Deutschland Dispute

Normally, I think of this blog as a refuge from controversy, not a hotbed of it. But John J. Powers, author of the play about Walt Disney and Hitler I reviewed recently, has written to me and Mike Barrier to protest our posts about his work. (I first learned about the play over at Mike’s site; Mike has already commented on Mr. Powers’ communications.)

Mr. Powers disputes some of the things I said and asks, “Please, McCracken, do your research, and have the responsibility to correct yourself to those who would pay attention to your blog. ” Okay, I’ll try.

Mr. Powers on evidence that Disney met Hitler:

Firstly, the evidence for the meeting of Disney and Hitler is in the Disney
Archives and in the Volkische Beobachter, the German Nazi newspaper. The
Archives point out that Munich newspapers, in the summer of 1935, welcomed
Disney (with headlines, no less) as “the great white hope against the Jews
of Hollywood.” Disney’s anti-Semitism and anti-unionism were well known in
Hollywood, and Leni Riefenstahl came to Hollywood in 1938 and was wined and
dined by Disney while all other studio heads boycotted her. For
information on Disney’s anti-Semitism, please read DISNEY’S WORLD by
Leonard Mosley or WALT DISNEY: HOLLYWOOD’S DARK PRINCE by Marc Elliot, or
again, WALT DISNEY: THE TRIUMPH OF THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION by Neal
Gabler.

Mike has responded to the above better than I ever could; Mr. Powers hasn’t, of course, provided proof of a Disney-Hitler meeting. If he has any specific evidence that one took place, I think that every Disney historian worth his or her salt would love to hear about it.

Mr. Powers also says “There was no bar code on the book onstage (you have a vivid imagination).” There were several books onstage; sitting in the audience, I thought I saw a bar code on one, in a stack under a table. After the play ended, I walked over to look more closely–and it sure looked like a bar code to me.

Mr. Powers: “Incidentally, the Grimm tale “The Jew in the Thornbush” (not AND the Thornbush) is contained in the original complete Grimm tales (not the abridged collection most Americans know).” Point taken: I misheard the name of the tale.

When I responded to Mr. Powers and expressed my distaste for Marc Eliot’s Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince and Leonard Mosley’s Disney’s World–which, as Mike said, are the worst Disney biographies ever written– and said the latter was riddled with basic errors, he responded, in part, “No one but you seems to be suggesting Mosley’s factual errors. If you could bother to cite them and back up what you say that would be different.”

Lemme try to cite some errors, which I’ll do by reprinting the cover story we published in Animato #10 (Summer 1986) in its entirety below. As for backing up the contention that Mosley made mistakes, anyone out there want to confirm that the mistakes Gary Hoo mentions are indeed mistakes? Alternatively, anyone want to argue, for instance, that Fred Moore did work on Snow White, or that Summer Magic and The Incredible Journey are cartoons? (Side note: When Mosley’s book was published, Dave Smith of the Disney Archives sent me a very, very long list of the mistakes it contained.)

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6 thoughts on “Deutschland Dispute”

  1. Just read the article you think is of such value. Hoo seems as vague and inconclusive about Disney as any of the biographers I’ve read. He mentions nothing, incidentally, about Walt’s anti-Jewish attitudes. Mosley (mispelled by Hoo) calls his book
    DISNEY’S WORLD, not a biography. Much of the world around Walt is accurately portrayed both by Mosley and Schickel. Hoo may not like them, but he is far from specific in most of his observations.

  2. Having reread this review for the first time in twenty years, I can’t disagree with John J. Powers’ contention that I was as vague as Mosley. I remember viscerally disliking the novelistic tone of much of the writing. I _can’t_ remember whence my supposedly authoritative Disney information originated (almost certainly with OF MICE AND MAGIC, but probably from studio-approved books as well), and my fulminating review is of no help figuring that out. Mea culpa.

    Was I supposed to mention Disney’s anti-Semitism? Alas, nobody told me. (Harry, you should have said something before we stapled the issues!) I detect a more fawning attitude to Disney in my review than he merited — certainly more than I feel today — but even so long-winded an article was not the place to hash out his life.

    The trouble with Mosley’s book was not that it portrayed Disney in an unflattering light, nor that I disliked seeing Disney in that light. The trouble was that factual errors concerning Disney’s work called the accuracy of the whole book into question.

    Enough of Walt. I want biographies of Friz Freleng and Carl Stalling!

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