survival ... in the 1941-45 period.

30 comments:

LaughingOnTheInside said...

HA! Wealthy conservatives are always happy to take their govt. bailouts/tax breaks/etc, but god forbid those undeserving "others" get theirs!

John Locke said...

I agree Steve, I can't believe Senator Richard Durbin compared our troops to Nazis. That's horrible.

I just wish Speaker Pelosi would have taken a better look at that person holding a Nazi sign she was talking about. The sign had a slash through the swastika it. They were against it, not for it.

Anyone that likes being associated with Nazis are sick and evil no matter what side they come from, but we should be careful who we accuse of being one.

Anonymous said...

Disney was in no way a "wealthy conservative" at this point in his career. He certainly could be described as such late in his life, but in the mid-40's it just wasn't the case.

Anonymous said...

Disney was in no way a "wealthy conservative" at this point in his career. He certainly could be described as such late in his life, but in the mid-40's it just wasn't the case.

That's exactly what the article says if you re-read the last sentence ;)

David Co. said...

"I've always found it deliciously ironic that Walt Disney became a staunch conservative in his later years, even though it was F.D.R.'s government that provided him with a wartime bailout ... and survival ... in the 1941-45 period."

Come on. This wasn't a 'wartime bailout' - his company was hired by the government, just like a private contractor in a city is hired to build a road, or defense contractors today are paid to build new RADAR units.

This wasn't money given away; the military had a need for a product, and they hired Disney to do it.

Simple.

And I'm no George Bush fan, but he was compared to Hitler numerous times. It happens on all sides.

Anonymous said...

So Walt's a hypocrite for becoming a "conservative" later in life because he was part of the war effort in WWII? Where the hell does THAT logic come from? All the Hollywood studios contributed to the war effort; Bugs Bunny helped sell war bonds, for instance. As for Walt benefiting from his efforts, um, you might want to check your facts. Here's what Roy Disney had to say about it, in a quote from the celebrated Disney biography written by Bob Thomas: "After the war was over, we were like a bear coming out of hibernation. We were skinny and gaunt and had no fat on our bones. Those were lost years for us." And it's a FACT that Disney donated the studio's services at cost, to contribute to the war effort. Plus some of the war work wasn't paid for at all, including a lot of the insignia work you mentioned. In fact Disney lost a hell of a lot of money during the war, not to mention personnel, so I question your characterization of FDR handing him a "bailout". For instance, Disney made 20 training films and never made a dime off any of them; in fact they were money-LOSERS. The gov't reaped the benefits from its association with Disney, not the other way around. It forcibly took over the Disney studios without permission (kinda like, you know, Obama's taking over the auto industry and health care) and if anything Disney suffered from it. Other movie studios prospered during the war; not Disney. I realize some people just LOVE to smear Walt and spread lies, but they do so at the cost of their credibility. You just lost a sizable chunk of yours. Perhaps you could restore a bit of it if you'd read the facts that are readily available out there. It's not that hard, if you're willing to look past your prejudices...

Oh, and why did Walt become a conservative? Because it's a fact that the Communist Party was behind the strike that wounded him so badly (more than it should have; he took it far too personally, but the union actions at that time were pretty onerous). It's interesting that you never mention the CP's involvement when you celebrate that strike here on this blog. But then again, I guess prejudice got in your way, and so that's one more piece of credibility gone...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and why did Walt become a conservative? Because it's a fact that the Communist Party was behind the strike that wounded him so badly.

You have a novel use of the word "fact," which apparently means "bullshit."

But if you insist on passing off this tripe as true, I'll ask you for some citations, please.

Here's what's true: Before the House Committee of Un-American Activities, Walt named strike leader Dave Hilberman as a "Communist." How did Walt know he was a Communist? Because...horrors!...he'd heard Hilberman was an atheist. Completely absurd. And to think that was the only "Communist" connection Walt could think of for the strike!

Your argument is bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

Walt was a patriot, and that is a great trait for any CEO to have. Awesome. Thanks for pointing it out again.

Steve Hulett said...

So Walt's a hypocrite for becoming a "conservative" later in life because he was part of the war effort in WWII?

