Meryl Streep’s Anti-Disney Speech Sparks Controversy

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep

Actress Meryl Streep is famous for making charming and often hilarious speeches at awards ceremonies. However, her latest speech at the National Board of Review Awards in New York has ruffled a few feathers, especially among fans of Walt Disney.

Introducing Emma Thompson, who received the Best Actress Award for her playing Mary Poppins’ creator P. L. Travers in the Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, Streep expressed sharp criticism of Disney, for being anti-semitic, and against unions and hiring women.

She said, “One of [Walt Disney's] associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women. Ward Kimball, who was one of his chief animators, one of the original Nine Old Men, creator of the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Jiminy Cricket, said of Disney, “He didn’t trust women, or cats.”

Streep continued, “Disney, who brought joy, arguably, to billions of people, was perhaps … or had some racist proclivities. He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group. And he was certainly, on the evidence of his company’s policies, a gender bigot. Here’s a letter from 1938, stating his company’s policy to a young woman named Mary Ford of Arkansas, who had made application to Disney for the training program in cartooning. And I’m going to read it here in Emma’s tribute, because I know it will tickle our honoree, as she’s also a rabid man-eating feminist like me!

“Dear Miss Ford, your letter of recent date has been received in the inking and painting department for reply. Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men. For this reason, girls are not considered for the training school. The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink, and then, filling in the tracing on the reverse side with paint according to directions.”

“When I saw the film, I could just imagine Walt Disney’s chagrin at having to cultivate P.L. Travers’ favor for the 20 years that it took to secure the rights to her work. It must have killed him to encounter a woman, an equally disdainful and superior creature, a person dismissive of his own considerable gifts and prodigious output and imagination. But when we sit in our relative positions of importance and mutual suspicion, and we cast judgment on each other’s work, we’re bound to make small mistakes and misconstrue each other’s motives.”

In response to Streep’s statements, many Disney scholars and artists came to his defense. Disney legend Floyd Norman, who is the first African American artist hired at the studio and highly regarded for his work on Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book and the Mickey Mouse comic strip wrote a passionate piece about Disney on his blog.

He wrote, “It would appear a number of people in Hollywood and elsewhere know a good deal about a studio that never employed them. They also seem to be quite knowledgeable about a man they never met. This is to be expected, of course. When it comes to history it appears everybody’s an expert. However, the history we’re currently dealing with is the history of the Walt Disney Studio and Walt Disney in particular.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but the America of the 1930s and ’40s is hardly the America we know today. Much has changed, and changed for the better. However, we can’t erase the mistakes of the past nor should we. We already know women were not given the opportunities they deserved back in the thirties. This was not something practiced at Walt Disney Productions alone. This was true of American business in general. Despite that, the women of Disney’s Ink & Paint Department have told me they’ve never had a better job. Were they denied the opportunity to compete with the boys over in the Animation Building? You bet they were. In spite of that, during the war years, young women proved they had what it took to compete with the big boys. Even in the forties, Mary Blair, Retta Scott, Bianca Majolie and Sylvia Holland showed they too had the right stuff. By the fifties, talented young women filled the ranks of Walt’s animation department and their names are too numerous to mention. For example, ever hear the name Phyllis Hurrell? She ran one of Walt Disney’s successful commercial departments at the studio. This was the early days of television and she made a ton of money for the mouse. You probably wouldn’t believe that Uncle Walt had a woman production head back in the fifties, now would you?

“Then there was Joe Grant, Dave Detiege, Lou Appet and Ed Solomon. There was Mel Leven, Robert and Richard Sherman, and the list goes on and on. Can you guess where I’m going with this? Why were so many talented Jewish writers, song writers and artists employed at the Disney Studio? Did Walt simply not know? Yeah, he probably had no idea. I can also guess he had no idea why the young black man was in his story meetings. And, how did the famous “Hollywood racist” failed to notice Victor Haboush, Tyrus Wong, Dick Ung, Iwao Takamoto, Willie Ito, Ray Aragon and Ron Dias?

“To be sure, Walt Disney had his faults like the rest of us. He was not a perfect man nor did we expect him to be. Like most of us, he continued to grow as he moved through life and in time he recognized women could compete alongside men. He knew that talent had no color or ethnicity and he judged people by their ability to do their job and do it well. Walt Disney was a man of his time, but he was determined not to be imprisoned by it. He dreamed of a better world and even had the audacity to try and build it. Hardly an American to be vilified. Walt Disney deserves to be celebrated.”

