The Testimony of Walter E. Disney Before the House Committee on



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The Testimony of Walter E. Disney

Before the House Committee on

Un-American Activities

24 October, 1947

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Introductory Note from Uploader:
Please be advised that I am uploading this transcript exactly as it

OCR'd (with some minor reformatting) from my source document. That

document is, as was previously mentioned, Peary & Peary's anthology,

"The American Animated Cartoon," copyright 1980, published by Dutton,

ISBN 0-525-47639-3, now long out of print.
I have stripped out Peary & Peary's introductory comments (one page of

text) because their comments are copyrighted, whereas the transcript

itself is a public document, part of the public record, and is not

capable of being protected by copyright law.


Since my source document for this transcript was not a copy of the

original government document but was, instead, a reprinting of that

document's contents, I must rely on the Pearys' affirmation that what

is contained herein is the complete, original, unedited testimony of

Walter E. Disney on 24 October, 1947.
If anyone has the time to access the original government documents and

can determine that the Peary's have edited the original in any way

(which they swear they have not done), I would be extremely interested

in hearing about it.

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[ROBERT E.] STRIPLING [CHIEF INVESTIGATOR]: Mr. Disney, will you state

your full name and present address, please?
WALTER DISNEY: Walter E. Disney, Los Angeles, California.
RES: When and where were you born, Mr. Disney?
WD: Chicago, Illinois, December 5, 1901.
RES: December 5, 1901?
WD: Yes, sir.
RES: What is your occupation?
WD: Well, I am a producer of motion-picture cartoons.
RES: Mr. Chairman, the interrogation of Mr. Disney will be done by Mr.

Smith.
THE CHAIRMAN [J. PARNELL THOMAS]: Mr. Smith.


[H. A.] SMITH: Mr. Disney, how long have you been in that business?
WD: Since 1920.
HAS: You have been in Hollywood during this time?
WD: I have been in Hollywood since 1923.
HAS: At the present time you own and operate the Walt Disney Studio at

Burbank, California?


WD: Well, I am one of the owners. Part owner.
HAS: How many people are employed there, approximately?
WD: At the present time about 600.
HAS: And what is the approximate largest number of employees you have

had in the studio?


WD: Well, close to 1,400 at times.
HAS: Will you tell us a little about the nature of this particular

studio, the type of pictures you make, and approximately how many per

year?
WD: Well, mainly cartoon films. We make about twenty short subjects,

and about two features a year.


HAS: Will you talk just a little louder, Mr. Disney?
WD: Yes, sir.
HAS: How many, did you say?
WD: About twenty short subject cartoons and about two features per

year.
HAS: And some of the characters in the films consist of


WD: You mean such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Snow White and

the Seven Dwarfs [1938], and things of that sort.


HAS: Where are these films distributed?
WD: All over the world.
HAS: In all countries of the world?
WD: Well, except the Russian countries.
HAS: Why aren't they distributed in Russia, Mr. Disney?
WD: Well, we can't do business with them.
HAS: What do you mean by that?
WD: Oh, well, we have sold them some films a good many years ago. They

bought the Three Little Pigs [1933] and used it through Russia. And

they looked at a lot of our pictures, and I think they ran a lot of

them in Russia, but then turned them back to us and said they didn't

want them, they didn't suit their purposes.
HAS: Is the dialogue in these films translated into the various

foreign languages?


WD: Yes. On one film we did ten foreign versions. That was Snow White

and the Seven Dwarfs.


HAS: Have you ever made any pictures in your studio that contained

propaganda and that were propaganda films?


WD: Well, during the war we did. We made quite a few-working with

different government agencies. We did one for the Treasury on taxes

and I did four anti-Hitler films. And I did one on my own for air

power.
HAS: From those pictures that you made, have you any opinion as to

whether or not the films can be used effectively to disseminate

propaganda?


WD: Yes, I think they proved that.
HAS: How do you arrive at that conclusion?
WD: Well, on the one for the Treasury on taxes, it was to let the

people know that taxes were important in the war effort. As they

explained to me, they had 13,000,000 new taxpayers, people who had

never paid taxes, and they explained that it would be impossible to

prosecute all those that were delinquent and they wanted to put this

story before those people so they would get their taxes in early. I

made the film, and after the film had its run the Gallup poll

organization polled the public and the findings were that twenty-nine

percent of the people admitted that had influenced them in getting

their taxes in early and giving them a picture of what taxes will do.


HAS: Aside from those pictures you made during the war, have you made

any other pictures, or do you permit pictures to be made at your

studio containing propaganda?
WD: No; we never have. During the war we thought it was a different

thing. It was the first time we ever allowed anything like that to go

in the films. We watch so that nothing gets into the films that would

be harmful in any way to any group or any country. We have large

audiences of children and different groups, and we try to keep them as

free from anything that would offend anybody as possible. We work hard

to see that nothing of that sort creeps in.
HAS: Do you have any people in your studio at the present time that

you believe are Communist or Fascist, employed there?


