Walt Disney: Enemy of Jinx

Few other Enemies of Jinx have dossiers as thick and as tirelessly researched as Walt Disney Productions, Inc. The company's cornucopia of wholesome entertainment has delighted generations of children, offering everything from cartoon shorts to live action films to television shows to theme parks. Moreover, "Uncle" Walt's legacy as an American icon and creative genius continues to imprint popular culture years after his death. But a darker picture emerges when delving into the files on Disney - both the man and his empire: one of power-hungriness, ruthlessness, paranoia, vengefulness, inhumanity and tyranny.

Walt Disney was born in 1901 to a middle-class Midwest family dominated by a father who advocated child labor and administered corporal punishment on a daily basis. Elias Disney, first a farmer and later a blue-collar worker, was an active member of the American Socialist Democratic Party, often loudly denouncing the "international conspiracy of wealthy Jews in control of the world's investment banks" to exploit America's working class. After leaving home and failing to establish a profitable animation studio in Kansas City, Walt Disney ventured out to Hollywood, and with his older brother Roy, formed in 1923 the company that would become one of the most subversive, powerful and well-financed Enemies of the Project. Ever.

Throughout its early years, the Disney studio experienced its share of growing pains, deals gone sour and financial struggles, especially in the face of the Great Depression. Walt learned the hard way how Hollywood worked, and set out to operate as shrewdly. Walt never actually drew Mickey Mouse himself, but he took all the creative credit and never acknowledged the animator, even decades later when he admitted to not inking the world's most famous rodent. Thus began Walt's career-long maltreatment of his employees, bad, in some aspects, even for the Depression-era film industry norm of sweatshops and low wages. One animator later described him as a "harsh taskmaster" with a "high-strung temperament and [an] inability to work harmoniously with his [employees]."

If Walt Disney sought absolute control of his company and employees early on, he also had early yearnings to rule the country and the world. Plagued by sexual impotency and the first of many nervous breakdowns, Walt took a vacation in 1930, visiting New York City. While there, he went to Governor's Island, the gateway to the world capital, to admire the symbol of New York, America and freedom embraced by immigrants and flocked to by tourists. Though Walt was very patriotic, his motivation for going to the Statue of Liberty, indeed to its very top, had more to do with his vision than his country. According to his companion that day, Walt was "intensely interested in why people would go out of their way to see [the statue]," and "what it was about [the statue] that could attract all those tourists. It was then that Walt had the initial idea for a grand conquest: to go beyond a mere Hollywood studio and ultimately establish his own monumental regime.

Walt Disney initiated the first phase of his company's systematic global take-over in 1932, an offensive that would line Disney coffers for the rest of his life and beyond. By granting hundreds of licenses, Disney soon became the most successful studio merchandiser in the world and profited handsomely from the millions of dollars generated by sales of Disney-related merchandise. At the same time, membership in Mickey Mouse Fan Clubs soared past the one million mark in the U.S. alone, with new clubs forming every day to spread the Disney propaganda.

As the Disney Empire grew in all directions, little changed in terms of Walt's iron-fisted rule at the studio. Animation work on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the studio's first full-length animated feature, continued non-stop, twenty four-seven. While such labor abuse was not unusual for studios at the time, Walt always considered the creative output his one-man operation, and limited the production credit for Disney films to "Walt Disney Presents." Furthermore, Walt decreed a minimum of socializing in the studio, with a single misinterpreted remark often qualifying as grounds for immediate termination. Rather than realize the climate of "Waltalitarianism" he created, with the accompanying sense of growing resentment, Walt saw himself as a father figure to the animators, whom he referred to as "his boys." Once Walt even proudly commented to an animator that the studio ran "on a kind of Jesus Christ communism."

This statement becomes ironic when one learns how Walt Disney intertwined his feelings of betrayal, his reactionary vengeance and his patriotic "duty" to inform the FBI of communist activity in Hollywood, especially in his studio. Before Walt started this "war," he opposed the entry of the U.S. into World War II as one of Hollywood's most active prewar isolationists. Walt regularly attended American Nazi Party (Enemy of Jinx, 1933) meetings before America entered the war, and even considered hiring Leni Riefenstahl as a filmmaker after Kristallnacht, when no other studio would touch her. {SWASTIKA MUSIC NOTES] Walt soon learned how to use the passions and power of political activism as weapons for personal gain and for revenge. In 1940, among growing antiCommunist sentiments, the FBI made Walt Disney an official informant, and would later promote him to Special Agent in Charge.

