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The Walt Disney Company is a large publicly traded American multinational media conglomerate. The company owns ABC, ESPN, A+E, Marvel Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, and runs several studios such as Lucasfilm and Pixar. Walt Disney (1901–1966) created what became the eponymous conglomerate in 1923, and created the well known Mickey Mouse character in 1927. Walt Disney personally won a total of 32 Academy Awards and received 59 nominations.
Both the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney himself have been controversial. Many films produced by the Disney company are cited as classic examples of fakelore, in creating manufactured folklore out of traditional stories or characters. Walt Disney was a staunch conservative and opposed trade unions, while being an enthusiastic supporter of Barry Goldwater in 1964.[note 1]
On December 14th, 2017, Disney announced their intention to purchase the majority of 21st Century Fox for US$52.7 billion, which would give them a market share of the North American film industry of two-and-a-half times over its closest rival (Warner Bros) as well as becoming the overwhelmingly dominant force in international sports TV programming via Fox Sports International[note 2] (Rupert Murdoch would keep his propaganda machines and the U.S. Fox Sports 1/2/Go channels; all the regional sports channels, like Big Ten Network, owned by Fox were originally part of the deal, but the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the company to divest them upon approving the merger, and they were eventually acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group) as well as become the majority shareholder of online streaming service Hulu, Netflix's closest competitor. The merger was completed on March 20th, 2019 at 12:02 AM EST. The day before it was completed, Murdoch's Fox Corporation officially became an operation completely separate from 21st Century Fox; one of the board members of "New Fox" is a Randroid by the name of Paul Ryan.
- 1 The man himself
- 2 The Disney businesses
- 3 Watch the magic unfold before your very eyes!
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
The man himself
Disney was born 1901 in Chicago and was an ambulance driver during World War I. In animation, Disney became successful after the creation of Silly Symphonies,[note 3] and became famous after the creation of the first full-length animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
One of the most popular conspiracy theories surrounding Disney is that Disney was an active Nazi sympathizer. This is despite the fact that Disney would go on to create several different propaganda cartoons attacking Nazism for the United States during World War II. These fellows also ignore the facts that the B'nai Brith Organization (a Jewish civil rights group) in Beverly Hills named him Man of the Year.
Art Babbitt accused Disney of meeting frequently with the German American Bund, which fanatically supported Adolf Hitler.[note 4] Disney was also accused of being a Nazi for seeing Leni Riefenstahl when she was promoting her movie Olympia about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
The idea of Disney being a Nazi has been promoted mostly by the television shows Family Guy and Robot Chicken. In Family Guy it is used as a recurring gag, such as in the episode "Road to the Multiverse" where Stewie and Brian travel to a Disney themed universe where a Jewish character is viciously attacked. Not surprisingly, the appearance of the conspiracy on Family Guy has done a lot to introduce it to people, and has given it a new lease on life since being published by Babbitt.
On YouTube, there are several creepypastas about either a Nazi Donald Duck or a Nazi Disney movie. The videos are made using scenes from one of two short films: Education for Death and Der Fuehrer's Face. Both are vehemently anti-Nazi World War II films, and both feature images of swastikas.
During the Red Scare, kindly old Uncle Walt testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and kindly pointed the finger at several animators and union organizers who had previously worked for him, and claimed that the Screen Cartoonists Guild was a communist front. And that a strike during production of Dumbo was part of a commie plot. See a pattern here? FBI memos indicate that he fed them information until his death. So he wasn't a Nazi, but he had no problem teaming up with the American right-wing to ruin the lives of people who disagreed with him on union or political issues.
A persistent urban legend maintains that Walt Disney was frozen in 1966 after dying of lung cancer. This may stem from an interview of cryonics advocate Robert Nelson in a attempt to show that Disney supported the idea of cryonics, and who himself has said multiple times that he did not freeze Disney.
The Disney businesses
After Walt's death, the Walt Disney company became a media empire. It continued to make animated and live-action movies, and operate its theme parks. It also branched out into family-friendly children's entertainment, featuring teenage stars.
Folklore and literature in Disney media
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- Sleeping Beauty
- Song of the South
- Beauty and the Beast
- Rapunzel (Tangled)
Other folk figures appropriated by Disney include Davy Crockett, Pocahontas, and Johnny Appleseed. Disney animated or live action entertainments are also very popular representations of literary characters such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, the Little Mermaid, and the Snow Queen (Frozen).
