80 Years Ago Disney Animation Workers Went on Strike

Labor News, Industry News

Disney artists strike outside their California studio in 1941. (Cartoon Brew)

Reprinted from Jacobin by Paul Prescod on May 29, 2021.

“This wasn’t your average picket line,” writes Paul Prescod in Jacobin. “’It’s up to Walt to call the halt,’ read a striking worker’s picket sign beside a picture of Mickey Mouse. Another featured an image of Pinocchio saying, ‘There are no strings on me.’

“Walt Disney snarled at strikers as he walked into his Burbank studio; workers in turn hollered back. Workers that crossed the picket line were called ‘finks’ and ‘scabs,’ while those on strike were dismissed as ‘Commies.’

“While Walt Disney’s dalliances with antisemitism have become common knowledge in recent years, his abusive labor practices are less widely discussed. Eighty years ago [on Saturday], picket lines destroyed the facade of the magical world of Disney. The strike by Disney cartoonists and animators on May 29, 1941, forever changed the labor standards of an industry — and inspired a segment of cultural workers to take greater ownership over their labor. …

Jacobin 5/29

[Bear in mind that 1941 was a bumper year for labor activism in Hollywood. Over 10,000 union members went on strike. Not just against Disney.]

About Jeffrey Burman 861 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at jeffrey.s.burman.57@gmail.com.