To read more visit:
floydnormancom.squarespace.com/blog/2014/1/8/sophies-poor-choice.

Meryl Streep's Anti-Disney Speech Sparks Controversy

Meryl Streep’s Anti-Disney Speech Sparks Controversy

  • William E Mackson

    Mr. Floyd Norman, if it wasn’t true, why didn’t Mr. Disney create any major African American characters or stories for film or television? You would think Mr. Floyd Norman, being an African American would have approached Mr. Disney about it or created some characters himself. I believe Mrs. Streep still have a point. Disney company aren’t creating any African American animated characters or culturally centered programs still today. The HIP HOP CATZ will be not be African American characters but, they will reflect African American culture.

    • Sean

      Ever seen The Princess and the Frog (Tiana)? Lilo and Stitch (Cobra Bubbles)? Hercules (The Muses)? Atlantis the Lost Empire (Dr. Joshua Sweet)? I think Disney has done a fine job incorporating characters (that are admirably non-stereotypical) in their films and shows.

      • animatorguy

        Don’t even bother trying to explain it to him Sean. People looking for racism always find it, just as those looking for acceptance find it also.
        Streep is spouting nothing but garbage – she knows nothing about the workings (and workers – yeah, we the “low-lifes”) behind the scenes in animation. There is no campaign of exclusion for women or anyone else in the animation industry. She is on a soapbox from a perspective of the 30′s and 40′s. It was a pretty different world, which I think anyone would concede.
        Why don’t she and her ilk (those who constantly cry “racism” and “sexism” never acknowledge the progress made and how much opportunity there is for everyone in this country? I would guess because it doesn’t suit their identity.

      • William E Mackson

        After 100 years of their existence and you come up with those movies. Really? Ask the African American community if these movies reflect them. I’m not trying to bring up racism but, it is what it is.

        I myself applaud it, because every people should reflect who they are when they are producing movies or shows. This is what African Americans need to do as well. Since they weren’t allowed to read or write for 300 years they have a whole lot of catching up to do. This is one of the reason why I started my company MIC CHECK 1,2,1,2 LLC. and the brands HIP HOP CATZ & THE K-9 CREW© and HIP HOP EDU-TAINMENT™©. I will be able to provide our community with images and entertainment that reflects them, but at the same time entertaining others like Disney does.

        • Dstinct

          William,

          How about you add something constructive to the conversation instead of just using it as a platform to plug your company and product?

          There has always been fewer women and minorities in the fields I work in (comics, animation, video games). It’s better than it was before,but there is still a long way to go. The biggest step, I think, is to reach out and let these underrepresented groups know that these are viable career choices for them.

        • dg101

          Your reply had nothing to do with what he said. You must have thought he said “Shamelessly plug your ‘company.’” It’s okay, I’ll copy it for you.

          “Ever seen The Princess and the Frog (Tiana)? Lilo and Stitch (Cobra Bubbles)? Hercules (The Muses)? Atlantis the Lost Empire (Dr. Joshua Sweet)? I think Disney has done a fine job incorporating characters (that are admirably non-stereotypical) in their films and shows.”

    • HappyDingo

      William… sorry but he did and he even caught flack… “Song of the South” could not even use the original title… “Stories of Uncle Remus”… I think that was a great example of Disney trying to look through race for a story and create a magical world that belongs to everyone.

      • William E Mackson

        So, your saying that, the ONE movie or cartoon Mr. Disney was trying to bring the American public, was too Black for the American white public to accept? So, at that time America was so racist that he couldn’t use a title referring to a African American, which was a stereotype character and title? So when did Disney create any cartoon characters featuring African Americans. Even though you YOU feel he created his movie magic for everyone OTHERS have a different view.

    • dg101

      You should do some research on the time period and the way race was viewed during that time. It should answer your questions.

  • Anim8r

    Ummm…. Doc McStuffins? Handy Manny?

    • William E Mackson

      After 100 years of Disney and 2 years ago Doc McStuffins was created by someone who isn’t a African American, this is progress? But, I don’t hold Disney responsible for it, its not a African American company. If African Americans want their images, cartoon characters and shows, they must create their own network and programs to bring them to the industry or create its own industry like MIC CHECK 1,2,1,2 LLC. will be doing with HOP HOP EDU-TAINMENT™© and the HIP HOP CATZ & THE K-9 CREW™©.

