Actress Meryl Streep used her public platform honoring fellow thespian Emma Thompson at an awards dinner to paint Walt Disney in a decidedly unflattering light.
“Disney, who brought joy, arguably, to billions of people, was perhaps, or had some … racist proclivities. He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobby. And he was certainly, on the evidence of his company’s policies, a gender bigot,” Streep said, according to a speech transcript via Variety.
During Streep’s nine minutes in front of the microphone at the 2014 National Board Of Review Awards Gala in New York City Tuesday, she painted a different picture of Disney than, Variety reported, “the sugarcoated hero played by Tom Hanks in ‘Saving Mr. Banks.’”
Not coincidentally Thompson costarred in the film — a Disney production — playing author P.L. Travers who meets with Disney over the adaptation of her novel, “Mary Poppins.”
Variety added: “Streep was once rumored to be in the running for the role of P.L. Travers, although her remarks suggest why she might not have pursued the project.”
Streep — who called Thomposn “a rabid, man eating feminist, like I am” — had this to say in regard to Disney’s view of females: “Some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women. Ward Kimball, who was one of his chief animators, one of the original ‘Nine Old Men,’ creator (of) the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and Jiminy Cricket, said of Disney: ‘He didn’t trust women or cats.’”
Streep also read a 1938 letter the Disney company wrote to a woman named Mary Ford who was applying to the company’s cartooning training program:
Dear Miss Ford,
Your letter of recent date has been received in the inking and painting department for reply. Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men. For this reason, girls are not considered for the training school. The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink, and then filling in the tracing on the reverse side with paint, according to the directions.
With that, Streep gave her review of “Saving Mr. Banks”: “When I saw the film, I could just imagine Walt Disney’s chagrin at having to cultivate P.L. Travers’ favor for 20 years that it took to secure the rights to her work. It must have killed him to encounter, in a woman, an equally disdainful and superior creature, a person dismissive of his own, considerable gifts and prodigious output and imagination.”