Uh, no.

Nowhere do I call Mr. Disney a hypocrite.

From the early thirties to the forties, fifties and sixties his views changed. Like many people, he acted in his own perceived self-interest.

I just like to point out -- as I have before -- that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT most likely saved Walt Disney Productions when it was on the ropes.

Regarding the Lefties that were in the Screen Cartoonists Guild: as Joe Grant told me (with a shrug)

"Walt hired them."

Steve Hulett said...

I agree Steve, I can't believe Senator Richard Durbin compared our troops to Nazis. That's horrible.

Personally, the Nazi comparisons are overused to the point of "who gives a sh*t?" But it's still awful, I agree.

As Bill Maher said:

"I think it's reprehensible that there are Democrats comparing George Bush to Hitler. I mean, Hitler was a decorated combat veteran."

I just wish Speaker Pelosi would have taken a better look at that person holding a Nazi sign she was talking about. The sign had a slash through the swastika it. They were against it, not for it.

Of course they were. And out there comparing their government, Representatives and President to Nazis.

They should have learned from Dick Durbin's mistake.

Steve Hulett said...

This wasn't a 'wartime bailout' - his company was hired by the government, just like a private contractor in a city is hired to build a road, or defense contractors today are paid to build new RADAR units.

I have no problem with bailouts.

I have no problem with government subcontracting.

I'm delighted that WDP got all that government work, helping to win the war against the Axis.

I'm simply pointing out that all that government work probably saved Walt's studio. So it was wonderful in retrospect that the government didn't opt to do all that work itself.

Steve Hulett said...

For instance, Disney made 20 training films and never made a dime off any of them; in fact they were money-LOSERS. The gov't reaped the benefits from its association with Disney, not the other way around. It forcibly took over the Disney studios without permission (kinda like, you know, Obama's taking over the auto industry and health care)

This is remarkably fact-free on almost every level.

Citations, please.

g said...

Steve, you're a Bill Maher fan??

I knew there was a reason why I liked you.

Anonymous said...

Better to have an American President take over the auto industry than watch it collapse, and then beg the Chinese and Indians to buy the pieces for .01 on the $.

I wish Obama had taken it over 25 years ago. As a kid just out of college with no knowledge of cars he could not have done any worse than the over-fed executives who claimed they knew everything and still drove it into the ground.

Anonymous said...

Our President Obama does, indeed, have a large mess left behind. And it's not the first time people have had to clean up after bush (although it was usually his daddy). The bush economic debacle, the Iraq War, and his having been asleep at the wheel when terrorists attacked our country have sealed his fate.

It's not easy being a President, I'm sure. But at least now we have a responsible one.

Anonymous said...

"A responsible one"? Spending our children's future away is "responsible" in YOUR opinion, I suppose. I can't believe people are STILL buying Obama's snake oil. Or still think Bush is solely responsible for this mess. The Dems took over Congress two years before the collapse of the housing and credit industry, and who was in charge of overseeing those industries? Which party? Figured it out yet? Of course not. Those darn prejudices again...

And Steve, you want citations about the effect of the war on the Disney studio? I already mentioned the well-researched book by Bob Thomas. I quoted from it. You might give it a read; it'd do you good. As for the Communist influence on the Disney strike, again, educate yourself. The Communist Party did indeed try to infiltrate and control Hollywood during the 1930s. Arthur Marx, in his biography of his father Groucho, mentioned the Party's attempt to recruit his father (happily, Groucho told them off). Herb Sorrell, the main instigator behind the Disney strike, asserted in an actor's lawsuit that while he was himself never a Communist, he did feel free to spend the American Communist Party's money. So he was their puppet, in other words; maybe Walt had some basis for his suspicions, hmmm?

Everything I stated in my post is based on FACT, not ideology. Walt was not the fascist caricature you try so hard to make out of him. If you attack a person unfairly, expect to be challenged by that pesky inconvenience, the TRUTH.

Anonymous said...

Some one is still buying BO's snake oil? i sold my stock in that product awhile ago.

Steve Hulett said...

Ah, dear Anon.