The deep penetration and popularity of the Disney representations of these traditional stories and figures tends to turn the Disney version into the canonical one in the public eye. This has been called the "Disney effect" and is regretted by some folklorists. The same thing has occurred with more modern source material: Winnie the Pooh and his companions are far more widely identified with their Disney cartoon incarnation than with the original illustrations by E. H. Shepard which appeared in A. A. Milne's Pooh stories; and Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book stories, along with their illustration by John Lockwood Kipling, are largely forgotten in favour of the Disney adaptation.[note 5]
Folklorists also accuse Disney of bowdlerizing the source materials, removing disturbing or tragic elements. Most traditional folktales involve climaxes involving retribution, revenge, and physical justice meted out on the villains. These features are muted or absent in the Disney versions (though at least the evil queen in Snow White was righteously crushed by a boulder after falling off a precipice). The effect is generally most pronounced on the folktales from the Brothers Grimm, such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. To be sure, the Grimm heroines tend to be passive and underdeveloped; most of them suffer a range of mild to severe abuse; but they are not quiet and uncomplaining. But the Disney heroines are paragons of the passive virtues: patient, industrious, and quiet.
This effect is by no means confined to the Grimm folktales, and affects the literary stories as well. In Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, the mermaid sheds her tail and gains her legs in an agonizingly painful ritual, but fails to win her prince's heart, and as a result is doomed to die because of her bargain with the Sea-Witch. She is given the opportunity to recover what was taken by the Sea-Witch if she murders the prince with a magic knife. She cannot bring herself to do this, and is rewarded with an immortal soul. In Disney's version, of course, the mermaid Ariel bags her prince. This alters the story so drastically that it's been said to "betray Andersen's tale while it exploits society's obsession with physical beauty and romantic love."
One stock character that has emerged from the Disney animated film series is the "Disney princess". Princesses figure prominently as the protagonists of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, while non-royal characters such as Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Megara from Hercules also fit many aspects of the stereotype.
The Disney princess stock character has been criticized by feminists for enforcing received cultural ideas about beauty, body type, and femininity. Disney princesses are chaste but highly sexualized. They are frequently cast in the damsel in distress role. Snow White cleans the cottage to ingratiate herself with the dwarfs. Ariel gives up her singing voice for a man. Belle endures an abusive and violent Beast, whom she redeems with love. 
On the flip side, initially the Disney princes barely received screen time at all, let alone any character development. Go ahead, name the Disney princes from Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and The Beast.[note 6] If the Disney Princess told girls that they should be happy in the kitchen, it told boys that they didn't even exist outside of their wives. Possibly they were just victims of narrative efficiency. In fact, Belle in the Disney movie doesn't show any affection towards the Beast until he changes his abusive behavior, learning to control his temper and replacing his cruelty with affection, in marked contrast to even more modern stories where the girl simply accepts the boy for who he is. The Beast is required to alter himself before Belle shows interest in him, which directly contradicts the abuse narrative.
Progressing further, we have the likes of Fa Mulan who is basically trying to survive in a man's world (army) as she doesn't want her father (Zhou) to shoulder that burden in his old age. Her inability to keep up with the male recruits is averted sexism, as she eventually does catch up to them; the real problem was that she was unused to hard physical labor, not that she had the wrong chromosomes. As fantastical as some of the story is, she is shown as strong, intelligent and capable, feeling like an extremely strong departure of the formula. Even further is the entire plotline of Frozen, featuring two princesses (and sisters) having to deal with their own issues without so much man help. The 'princess' issue is lampshaded in Moana, where the title character gets into an argument with the demigod Maui as to whether the daughter of a chief counts as a princess or not.
Copyright extension myth (and the reality)
Disney lobbyists are said to have fought hard for the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which added twenty-five years to the extension of copyright in the United Status (i.e. adopted a copyright term of life plus seventy years). Fears that the first Mickey Mouse movie, Steamboat Willie (1928), was about to enter the public domain have often been cited as one of the motivating factors for the legislation - there have even been attempts to link the times that movie almost entered the public domain with the times at which copyright extensions were adopted. As a result, the law is derisively known by its detractors as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act".