WD: No; at the present time I feel that everybody in my studio is

one-hundred-percent American.


HAS: Have you had at any time, in your opinion, in the past, have you

at any time in the past had any Communists employed at your studio?


WD: Yes; in the past I had some people that I definitely feel were

Communists.


HAS: As a matter of fact, Mr. Disney, you experienced a strike at your

studio, did you not?


WD: Yes.
HAS: And is it your opinion that that strike was instituted by members

of the Communist Party to serve their purposes?


WD: Well, it proved itself so with time, and I definitely feel it was

a Communist group trying to take over my artists and they did take

them over.
CHAIRMAN: Do you say they did take them over?
WD: They did take them over.
HAS: Will you explain that to the committee, please?
WD: It came to my attention when a delegation of my boys, my artists,

came to me and told me that Mr. Herbert Sorrell


HAS: Is that Herbert K. Sorrell?
WD: Herbert K. Sorrell, was trying to take them over. I explained to

them that it was none of my concern, that I had been cautioned to not

even talk with any of my boys on labor. They said it was not a matter

of labor, it was just a matter of them not wanting to go with Sorrell,

and they had heard that I was going to sign with Sorrell, and they

said that they wanted an election to prove that Sorrell didn't have

the majority, and I said that I had a right to demand an election. So

when Sorrell came, I demanded an election. Sorrell wanted me to sign

on a bunch of cards that he had there that he claimed were the

majority, but the other side had claimed the same thing. I told Mr.

Sorrell that there is only one way for me to go and that was an

election and that is what the law had set up, the National Labor

Relations Board was for that purpose. He laughed at me and he said

that he would use the Labor Board as it suited his purposes and that

he had been sucker enough to go for that Labor Board ballot and he had

lost some election-I can't remember the name of the place-by one vote.

He said it took him two years to get it back. He said he would strike,

that that was his weapon. He said, "I have all of the tools of the

trade sharpened," that I couldn't stand the ridicule or the smear of a

strike. I told him that it was a matter of principle with me, that I

couldn't go on working with my boys feeling that I had sold them down

the river to him on his say-so, and he laughed at me and told me I was

naive and foolish. He said, you can't stand this strike, I will smear

you, and I will make a dust bowl out of your plant.


CHAIRMAN: What was that?
WD: He said he would make a dust bowl out of my plant if he chose to.

I told him I would have to go that way, sorry, that he might be able

to do all that, but I would have to stand on that. The result was that

he struck. I believed at that time that Mr. Sorrell was a Communist

because of all the things that I had heard and having seen his name

appearing on a number of Commie front things. When he pulled the

strike, the first people to smear me and put me on the unfair list

were all of the Commie front organizations. I can't remember them all,

they change so often, but one that is clear in my mind is the League

of Women Shoppers, The People's World, The Daily Worker, and the PM

magazine in New York. They smeared me. Nobody came near to find out

what the true facts of the thing were. And I even went through the

same smear in South America, through some Commie periodicals in South

America, and generally throughout the world all of the Commie groups

began smear campaigns against me and my pictures.
JOHN MCDOWELL: In what fashion was that smear, Mr. Disney, what type

of smear?


WD: Well, they distorted everything, they lied; there was no way you

could ever counteract anything that they did; they formed picket lines

in front of the theaters, and, well, they called my plant a sweatshop,

and that is not true, and anybody in Hollywood would prove it

otherwise. They claimed things that were not true at all and there was

no way you could fight it back. It was not a labor problem at all

because-I mean, I have never had labor trouble, and I think that would

be backed up by anybody in Hollywood.


HAS: As a matter of fact, you have how many unions operating in your

plant?
CHAIRMAN: Excuse me just a minute. I would like to ask a question.


HAS: Pardon me.
CHAIRMAN: In other words, Mr. Disney, Communists out there smeared you

because you wouldn't knuckle under?


WD: I wouldn't go along with their way of operating. I insisted on it

going through the National Labor Relations Board. And he told me

outright that he used them as it suited his purposes.
CHAIRMAN: Supposing you had given in to him, then what would have been

the outcome?


WD: Well, I would never have given in to him, because it was a matter

of principle with me, and I fight for principles. My boys have been

there, have grown up in the business with me, and I didn't feel like I

could sign them over to anybody. They were vulnerable at that time.

They were not organized. It is a new industry.
CHAIRMAN: Go ahead, Mr. Smith.
HAS: How many labor unions, approximately, do you have operating in

your studios at the present time?


WD: Well, we operate with around thirty-five-I think we have contacts

with thirty.


HAS: At the time of this strike you didn't have any grievances or

labor troubles whatsoever in your plant?


WD: No. The only real grievance was between Sorrell and the boys

within my plant, they demanding an election, and they never got it.