I never mentioned the Disney strike nor Communists, but thanks for bringing it up. (I spent two years of my life in the military battling the Commie scourge during the Vietnam War. And you?)

I never slandered Walt. I said he was a conservative late in life, which is true. He supported Barry Goldwater, but why would I find that a problem? *I* supported Barry Goldwater. Also voted for Nixon.

Your assertion that Disney lost money on government-contracted films during WWII is false on its face. It didn't lose money on twenty ... or ANY. It couldn't, since the deal for the work was "cost-plus."

WDP lost money on some of its private sector product. However, that had nothing to do with the government, but with the studio's creative decisions ... and the marketplace .. at the time.

I've read the Thomas book. Multiple times. What else you want to know?

Anonymous said...

Let's suppose for a second that the communist party didn't just "try to infiltrate" but actually controlled every single union in the country.

I guess that would mean that none of the workers who were striking really needed fair wages or decent working hours or safe working conditions after all. They were just making up crazy stuff, right?

The reason the communists got followers in the 30's and 40's was because they were the only ones daring to stand on the street corner and say things that were just flat out obvious.

The strikes didn't happen because there were communists. The communists happened because there were too many reasons to strike.

Sammy's Got Shades said...

Anonymous said: "Better to have an American President take over the auto industry than watch it collapse, and then beg the Chinese and Indians to buy the pieces for .01 on the $."

Perhaps you missed the bankrupt fillings of GM (what this investment in the company was supposed to prevent) and the selling of the Hummer division to a Chinese firm? I guess you don't read, huh? Your own predictions of what would happen if the government didn't do something came true.

Anonymous said...

the selling of the Hummer division to a Chinese firm?

Gee, what a shame.

Would've happened anyway. At least there's still some semblance of a company, where thousands depend for their livlihood.

Anonymous said...

I bought a Ford. The only one of the three sharp enough to fix their own problems without wasting our money. Gee what a novel idea.

Anonymous said...

Spending our children's future away

Fear tactics. I bet you're a Birther too.

I'd rather Obama spend my tax money on healthcare for everyone instead of spending money building bombs to kill people.

Anonymous said...

Ford is on no safer ground than any other American automaker. They have many problems ahead and the treasury bubble is due for a nose dive just like the last artificial economy. Hummer was the symbol of the height of American hubris and arrogance. I feared the people who bought into that hype more than the Taliban shooting from 4runners. Let the Chinese shoot themselves in the foot with rampant consumerism and corrupt bank lending. They can have it all.

Nomanisan said...

Man I love animation, but I didn't know that many animators out there were socialist. Geez. Perhaps it's just a disproportionate number because this is a union blog. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Some conservative has no idea what the definition of 'socialism' is. Are you a birther, too?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Chinese bought the one least useful piece of GM and paid way more than 1 cent on the dollar for it. It wouldn't have worked that way after a real GM collapse.

I guess you don't read complete sentences, huh?

Floyd Norman said...

Ward Kimball voted for Upton Sinclair for govenor, and Walt sported a Nixon bumper sticker in the sixties.

Who gives a rat's behind?

We were all there to do good work, and deep down everybody knew that politics is BS!

Anonymous said...

""A responsible one"? Spending our children's future away is "responsible""

Yes. That's why bush and cheney ought to be imprisoned. Anyone who defends what they've done to spend us into oblivion and ruin this country should be ashamed.

Hugh Hogwarts said...

Anonymous said: "Yes. That's why bush and cheney ought to be imprisoned. Anyone who defends what they've done to spend us into oblivion and ruin this country should be ashamed."

Ok, right...

So if you're so against spending us into oblivion then you must really dislike President Obama, right? The budget deficits during the Bush administration never went above five hundred billion a year. Now, I personally feel that's way too much by about, oh, five hundred billion. This years budget deficit is supposed to be slightly north of 1.7 trillion dollars. almost four times as much as the last president overspent.

We should live within our means, no matter if it's a democrat or republican administration. The current president is burning through money way faster than the last. Are you as concerned as I? I certainly hope so, because the next generation is going to have to pay all this off and they aren't going to care if an Elephant or a Jack-Ass was the one that buried them in such a pile of dept.

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