      • Black Girl Marketer

        Jackson please stop replying its so painful to even read.

        • William E Mackson

          Peace, I have! Like I said “I’m keeping it moving”. You stay strong and focused. When you get the chance check out the “HIP HOP CATZ” online. Peace!

        • William E Mackson

          Black Girl Marketer, but, what do you mean though?

  • D is for Disney

    I was going to get upset, but I think Mr. Norman handled it with dignity and grace–and not to mention overwhelming common sense and intelligence. Another case of an actress taking an important moment to promote her own personal agenda. If Emma felt the same way, then why would she have taken the role?

    • 510naf

      …Nah! Changed my mind
      Streep’s an over inflated wind bag…of the female persuasion with J. Edgar Hoover tendencies and suspect motives.

  • http://markb4.wordpress.com/ The Animation Commendation

    I too am offended by what Meryl Streep has said. Walt Disney definitely was not perfect, but his letter to the Miss Ford (providing it’s true) was not sent with malicious/bigoted intent. It merely represented how his working staff was set up at that time. And the anti-Semitism claim still doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.

  • Jesse Silver

    I can’t speak to Disney himself as my time at the studio came a number
    of years after his death. Clearly Walt Disney was intelligent enough to
    put appreciation of talent above his other beliefs.
    But to say that
    racism or anti-semitism did not exist at the studio is simply not true. I
    came into contact with it directly and personally during my time at the studio. I
    didn’t let that ignorance faze me, I just focused on the work. In the
    process I turned detractors into supporters. I also got to work with
    some of the nicest, smartest and most talented people I can ever hope to
    have worked with.

  • animatorguy

    Apparently, she hasn’t been getting any attention lately. She has to come out and bash on another.

  • HappyDingo

    Here is my question… Should art be judged on art or wether it was made by a man or a women… same goes from cooking. I find it humorous when the women competing in say a show like Chopped complain about beating the men… when shouldn’t it really be about the best tasting food. Also isn’t the most typical stereotype of the first cooks you notice as kids are either Grandma or Mom… hmmm!… Disney always did talk about his daughters and wanting to make a better life for them… so wouldn’t that mean a fair competitive market… based on talent!

  • William E Mackson

    After 100 years of their existence and you come up with those movies. Really? Ask the African American community if these movies reflect them. I’m not trying to bring up racism but, it is what it is.

    I myself applaud it, because every people should reflect who they are when they are producing movies or shows. This is what African Americans need to do as well. Since they weren’t allowed to read or write for 300 years they have a whole lot of catching up to do. This is one of the reason why I started my company MIC CHECK 1,2,1,2 LLC. and the brands HIP HOP CATZ & THE K-9 CREW© and HIP HOP EDU-TAINMENT™©. I will be able to provide our community with images and entertainment that reflects them, but at the same time entertaining others like Disney does.

    • dg101

      Wow, shameless self promotion much?

      Would you say the movies represent the white community? If so, how? Because I’m pretty sure a girl getting poisoned, a boy growing up in the jungle, farmers becoming kings, and Mickey Mouse doesn’t really “reflect” upon me. It seems you miss out on the point entirely. The discussion isn’t about whether or not the black community has been adequately represented. It’s about whether or not minorities of all types were hired and accepted by Walt Disney during a time when racism was an accepted institution, rather than something to be deservedly vilified. It’s great that you want to represent your community and give them a chance to express themselves (though, I think hip hop is probably the worst possible way to do so). Seriously. Good for you. But your little companies have nothing to do with the topic you’re commenting on.

      • William E Mackson

        Peace, maybe I didn’t go into the main point of the article but, my point is relevant. But do you get mine? I was trying to go deeper than Mrs. Streeps comment because there were other issue pertaining to what she was talking about hat was going on at Disney. I just wanted your anonymous friend to know, just because these movies were produced by Disney company it still reflected a view of someone who did not want to include African Americans. And, how could you if you didn’t want to hiring really any besides Mr. Norman. Could Mr. Norman bring a character Mr. Disney at the time that wasn’t stereotyped but had a African American cultural view to it? I believe not.

        As far as a SHAMELESS PLUG, it was no shame in the game, the way I came. I just wanted people to know about our companies name, who will bring a serious image change, we use Hip Hop to educate kids brains.