HAS: Do you recall having had any conversations with Mr. Sorrell

relative to Communism?


WD: Yes, I do.
HAS: Will you relate that conversation?
WD: Well, I didn't pull my punches on how I felt. He evidently heard

that I had called them all a bunch of Communists-and I believe they

are. At the meeting he leaned over and he said, "You think I am a

Communist, don't you," and I told him that all I knew was what I heard

and what I had seen, and he laughed and said, "Well, I used their

money to finance my strike of 1937," and he said that he had gotten

the money through the personal check of some actor, but he didn't name

the actor. I didn't go into it any further. I just listened.


HAS: Can you name any other individuals that were active at the time

of the strike that you believe in your opinion are Communists?


WD: Well, I feel that there is one artist in my plant, that came in

there, he came in about 1938, and he sort of stayed in the background,

he wasn't too active, but he was the real brains of this, and I

believe he is a Communist. His name is David Hilberman.


HAS: How is it spelled?
WD: H-i-l-b-e-r-m-a-n, I believe. I looked into his record and I found

that, number 1, that he had no religion and, number 2, that he had

spent considerable time at the Moscow Art Theatre studying art

direction, or something.


HAS: Any others, Mr. Disney?
WD: Well, I think Sorrell is sure tied up with them. If he isn't a

Communist, he sure should be one.


HAS: Do you remember the name of William Pomerance, did he have

anything to do with it?


WD: Yes, sir. He came in later. Sorrell put him in charge as business

manager of cartoonists and later he went to the Screen Actors as their

business agent, and in turn he put in another man by the name of

Maurice Howard, the present business agent. And they are all tied up

with the same outfit.
HAS: What is your opinion of Mr. Pomerance and Mr. Howard as to

whether or not they are or are not Communists?


WD: In my opinion they are Communists. No one has any way of proving

those things.


HAS: Were you able to produce during the strike?
WD: Yes, I did, because there was a very few, very small majority that

was on the outside, and all the other unions ignored all the lines

because of the setup of the thing.
HAS: What is your personal opinion of the Communist Party, Mr. Disney,

as to whether or not it is a political party?


WD: Well, I don't believe it is a political party. I believe it is an

un-American thing. The thing that I resent the most is that they are

able to get into these unions, take them over, and represent to the

world that a group of people that are in my plant, that I know are

good, one-hundred-percent Americans, are trapped by this group, and

they are represented to the world as supporting all of those

ideologies, and it is not so, and I feel that they really ought to be

smoked out and shown up for what they are, so that all of the good,

free causes in this country, all the liberalisms that really are

American, can go out without the taint of communism. That is my

sincere feeling on it.
HAS: Do you feel that there is a threat of Communism in the

motion-picture industry?


WD: Yes, there is, and there are many reasons why they would like to

take it over or get in and control it, or disrupt it, but I don't

think they have gotten very far, and I think the industry is made up

of good Americans, just like in my plant, good, solid Americans. My

boys have been fighting it longer than I have. They are trying to get

out from under it and they will in time if we can just show them up.


HAS: There are presently pending before this committee two bills

relative to outlawing the Communist Party. What thoughts have you as

to whether or not those bills should be passed?
WD: Well, I don't know as I qualify to speak on that. I feel if the

thing can be proven un-American that it ought to be outlawed. I think

in some way it should be done without interfering with the rights of

the people. I think that will be done. I have that faith. Without

interfering, I mean, with the good, American rights that we all have

now, and we want to preserve.


HAS: Have you any suggestions to offer as to how the industry can be

helped in fighting this menace?


WD: Well, I think there is a good start toward it. I know that I have

been handicapped out there in fighting it, because they have been

hiding behind this labor setup, they get themselves closely tied up in

the labor thing, so that if you try to get rid of them they make a

labor case out of it. We must keep the American labor unions clean. We

have got to fight for them.


HAS: That is all of the questions I have, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Vail.
R. B. VAIL: No questions.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. McDowell.
J. MCDOWELL: No questions.
WD: Sir?
JM: I have no questions. You have been a good witness.
WD: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Disney, you are the fourth producer we have had as a

witness, and each one of those four producers said, generally

speaking, the same thing, and that is that the Communists have made

inroads, have attempted inroads. I just want to point that out because

there seems to be a very strong unanimity among the producers that

have testified before us. In addition to producers, we have had actors

and writers testify to the same. There is no doubt but what the movies

are probably the greatest medium for entertainment in the United

States and in the world. I think you, as a creator of entertainment,

probably are one of the greatest examples in the profession. I want to

congratulate you on the form of entertainment which you have given the

American people and given the world and congratulate you for taking

time out to come here and testify before this committee. He has been

very helpful. Do you have any more questions, Mr. Stripling?


HAS: I am sure he does not have any more, Mr. Chairman.
RES: No; I have no more questions.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Disney.

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