Walt Disney testifies before HUAC (1947)

In October 1947, during the post-war Red Scare, American filmmaker Walt Disney testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Disney provided HUAC with information about union activity at his studios, as well as specific individuals he believed to be communists:

Investigator: “Mr Disney, will you state your full name and present address, please.”

Disney: “Walter E. Disney, Los Angeles, California”…

Investigator: “What is your occupation?”

Disney: “Well, I am a producer of motion picture cartoons”…

Investigator: “Where are [your] films distributed?”

Disney: “All over the world.”

Investigator: “In all countries of the world?”

Disney: “Well, except the Russian countries.”

Investigator: “Why aren’t they distributed in Russia, Mr Disney?”

Disney: “Well, we can’t do business with them.”

Investigator: “What do you mean by that?”

Disney: “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”…

Investigator: “Have you ever made any pictures in your studio that contained propaganda and that were propaganda films?

Disney: “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”…

Investigator: “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?”

Disney: “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.”

Investigator: “Do you have any people in your studio at the present time that you believe are Communist or Fascist, employed there?”

Disney: “No, at the present time I feel that everybody in my studio is 100 percent American.”

Investigator: “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?”

Disney: “Yes, in the past I had some people that I definitely feel were Communists.”

Investigator: “As a matter of fact, Mr Disney, you experienced a strike at your studio, did you not?”

Disney: “Yes.”

Investigator: “And is it your opinion that that strike was instituted by members of the Communist Party to serve their purposes?”

Disney: “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.”

Investigator: “Do you say they did take them over?”

Disney: “They did take them over”…

Investigator: “In other words, Mr Disney, Communists out there smeared you because you wouldn’t knuckle under?”

Disney: “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”…

Investigator: “What is your personal opinion of the Communist Party, Mr Disney, as to whether or not it is a political party?”

Disney: “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, 100 per cent 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.”

Investigator: “Do you feel that there is a threat of Communism in the motion picture industry?”

Disney: “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.”

Investigator: “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?”

Disney: “Well I don’t know if 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.”

Investigator: “Have you any suggestions to offer as to how the industry can be helped in fighting this menace?”

Disney: “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 labour setup, they get themselves closely tied up in the labour thing, so that if you try to get rid of them they make a labour case out of it. We must keep the American labour unions clean. We have got to fight for them”…

Investigator: “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”…