American producer of animated motion-picture cartoons.
Typewritten Letter Signed, full page, quarto, Hollywood, California, March 21, 1940. On imprinted stationery of Walt Disney Productions, to Congressman Charles A. Plumley in Washington, D.C. The letterhead, printed in color, carries the bold headline Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and depicts Pinocchio’s head and Jiminy Crickett.
“I address you with reference to the ‘Neely Bill’, which pertains to the questions of block booking and blind selling of motion pictures. My duties in connection with the production of our motion pictures occupy my time to such an extent that I have been unable to carefully read and analyze this proposed legislation. Therefore, I will not presume to impose my opinion as to its technical merits.
“Our company is an ‘independent’, as that term is generally understood. We produce cartoon short subjects such as the Mickey Mouse series, and an occasional feature like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, and like our current feature, ‘Pinocchio’. Therefore, our position differs in many respects from that of the ‘live action’ studios. It may be that the ‘Neely Bill’ might affect us much less than it would many of the other motion picture companies. Indeed our market is such that some of the Neely Bill’s provisions conceivably might react in our favor.
“On the other hand, as a matter of general principle, I am constrained to believe that legislative interference in an industry such as motion pictures might be harmful, and would be more likely to impede rather than further production and distribution. It is my opinion that the motion picture industry is qualified and capable of regulating itself from within, and such regulation, free from legislative pressure, would be more normal and would avoid undue disturbance and economic burdens. ”
The Neely Bill, a piece of antitrust legislation aimed at the Hollywood studios, was pushed through the House Committee on Interstate Commerce in 1940. Members of Congress, particularly Senators, did not like the way they were portrayed in Frank Capra’s film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, released in 1939. In fact, Joseph P. Kennedy considered the film such a dangerously unflattering picture of American democracy, that he attempted to suppress it by offering to buy all the prints.
Walt Disney, at this date, was at an artistic high point in his career. His signature character, Mickey Mouse, was a big success, and he had already made a name for himself in animated cartoons. When he decided the future of animation lay in feature films, he produced Snow White (in 1937) and Pinocchio (in 1940). In Snow White he pioneered the use of music to carry forward the story and advanced the art of animation to a new level of sophistication. Pinocchio shared all the qualities of Snow White but it was even more technically brilliant. In the pipeline were Fantasia (conceived as a comeback for Mickey Mouse) and Bambi. This artistic success, however, corresponded with an economic low. In 1938, while still carrying a full schedule of cartoon shorts, Disney decided to build a new studio. The financial pressures mounted and in April of 1940 (a month after the date of this letter), he found himself so short of operating capital that he was forced to offer stock to the public for the first time. Completely sure of himself, he refused to cut back on his ambitious production schedule.
Framed in antiqued gilt. Matted in green and cream. Framed dimensions: 15 1/8 inches wide by 17 5/8 inches high.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- Motion Pictures