        I see you have exposed to the wrong representation and impression of Hip Hop culture. MIC CHECK 1,2,1,2 LLC. uses Hip Hop as a educational tool. Our brand HIP HOP EDU-TAINMENT™ is positive and educational Hip Hop shows and music. We teach kids the culture of Hip Hop Deejaying, MCing, Graffiti writing and Break dancing. Also about the pioneers such as DJ KOOL HERC
        and Afrika Bambaataa. YOU NEED TO DO YOUR RESEARCH ON ME.
        We use Hip Hop like DR. SEUSS has used rhyme in his literature. We have a children’s book as well, but we use rap and rhyme to tell our stories.
        We’re creating our own industry by way of HIP HOP EDU-TAINMENT™ brand to ge

        I

        • dg101

          Wow. Even turned THIS into a plug. This isn’t helping your brand. It makes you seem desperate and disingenuous. You turn everything into a spammy plug for your “companies”. I don’t need to do research on you. You’ve provided me with enough to make a judgement simply with your behavior here. Much like Streep, you ignore the period of time in which these things happened. You seem to hold it against Disney (and for some weird reason Norman) for not creating characters that reflected the black experience or culture. Of course they didn’t. Do you know what race relations were like in that time period? If you do, then you would understand WHY they didn’t create such characters. You attempt to see things through the lens of someone living in 2014 and ignore how big a deal what Mr. Norman’s involvement was. It’s like bitching because there wasn’t a woman president in a when JUST got the right to vote. You completely miss the point of the article and ignore what it is that Norman really did. Take your race-pandering company’s spam ads elsewhere.

          • William E Mackson

            You’re right, I’ll keep it moving. You’ll never respect my view any way. You’re are the
            same kind of person that feels women should walk behind a man and Black people should get over slavery after they were freed into a racist society. It’s nothing against Disneyjust thought bringing out other points relating to the article would enlighten others on issues that had existed at Disney. As far as my “race pandering spam ad”, it wasn’t meant to be that, but a introduction to a company that will provide content that is not being provided by the entertainment industry for kids at this time. No need to
            worry I have no need to continue this conversation because your’re the kind of person who don’t want discuss the UGLIES of America and to find resolutions to things that happen and things that continues to happen.

            Peace to your small world!

          • dg101

            Actually, no. I don’t think either of those things. At all. But nice try.

  • Areios

    “He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group”

    [citation needed]

  • martyg

    Homely has been needs attention

  • Jim Wickey

    This is tiresome.
    Unfortunately, Streep has the microphone and only a few of us can read Floyd Norman’s response. And Floyd is only scratching the surface. When told one of his animators was gay, Walt’s response was “Can he draw?” End of story. Walt cared for artists and for creating an environment in which his films could be produced happily and efficiently. It is also hard to believe that a letter seeking employment to the Disney
    Studio was answered by Walt Disney himself. In a way, Streep is creating the same ill-informed, race to judgement that she accuses Walt Disney of. In 1955, Walt Disney was named ‘Man of the Year’ from the B’Nai Brith, the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, which would be a strange award indeed for an anti-Semite. – Jim Wickey

  • yahoomail

    Thanks Mr. Norman for putting it all into context. We only look at this time through hindsight and it’s always 20/20. I know I wasn’t alive at the time but I do know that, as Mr. Norman said those were the times and we were not there and things did change for the better. I might not like the way things were done back then but Walt was not doing a thing different then almost ALL businesses at the time. Damning Walt is just saying that we do not agree with the way things were done by ALL business in the U.S. and the world in general back then. That’s why things got changed, we decided we as a Nation and the world in general didn’t like things that way. To me it sounds like Meryl just wanted to sound like she was on top of it. It’s all true but don’t we all already know how it was and Walt wasn’t doing a thing different then any other employer at that time and singling him out in the arena she did it in was purely for her own satisfaction and aggrandizement in my opinion and really wasn’t called for. If a biography of Walt was done that information should be added and also put into the context of the time and stated that Walt was following common practice of the day. The way she does it sounds like Walt was the only guy doing it.

    Thank god the change has come and we (society) are still working on making things better I hope. History is the past and as Walter Cronkite might say, “That’s the way it was.” and really that’s all there is to it. Learn from it! It’s still not perfect! Thanks for the smiles Mr. Disney and thank all of the people over the years that have changed those type of hiring and work practices! Walt was a man of his time and his time has passed.

  • likearadiowave

    oh no! exposing the truth always sparks controversy.

