Masks of the Past #3 – Ding Dong The Mouse Is Dead

Masks of the Past – Ding Dong The Mouse Is Dead illustration

I’m still really happy with how this illustration turned out, it was a bit of a milestone in my approach to illustration.  I’m very critical of my own work and very few pieces maintain favoritism, this however is one.

September 27, 2010 – Mickey Mouse Gas Mask Illustration

* This image was removed from Photobucket, I wonder if it’s because of the violence or the Disney aspect.

Any fan of the Simpsons, Family Guy or a number of other pop culture feeds are at least a little familiar with the theory of Disney’s anti-semitism. I don’t presume to know the truth through all the spin on the subject. I grew up on Disney but as an adult something about them gives me an uneasy feeling. I can definitely see a correlation between Walt Disney and the Nazi party even if it’s in a bizarre sort of way. Disney, the man and the company, has always been a very controlling entity. Strict rules and the goals of creating/portraying a perfect world might be the only true comparison but to find out more I looked for “The Straight Dope”. Here’s some of what they had to say:

“One of the more curious charges against Disney was that he was a secret Nazi. A few white supremacist groups still cherish this notion. Their best evidence is a misreading of the short film “Der Fuehrer’s Face” (1943), in which Donald is seen in a Nazi uniform, swastikas and all. In the end we find out it’s all a nightmare, but that doesn’t dissuade the racists. A lesser-known short sometimes cited is 1932’s “The Wayward Canary,” in which Mickey is seen using a cigarette lighter with a swastika painted on the side.

This is all circumstantial at best, but other suggestive details have come to light. In 1933, the German American Bund was founded by Fritz Kuhn. Kuhn was evidently quite a character–he had met Hitler in the early thirties and reportedly was profoundly loathed by the Nazi leader. An association of German immigrants to America, the Bund had a definite pro-Nazi slant. Disney animator Art Babbitt claimed his boss had a strong interest in, if not outright sympathy for, the Bund:

In the immediate years before we entered the War there was a small, but fiercely loyal, I suppose legal, following of the Nazi party . . . There were open meetings, anybody could attend and I wanted to see what was going on myself. On more than one occasion I observed Walt Disney and [Disney’s lawyer] Gunther Lessing there, along with a lot of prominent Nazi-afflicted Hollywood personalities. Disney was going to meetings all the time.

The German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, whose documentaries in the mid-30s had helped to glorify the Nazis, claimed that “after Kristallnacht [1938], she approached every studio in Hollywood looking for work. No studio head would even screen her movies except Walt Disney. He told her he admired her work but if it became known that he was considering hiring her, it would damage his reputation.”

For the most part Disney doesn’t appear to have had strong political views–his politics seemed to turn on whatever it took to keep his studio going. It’s likely his interest in the German American Bund sprang from a desire to forge relationships with Germany for possible film distribution there. On the other hand, there was a lot of antisemitic feeling in the Disney studio. While no one can specifically attribute bias to Disney himself, Jewish people were ready fodder for the animators’ gags and Disney approved every scene in every short the studio made. In one scene in the original version of “The Three Little Pigs,” the Big Bad Wolf comes to the door dressed as a stereotypical Jewish peddler. Disney changed the scene after complaints from Jewish groups. They didn’t catch them all, though. In the short “The Opry House” Mickey Mouse is seen dressed and dancing as a Hasidic Jew.”

Read more from the Straight Dope!

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