Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that passed the Republican-majority legislature revokes a special tax exemption and other privileges for Walt Disney World in Orlando. This was in response to protests from the company’s current management and some of its employees another bill signed into law by the governor prohibiting teaching of gender issues in kindergarten through third grade. Activists and the media have mistakenly dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, even though the word “gay” appears nowhere in the legislation.
Walt Disney World was given tax breaks and other privileges nearly 50 years ago because lawmakers at the time believed it would create jobs, attract tourists, and generate sales tax revenue. It was a roaring success, earning the state $5 billion annually.
Until recently, the Disney organization stayed out of the culture wars and politics, preferring to uphold founder Walt Disney’s vision for what became known as “family entertainment.”
What would Walt Disney, who died in 1966, think of his company today?
In Neal Gabler’s biography “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination‘, we learn that while Walt was headstrong at times, particularly when it came to his anti-Communist beliefs, he wanted to keep Disneyland, Disney World and its cartoon characters free of politics, preferring fantasy and storytelling.
Gabler writes, “Walt was not really a Conservative, Republican, or anything else for most of his adult life. . . . He had voted for Roosevelt in 1936. . . and although he had supported Republican Wendell Willkie in 1940. . . He turned down a request for support from the Willkie campaign, writing: “I found out a long time ago that I knew absolutely nothing about the game of politics and since then I have preferred to remain silent on the whole matter rather than mine see name attached to any statement that was not my own.’”
Gabler found a letter from someone who advocated for Walt to make a roll of film with flags and patriotic music. Walt replied, “I’m not into banner ad patriotism.” Joe Grant, who Gabler says has accompanied Walt on several wartime visits to Washington, said of him, “He was very apolitical, believe me.”
That wasn’t entirely true. Walt joined several conservatives, Gabler writes, including Ginger Rogers, George Murphy (who later became a Republican senator from California), and Robert Montgomery, “to form a Hollywood Republican Committee to counter the more liberal Progressive Citizens of America.”
I see the difference in that the anti-communists tried to defend America and its traditions while the progressive left tried to subvert them. Little has changed about that Dust between the Disney leadership and DeSantisamong other examples.
Walt also supported Thomas Dewey in the 1944 presidential campaign, Gabler writes, and allowed a Dewey rally on the studio lot. He also gave a speech for the nominee at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Despite these incidents and Walt’s association with what Gabler calls “red lures,” he deliberately kept politics out of his films and theme parks. As Gabler writes, “Despite his republicanism, Walt Disney belonged to virtually everyone.”
It’s a pattern that current Disney leadership hasn’t followed, and why it’s now suffering predictable consequences. The Disney organization should follow the vision and example of its founder and not engage in statements and actions that can only undermine his vision and the success of the company. If it doesn’t reverse course, it could result in irreparable damage to the Disney brand and what has long been considered a “magic kingdom.”
Cal Thomas’ latest book is “America’s Expiry Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers and the Future of the United States(HarperCollins/Zondervan).
https://nypost.com/2022/04/25/walt-would-have-never-allowed-disneys-political-activism/ Walt would never have allowed Disney’s political activism