The United States, however, adopted this longer term rule so that it would have the same copyright term as the European Union, which in turn (as the European Community) adopted it in 1993 to match the length of copyright terms in its member states (of these, Germany adopted it first in 1965!) so the copyright's protection would effectively protect both the author and the first two generations of his/her descendants. In the directive that adopted the larger term, the EU also adopted the rule of the shorter term, which means that the term that is valid for foreign works in the EU is either the EU's term or the country of origin's term, whichever is the shortest. After all, the USA is the world's largest exporter of cultural goods, and the EU, when taken together, is the world's largest market.
In fact, Disney did not - and does not - need copyright protection for Mickey Mouse based on Steamboat Willie. First, the copyrights Disney was in risk of losing were over Steamboat Willie and a couple of other early Mickey cartoons, not the whole repertoire; second, Mickey has overwhelmingly changed over the years - "Mickey gained distinctive colors, put on weight, gained eyeballs and eyelashes, acquired white gloves and an opposable thumb, and learned to speak (originally he could only whistle and play music), among other changes" -, so it's doubtful whether modern-day Mickey would be in any way protected by the copyrights on his early movies; third, Mickey Mouse is a trademarked character, which has perpetual protection and covers a much wider range of products[note 7], so why even bother with copyright extensions on old cartoons?
Finally, while Disney did lobby for the law, a wide range of interests were also involved ("the Motion Picture Association of America, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, the George Gershwin estate, and others"), and, unlike as is often said, the bill was not "snuck in" to Congress. A large number of people went there or wrote them to discuss it beforehand.[note 8].
Song of the South
Disney's 1946 mixed animation and live action film Song of the South, based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris, won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1948 with "Zip-a-Dee Doo Dah". The film has never been released on video in its entirety in the United States, although home video releases exist in Europe and Japan. The film is also remembered as the basis for the ride Splash Mountain in Disney World.
The Walt Disney Company deems the film's framing story too potentially controversial. It has been called racist because of its depiction of an idyllic life being led by Black freedmen in post-war Georgia, with a curiously integrated plantation manor house to boot. On the other hand, many of the film's critics incorrectly date the film to slavery days and assume the Black characters are slaves. The NAACP asked the Disney filmmakers to insert a placard in the film noting the post-war date of the Uncle Remus stories. For whatever reason, this was not included in the release. Perhaps the ultimate irony about the movie (or most fitting, depending how you look at it) was that the star actor—who was the first black man to win an Academy Award, albeit an honorary one, no less—wasn't allowed to attend the release of the movie thanks to segregation.
Former child stars
Many former Disney child stars, especially from its children's oriented live TV programming, ended up having serious problems in adulthood, including drug issues and stints in rehabilitation, legal problems, and other sorts of public scandal. Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Shia LaBeouf have all experienced similar issues as adults.
The Lion King
- Accusations of plagiarism of the Japanese TV series Kimba the White Lion.
- Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association went apeshit when he thought he saw the word "sex" in one of the scenes. An animator claimed that it was actually "SFX" for "special effects".
- A boycott by hyena biologists who claimed the film misrepresented hyenas.
- Accusations that the film advanced racism and sexism.
- An accusation that the film (along with other Disney films) advanced fascism. This accusation by Matt Roth also repeated the accusation that Walt Disney at one time had Nazi sympathies:
Just before the 2019 release of a new version of The Lion King, Dan Hassler-Forest has called its plot line irredeemably fascist:
“”At a moment when the far right is on the rise, when we debate whether to call the horrific shelters on our border concentration camps, and when anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crimes continue to increase, we should ask ourselves what it means to obsessively revisit narratives that celebrate the strong, the beautiful and the powerful, while looking down upon the rebels, the outcasts and the powerless. "The Lion King" is exactly that kind of story, and it will take more than Beyoncé's regal vocal cords to redeem it for the next generation.
In 1995, Disney quietly broadcast a documentary in 5 states (including California and Florida) that contained supposed evidence about UFOs. However, it was mainly a promotion for the Extraterrorestrial: Alien Encounter ride in Disneyland Florida and none of the cases shown in the documentary have been proven with certainty to be extraterrestrial. Then there are conspiracy theorists that shoehorn in the Illuminati and New World Order to propose that the video and ride were part of a plot to prepare citizens for real abduction and alien colonization (or perhaps Project Blue Beam).
Watch the magic unfold before your very eyes!
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- All this is in contrast with his father Elias, who was a socialist and strong supporter of Eugene V. Debs. Hadn't his colleagues at Universal Studios betrayed him when he was fighting for better money…
- Except for Brazil and Mexico, which Disney forced to sell because its market share overlapping with ESPN.