In the meantime, deplorable conditions continued at the studio for animators, who began to seek the refuge of the emerging Cartoonists Guild union. For years, Walt refused to cooperate with the union, stung by this betrayal of "his family." Things escalated in early 1941, when the Guild animators went on strike. Walt blamed the Communist Party USA for the strike, which lasted for months. While the CPUSA's Hollywood presence dated back to the late 30s, its influence had eroded considerably with WWII and the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact. Finally, Walt's antiunion allies' ties to organized crime caused him to concede to the terms of the strike, for fear of damage to the studio's reputation. Even afterwards, Walt publicly described the strike as having been "communistically inspired and led" and fired the strike leaders. Walt helped increase the House Un-American Committee's presence in Hollywood and spent years personally blacklisting every Disney animator in the Guild and many a professional adversary, all in the name of opposing Communism.

Beyond seizing power over his employees and Hollywood through Machiavellian political means that ruined careers and shattered lives, Walt Disney yearned for more. By 1950, Walt had gained complete control of all merchandising, domestic and foreign, in essence stabbing his long-time merchandising agent in the back. In 1953 Walt established his own privately held corporation, WED Enterprises, which funneled the studio's profits into his pockets. This made Walt a millionaire within months, allowing him to ride the rising popularity of the small screen and strong-arm ABC into helping him finance the nefarious project that he had been planning since that fateful visit to Lady Liberty - Disneyland.

Disneyland opened in July 1955, an unprecedented realization of Walt's ideal manipulated world and his self-believed key to immortality. Walt moved into an apartment on Main Street, decorated to resemble the house he lived in as a boy in the rural Midwest. Here, Walt could even bend time to his will as he ruled the kingdom of his past while enjoying vast fortune and fame. But time ran out for Walt Disney some eleven years later, when he succumbed to lung cancer and its complications.

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In the third of a century since the death of Walt Disney, the corporate giant he created continues to thrive as an Enemy of the Project, perhaps more than before. Walt left behind a legacy of greed and domination that spread faster than his lethal lung cancer. In 1966, the year Walt died, Disney Studios grossed $116 million. In 1988, the studio grossed over $1 billion, and continues to grow financially in the new millennium. Disney owns Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures, as well as the rights to the MGM/UA library - even the famous "Leo the lion" logo. In all, the studio's films earned nearly a third of every dollar spent at the box office in America in 1992. Beyond the silver screen, Disney dominates the internet, cable television and Wall Street, and moves more merchandise than ever from retail outlets in shopping malls across the country. The Enemy's domestic and foreign strongholds include Walt's original controlled environment Disneyland, the sprawling Walt Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland, and Euro Disney in France. Each park operates to the smallest detail, superficially and subconsciously manipulating guests by the millions. EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), part of Disney World, represents Walt's dream of an enclosed, controlled Utopian city of the future. Disney continues to decimate Florida wildlife on a large scale to maintain this property. Strict dress codes at Euro Disney, including undergarment restrictions, elicited objections from French labor unions that nearly caused a total shutdown of the park. Some things never change.

Disney has strategically positioned itself in New York City, the cultural and financial capital of the world, to coordinate its relentless power-hungry campaign. Two long-running Disney Broadway shows and an IMAX feature dominate Midtown Manhattan, with huge flagship Disney stores located on posh Fifth Avenue and in Times Square. With the constantly sold-out "Lion King" musical and the adjoining Times Square store, Disney has swept the 42nd Street corridor with Fantasia's magic brooms, obliterating the once-exciting adult theatre district in the name of "family entertainment." A visit to the Fifth Avenue "House of Disney" will convince any skeptical agent in the Project that Disney is indeed a force to be reckoned with, brainwashing consumers into making "contributions" with three floors of carefully coordinated movies, music and merchandise. The NYC edition stuffed Mickey Mouse, complete in Statue of Liberty regalia, provides chilling proof that Walt's vision of "his own Lady Liberty," some seven decades ago, has been realized.

We at the Project must implement a stiff resistance to the omnipresent mouse ears and white gloves in our midst. The multi-headed Disney media machine outsizes our operation on every level. Kirk Douglas once dropped a pending lawsuit against Disney, claiming you "can't sue God." But our battle is not a legal one. With its death-grip on entertainment spending, popular culture, international economics and mind control, Walt Disney Productions poses a grave danger to us all. However, there was never a Disney film where the villain prevailed, and our undying pledge to oppose this heartless monster with everything we have will guarantee a Jinx victory in the end.