This myth particularly frustrates me. I have done Disney-inspired art, and even a portrait of Disney himself. I admire him. He's a great role model for me, and he has influenced my philosophy towards life in general, as well as more specific things such as art and business. I love to associate with this man. I even once grew out a mustache and combed my hair the way he did. I love Walt Disney! I don't want to be the slightest bit ashamed to associate with him.
Some people think I should be ashamed, though. I drew a portrait of Disney once when I was in high school, and one of my teachers shook his head and said, "Anti-Semite." Because of my affinity for Disney, I have been accused of being complicit with anti-Semitism. At worst, I have been accused of actually being an anti-Semite. All because I love Disney!
So let me just get the record straight. First, I'm going to defend myself. I abso-fricki-lutely love Jews. As in, you have no idea. I'm a major semitophile and have gone to Synagogues, talked at length with rabbis, and read Jewish literature extensively. Sometimes I wear a yarmulke when I'm praying. I have dedicated hours and hours to highly meticulous works of Jewish art. So it's completely ridiculous when people look at my art, see that some of it has to do with Disney, and think that I'm anti-Semitic, or even slightly complicit with anti-Semitism.
If Disney was anti-Semitic, then yes, I would be very upset by that. However, not only is there no evidence of that, but there is actually evidence to the contrary. He hired many Jews to work for him, more than even many Jewish-run companies in Hollywood at the time. None of the Jews who worked with him felt that he thought less than them. The head of the modeling department, Joe Grant, even noted that "Some of the most influential people in the studio were Jewish." Disney also donated to many Jewish causes. Such as a Jewish orphanage, a Jewish nursing home, a Jewish college, and so forth. Heck, he even donated to some pretty radical Jewish groups!
So where does this myth come from? Well, Walt was a pretty conservative guy. He believed in good old-fashioned American values, and he was one of those people who didn't want Communists in Hollywood. He associated with many anti-Communist groups of the day. As it happens, one of them, which had no official anti-Semitic stances, happened to have some members who were rumored to have been anti-Semitic in private. That's like saying that I believe that women should always have only secondary roles in movies, just because Steven Spielberg is my favorite director (outside of BFG, all of his movies star males; I always assumed that it was because he was more comfortable with it, but people have rumored that he's sexist). And there you go: that's all you need to accuse one of the most decent guys ever of being like Hitler.
I absolutely hate that character assassination against Walt Disney among people who feel high and mighty for it. What do people possibly stand to benefit from tearing him down like that? I just don't get it. It doesn't make sense to me. Walt Disney is an inspiration and basically the best thing to ever happen to the movie industry. He brought joy and love to children everywhere. He did his best to bring families together. He had many, many ideas for making the world a better place. Nobody should be ashamed of admiring that.