- Silly Symphonies was the first appearance of many recognizable Disney characters, such as Donald Duck and Pluto.
- Even though Hitler considered the Bund a nuisance interfering in his plan to keep the US neutral.
- Fortunately, Disney has not been able to entirely displace the Tenniel illustrations for Alice in Wonderland from the canon.
- Well, the one from Sleeping Beauty has a name. He's called Prince Phillip. These characters are all typically called "Prince Charming". That phrase was first used in English literature in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey, where it is used ironically to refer to the title character as he abandons his actress girlfriend, and she commits suicide. Wilde's use of the phrase suggests that this name was already current for the stock character.
In the Francophone tradition the "Prince Charming" character is often called Avenant, "fine" or "pretty" in French..
In Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (1946) translated as Beauty and The Beast, Belle is given a human suitor called "Avenant", who schemes to kill the Beast. Disney borrowed Cocteau's amendment to the original folktale without credit, but renamed the corresponding character "Gaston".
The equivalent of "Prince Charming" in Spanish and Italian is the 'Blue Prince' (Príncipe Azul, Principe Azzurro). In Portuguese, it is the "Enchanted Prince" (Príncipe Encantado).
- According to academic Scott M. Martin, "Disney holds federal trademark registrations that, unlike copyright, can confer perpetual protection for classes of goods, including motion pictures, comic strips, songs, books and newspapers, paper goods and other printed matter, clocks and watches, entertainment services, hair shampoo, lip gloss, bubble bath, skin soap, sunglasses, decorative refrigerator magnets, jewelry, photograph albums, address books, appointment books, paper party bags, ball point pens, binders, paper gift wrap bows, paper cake decorations, calendars, gift cards, greeting cards, pen and pencil cases, decorative paper centerpieces, paper table cloths, paper party decorations, diaries, gift wrapping paper, pencils, stationery, athletic bags, baby backpacks, backpacks, book bags, duffel bags, gym bags, tote bags, coin purses, fanny packs, knapsacks, waist packs, umbrellas, wallets, decorative non-metal boxes, beverage glassware, bowls, lunch boxes, hair brushes, hair combs, cake molds, wind chimes, decorative plates, cookie jars, mugs, paper cups, paper plates, soap dishes, vacuum bottles, bed sheets, pillow cases, comforters, curtains, dust ruffles, towels, bathing suits, robes, beachwear, underwear, sweaters, dresses, infant wear, jackets, pajamas, pants, sweat pants, sweatshirts, shirts, shorts, sleepers, t-shirts, tank tops and vests, Christmas tree ornaments, rubber balls, plush toys, action skill games, bath toys, board games, toy building blocks, dolls, children's play cosmetics, electric action toys, jigsaw puzzles, kites, music box toys, inflatable pool toys, and children's multiple activity toys".
- Scott M. Martin states: "At the congressional hearings on the issue of copyright term extension held on September 20, 1995, Bruce A. Lehman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, and Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights and Associate Librarian of Congress for Copyright Services, testified on behalf of the Administration.
The Committee also heard testimony from Jack Valenti, president and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America; Alan Menken, composer, lyricist, and representative of AmSong; Patrick Alger, president of Nashville Songwriters Association; and Professor Peter A. Jaszi, American University, Washington College of Law. In addition, written statements were received from Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the National Music Publishing Association Inc., the Songwriters Guild of America, the Graphic Artists Guild, the National Writers Union, the Coalition of Creators and Copyright Owners, Author Services Inc., the Midwest Travel Writers Association, Donaldson Publishing Co., the American Library Association, the American Film Heritage Association, the Society for Cinema Studies, Lawrence Technology, Bob Dylan Jr., Don Henley, Carlos Santana, Stephen Sondheim, Mike Stoller, E. Randol Schoenberg, Ginny Mancini, Lisa M. Brownlee, Professor William Patry, and Professor Dennis Karjala writing on behalf of forty-five intellectual property law professors." (Karjala et al. were in fact opposed to the copyright extension.).
- Disney History, The Walt Disney Company
- "Walt Disney's Oscars®:, The Walt Disney Family Museum
- "We Must Keep the Labor Unions Clean' History Matters, George Mason University
- Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Neal Gabler, Vintage Books. p. 612
- Littleton, Cynthia (2019-05-02). "Disney Nears $10 Billion Sale of Fox Sports Networks to Sinclair" (in en). Variety. https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/disney-fox-rsns-sinclair-1203203930/.
