“The New Yorker” Not So Good on Animation History

I think Walt Disney’s family might be surprised to read the following sentence that somehow made it into the New Yorker‘s Eli Broad profile published on December 6:

In 1987, Lillian Disney, Roy Disney’s widow, donated fifty million dollars for the construction of a symphony hall to replace the acoustically flawed Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and by 1995 Frank Gehry had been selected as the architect and had completed the design.

The LA Times also critiqued this particular sentence, but instead of catching the obvious error, they debated whether Chandler Pavilion is acoustically flawed. Welcome to the lonely world of the animation historian, and our constant struggle against the mainstream media’s indifference to the art form and its most important figures.


  • Thomas Hatch

    Keep your eyes on the prize, Amid!

  • Karen

    They also rarely mention Lillian’s second husband, John L. Truyens.

  • Brian

    Not every animator or animation fan knows that Lillian was the name of Walt Disney’s wife. I didn’t know that. I wouldn’t call it obvious.

    • http://http://cabbagesandkingsanimation.blogspot.com/ Zimos

      A fair point. I also didn’t know the name of Walt Disney’s wife. However If I were a journalist writing a piece for the New Yorker I might dig a little deeper. Spending 10 seconds on wikipedia searching for Lillian Disney yielded this:

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      Lillian Disney (February 15, 1899 – December 16, 1997) was the wife of Walt Disney. She was married to him from 1925 until his death in 1966.

      That’s the first sentence on the page. The issue seems not to be whether Mr. Broad knew the name of Walt Disney’s wife, but whether he deemed it worth his time to spend 30 seconds investigating.

      • amid

        It should also be noted that The New Yorker has what is considered to be the best fact-checking team in publishing. Here is former New Yorker writer Dan Baum explaining how it works:

        “I particularly liked the fact-checkers, who go way beyond getting names spelled right and actually do a lot of reporting. More than once, the fact-checkers uncovered information I hadn’t had, found crucial sources I hadn’t interviewed. It’s like having a team of back-up reporters.They work like soldier ants, and are invariably cheerful. Their boss, Peter Canby, is a calm and competent gentleman.”

  • http://kecky.blogspot.com kecky

    Oh dear!!!

  • Tim Hodge

    Imagine all the other mistakes that journalists make about world events and other important matters that we never realize simply because we may not know the intricacies of those arenas.

  • ken kahn

    To label this an example of “mainstream media’s indifference to the art form” rather than just a simple oversight I think is more an example of your sensitivity to the media, which I understand. Is the rest of the information regarding the donation correct? If so shouldn’t we/you be glad that this piece of history was mentioned at all for those (like myself) that never knew this?

    Am I missing something?

  • Julius Gryphon

    This strikes me as less of an example of indifference to the art form and more of an example of sloppy fact checking in journalism in general. I find it a little hard to get upset about this when a couple of weeks ago I watched reports on an explosion that either killed six people or no one depending on which channel you tuned in on.

  • santa

    ……. is that sentence flawed? I can’t tell. I don’t know anything about the latter two people!

  • Steven M.

    It’s not surprising since just about everyone in the mainstream media is a dick.

  • Stephen

    The New Yorker’s fact-checking department used to be rigorous. It’s slipped a bit these days; that error should have been caught.

  • Roland Denby

    Oversights happen. Mistakes happen.

  • http://robertkohr.com Robert Kohr

    @ Brian – true I didn’t either. However journalists need to check their sources and not get their information from Wikipedia. My GF is in finance and is on the media a lot, it seems that when it comes to financial news reporters spend the time and check sources where on more ‘arts and luxury’ pieces there isn’t as much of an effort.

  • Rob C.

    Really ken kahn! Mainstream media? Is this Fox’s Cartoon Brew?

  • Brian Kidd

    I knew Roy was the Businessman of the two, but I didn’t know how far that moniker actually went!

    *rimshot*

    Thanks, folks. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waitresses. Those dames work hard.

  • precode

    In a related story, it turns out Dewey did NOT defeat Truman.