Meryl Streep accuses Walt Disney of sexism; Disney family responds

Published: Friday, Jan. 10 2014 3:45 p.m. MST

Actress Meryl Streep decided to take Tuesday night's National Board of Review awards dinner as a time to share her opinion of former director, animator and screenwriter Walt Disney.

Streep's nine-minute commentary didn't come during an acceptance speech, rather as she was awarding fellow actress Emma Thompson for her role as P.L. Travers, the author of "Mary Poppins," in the film "Saving Mr. Banks." This film, which was released in December, was the first to feature Disney as a character in a movie, who was played by actor Tom Hanks.

After Streep acknowledged Thompson, and read a poem she had written for Thompson, she began to discuss her apparent disapproval of the late Disney, particularly his view of women.

"Some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women," Streep said, according to Variety.

The actress called Disney a "gender bigot" and referred to his support of "an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group," Variety reported.

Since Streep's statements, the Disney family has rallied in support of the successful filmmaker. Wednesday night, the Walt Disney Family Museum Twitter account shared this tweet:

Many also began to pass along a blog post written by former animator Floyd Norman, who worked with Disney on several films, including "Sleeping Beauty," "The Jungle Book," "The Sword in the Stone" and other projects.

In Norman's post "Sophie's Poor Choice," he responds to Streep's allegations, with the title referencing Streep's role in the 1982 film "Sophie's Choice."

Norman opens the discussion by questioning how anyone could make statements about someone they've never met.

"It would appear a number of people in Hollywood and elsewhere know a good deal about a studio that never employed them," Norman wrote. "They also seem to be quite knowledgeable about a man they never met. This is to be expected, of course. When it comes to history, it appears everybody’s an expert."

Disney's former employee then points out how America has changed since the time of his respected boss.

"We already know women were not given the opportunities they deserved back in the '30s. This was not something practiced at Walt Disney Productions alone. This was true of American business in general," Norman wrote.

"Were they denied the opportunity to compete with the boys over in the Animation Building? You bet they were. In spite of that, during the war years, young women proved they had what it took to compete with the big boys."

Norman also addressed Streep's statement regarding Disney's alleged "anti-Semitism" but ultimately recognized that Disney made mistakes, that things have changed in the company since his passing and how that's for the better. Yet, Norman says Disney does not deserve to be defamed.

"To be sure, Walt Disney had his faults like the rest of us. He was not a perfect man nor did we expect him to be. Like most of us, he continued to grow as he moved through life and in time he recognized women could compete alongside men," Norman wrote.

"He knew that talent had no color or ethnicity, and he judged people by their ability to do their job and do it well. Walt Disney was a man of his time, but he was determined not to be imprisoned by it. He dreamed of a better world and even had the audacity to try and build it. Hardly an American to be vilified. Walt Disney deserves to be celebrated."

The Walt Disney Family Museum also responded with their own blog post titled, "In Defense of Walt Disney."

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com

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