- Littleton, Cynthia (June 28, 2018). "Disney, Fox Set Shareholder Voting Date for $71 Billion Deal". Variety. Archived from the original on June 28, 2018. https://variety.com/2018/biz/news/disney-fox-shareholder-voting-date-1202861184/. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
- Littleton, Cynthia (June 27, 2018). "Justice Department Approves Disney’s Acquisition of 21st Century Fox With Divestiture of Regional Sports Networks". Variety. https://variety.com/2018/biz/news/disney-21st-century-fox-justice-department-approval-1202859241/. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
- "Disney Closes $71.3 Billion Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse". The Hollywood Reporter. March 19, 2019. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/disney-closes-fox-deal-creating-global-content-powerhouse-1174498. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
- Littleton, Cynthia; Steinberg, Brian (March 18, 2019). "Fox Corporation Emerges as Standalone Entity, Paul Ryan Joins Board". Variety. https://variety.com/2019/biz/news/fox-corporation-debut-disney-murdoch-1203165925/. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
- "Walt Disney" Biography.com
- In Defense of Walt Disney Walt Disney
- "Was Walt Disney a Fascist?", The Straight Dope,April 12, 2005
- "Disney, Walter Elias", in Linda S. Watts, Encyclopedia of American Folklore (Infobase, 2006; ISBN 1438129793), pp. 110-111
- Mikel J. Koven, Film, Folklore, and Urban Legends. (Scarecrow, 2008; ISBN 0810860252), pp. 10-11.
- Kay Stone, "Things Walt Disney Never Told Us", The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 88, No. 347, Women and Folklore (Jan. - Mar., 1975), pp. 42-50
- Hans Christian Andersen, Den lille Havfrue, 1837 (in Danish)
- Anne E. Altman, Gail DeVos, (2001). Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales As Literary Fictions for Young Adults. Libraries Unlimited. p. 187. ISBN 1-56308-831-2.
- Chyng Sun and Miguel Picker, Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power (Media Education Foundation, 2001); study guide for the film.
- Terry Hart (July 15, 2014), "A Brief History of US Copyright Term" (Copyhype).
- Lawrence Lessig, "Copyright's First Amendment", 48 UCLA L. Rev. 1057, 1065 (2001).
- Stephen Carlisle (July 15, 2014), "Copyrights Last Too Long! (Say the Pirates): They Don’t; And Why It’s Not Changing Anytime Soon".
- Scott M. Martin (2002), "The Mythology of the Public Domain: Exploring the Myths Behind Attacks on the Duration of Copyright Protection", section "XXI. Myth #10: 'The CTEA was the worst kind of special-interest legislation, engineered by Disney in order to satisfy its insatiable corporate greed'", subsection "B. Sub-myth B: 'Disney was about to lose all rights to Mickey Mouse and would stop at nothing to get an extension of the term of copyright extension'" (Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review).
- Scott M. Martin (2002), "The Mythology of the Public Domain: Exploring the Myths Behind Attacks on the Duration of Copyright Protection", section "XXI. Myth #10: 'The CTEA was the worst kind of special-interest legislation, engineered by Disney in order to satisfy its insatiable corporate greed'", subsections "C. Sub-myth C: 'The CTEA was Snuck Through Congress Without Debate and Without Legislative History'" and "E. Sub-myth E: 'The CTEA was Special-Interest Legislation that Only Disney Cared About'" (Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review).
- Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1886).
- See the "Release" section on the Wikipedia article about Song of the South.
- Celebs Who Went from Disney to the Dark Side, Fox News Magazine, 03/27/13
- Dodai Stewart, Joe Jonas Reveals How Disney Puppet Masters Control Their Teen Stars. Jezebel, 12/02/13
- Mara Wilson On Why Child Stars Go Crazy: Former Child Actor Offers An Insider's Perspective, Huffington Post, 05/28/13
- See the Wikipedia article on The Lion King.
- The Lion King: A short history of Disney-fascism by Matt Roth (1996) Jump Cut 40:15-20.
- 'The Lion King' is a fascistic story. No remake can change that. No matter how you look at it, this is a film that introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong by Dan Hassler-Forest (July 10, 2019) The Washington Post.