Walt Disney part 7

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The Walt Disney Family Museum records that he "along with members of his staff, received more than 950 honors and citations from throughout the world".[17] He was made a Chevalier in the French Légion d'honneur in 1935,[175] and in 1952 he was awarded the country's highest artistic decoration, the Officer d'Academie.[176] Other national awards include Thailand's Order of the Crown (1960); Germany's Order of Merit (1956),[177] Brazil's Order of the Southern Cross (1941)[178] and Mexico's Order of the Aztec Eagle (1943).[179] In the United States, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on September 14, 1964,[180] and on May 24, 1968, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.[181] He received the Showman of the World Award from the National Association of Theatre Owners,[179] and in 1955, the National Audubon Society awarded Disney its highest honor, the Audubon Medal, for promoting the "appreciation and understanding of nature" through his True-Life Adventures nature films.[182] A minor planet discovered in 1980 by astronomer Lyudmila Karachkina, was named 4017 Disneya,[183] and he was also awarded honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.[17]

 

Personality and reputation

A portrait of Disney with cartoon representations of different nationalities on a 6 cent US stamp

1968 U.S. postage stamp

Disney's public persona was very different from his actual personality.[184] Playwright Robert E. Sherwood described him as "almost painfully shy ... diffident" and self-deprecating.[185] According to his biographer Richard Schickel, Disney hid his shy and insecure personality behind his public identity.[186] Kimball argues that Disney "played the role of a bashful tycoon who was embarrassed in public" and knew that he was doing so.[187] Disney acknowledged the façade and told a friend that "I'm not Walt Disney. I do a lot of things Walt Disney would not do. Walt Disney does not smoke. I smoke. Walt Disney does not drink. I drink."[188] Critic Otis Ferguson, in The New Republic, called the private Disney: "common and everyday, not inaccessible, not in a foreign language, not suppressed or sponsored or anything. Just Disney."[187] Many of those with whom Disney worked commented that he gave his staff little encouragement due to his exceptionally high expectations. Norman recalls that when Disney said "That'll work", it was an indication of high praise.[189] Instead of direct approval, Disney gave high-performing staff financial bonuses, or recommended certain individuals to others, expecting that his praise would be passed on.[190]

 

Views of Disney and his work have changed over the decades, and there have been polarized opinions.[191] Mark Langer, in the American Dictionary of National Biography, writes that "Earlier evaluations of Disney hailed him as a patriot, folk artist, and popularizer of culture. More recently, Disney has been regarded as a paradigm of American imperialism and intolerance, as well as a debaser of culture."[60] Steven Watts wrote that some denounce Disney "as a cynical manipulator of cultural and commercial formulas",[191] while PBS records that critics have censured his work because of its "smooth façade of sentimentality and stubborn optimism, its feel-good re-write of American history".[192] Although Disney's films have been highly praised, very popular and commercially successful over time,[60][193] there were criticisms by reviewers. Caroline Lejeune comments in The Observer that Snow White (1937) "has more faults than any earlier Disney cartoon. It is vulnerable again and again to the barbed criticisms of the experts. Sometimes it is, frankly, badly drawn."[194] Robin Allen, writing for The Times, notes that Fantasia (1940) was "condemned for its vulgarity and lurches into bathos",[195] while Lejeune, reviewing Alice in Wonderland (1951), feels the film "may drive lovers of Lewis Carroll to frenzy".[196] Peter Pan (1953) was criticized in The Times as "a children's classic vulgarized" with "Tinker Bell ... a peroxided American cutie". The reviewer opined that Disney "has slaughtered good Barrie and has only second-rate Disney to put in its place".[197]

 

Disney has been accused of anti-Semitism,[198][x] although none of his employees—including the animator Art Babbitt, who disliked Disney intensely—ever accused him of making anti-Semitic slurs or taunts.[200] The Walt Disney Family Museum acknowledges that ethnic stereotypes common to films of the 1930s were included in some early cartoons.[y] Disney donated regularly to Jewish charities, he was named "1955 Man of the Year" by the B'nai B'rith chapter in Beverly Hills,[201][202] and his studio employed a number of Jews, some of whom were in influential positions.[203][z] Gabler, the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concludes that the available evidence does not support accusations of anti-Semitism and that Disney was "not [anti-Semitic] in the conventional sense that we think of someone as being an anti-Semite". Gabler concludes that "though Walt himself, in my estimation, was not anti-Semitic, nevertheless, he willingly allied himself with people who were anti-Semitic [meaning some members of the MPAPAI], and that reputation stuck. He was never really able to expunge it throughout his life".[204] Disney distanced himself from the Motion Picture Alliance in the 1950s.[205]

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