    • William E Mackson

      I’m just “KEEPING IT REAL”. Some people can’t handle that! Peace!

  • Peter Daniels

    I grew up in the fifties, etc, and my dad worked in construction, my mom held down the fort, which was a five acre hobby farm with all the stuff you do with a cow, sheep, chickens, a horse,a garden,and the home, and my parents danced,(at one point seven nights a week).There was four children, with a span of twenty years. We watched Disneyland on T.V. Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan etc, we didn’t know we were not fair to the sexes, as we all rolled up our sleeves and helped out. We were told in the sixties that we were square, not hip, and of course came the distance between the sexes, but we couldn’t change that movement. Any movement is good,as long as it doesn’t stop reflecting who it is to be helping, namely the people. Peter Daniels.

  • debe white

    Folks are often keen to defend the hand that feeds them, whether that hand is guilty of wrong or not.

  • IT IT UP

    STREEP and franchise slum Hollywood
    ——————SILENT and/or COLLUDING on
    ————globalist —RED China handover,
    —————–the defacto resurrection of work camps
    —————————child labor,
    ———————————–exterminist EUGENICS
    ———————————————————-and SLAVERY itself.

    TAKE HEED!

    HOLLYWOOD 2014, and STREEP have the
    moral authority of a CAP-stone MAFIA run, backstreet pornographer.

    FURTHER- – -

    ‘WALT DISNEY was the
    ———————-ONLY REAL ARTIST
    —————————————Hollywood ever produced.”
    STANLEY KUBRICK

    Hence, SO much for the terminally ‘on board’
    ————–dwindling and, frankly, forgettable —-STREEP.

  • IT OUT IT 22

    FURTHER —check out JAY WEIDNER’s Jan 09 2014
    interview with Jeff Rense on Disney, Hollywood mind control
    and abuse.

    “Hollywood ALWAYS hated DISNEY
    because he was a REAL artist,
    and because he OWNED his work.

    And the things KUBRICK was warning us about
    in Hollywood, —-were the very SAME things
    ——————————–DISNEY was showing us 50 years before.”
    Jay Weidner

    TRUE.

    Re-watched Disney’s masterpiece 1938 ‘Pinocchio’.

    Astounding to see it now as a prophetic nightmare vision
    of unfolding EUGENICS and collectivizing, CAP-stone
    engineered and directed —-’POP’ (ie sugar daddy) —’culture’.

    AWESOME STUFF! –unlike the twee, self sensitive slop
    —————————————————————–STREEP delivers.

    TAKE HEED

  • jingles

    It is really weird there are so many Disney-supporters. Does it have to do with overdosing his bedazzling cartoons and films? If the time period dictated the sexist, racist etc. attitudes it doesn’t mean Disney can be cleared from his fault. Anyone’s guilt isn’t mitigated if ‘others do it too’. I actually think Streep didn’t focus on the main issues of Disney – we can’t really call him back and stone him for discriminating women. Disney creations are long known for being biased, conservative, full of damaging stereotypes, and their orientation to wide (and often uneducated) consumer markets.

    It’s about time someone starts talking about the REAL problems concerning Disney Industries and other gigantic enterprises eating up small, independent companies. Obviously, there are many reasons why no one dares to do it. Changes in Lucas Arts were troubling enough, and people lost jobs. Besides that, the company still exerts highly manipulative imperial power, demonstrates immoral business practices and exploits workforce overseas.

  • Pingback: Unedited Rant: Saving Mr. Banks and Being Anti-Disney | one buff hamstring

  • Stephanie agnew

    Why do actors think they become “know it alls” just because they act? They live and work in a make believe world and we are supposed to believe they know what they are talking about?!?
    Just like on election day all of Hollywood felt they knew best for all of us. Please!
    Meryl , go back home and try to be more kind to your neighbors and community instead of keeping your nose a mile high in the air like you are better than all of them. Just because you have played character roles of greatness does not make you that person or even close, wake up from your scripts and study real facts before your next performance!

  • Secular Advocate

    Judging old show-biz types by modern mores seems to be very much in fashion these days. But who can be surprised that Disney caught the spirit of the times and made it seem beautiful.

    The people who do this best are the ones who believe in it the most.

    Thatcher. Reagan. Hitler. Dylan. Lennon.

    They emerge as the spokesperson because they are the people to articulate the message the most effectively.

    Enid Blyton’s another one – she was the British Disney, making casual racism and middle class mores seem perfectly normal.