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Ideas/Commentary

Did ‘Family Guy’ Take It Too Far With This Walt Disney Joke?

Walt Disney hated Jews.
Walt Disney hated African-Americans.
Walt Disney hated Mexicans.
Walt Disney hated women.
Walt Disney hated gay people.

All of those statements are false, with no basis in historical fact, but that hasn’t stopped contemporary Hollywood from trying to rewrite history and convince today’s kids that Walt Disney was some kind of villain.

Last night this classic Cartoon Brew post — “Why Kids Today Think Disney was a Jew-Hating, Hitler-Loving Racist” — started receiving a lot of new traffic, and it took me a second to figure out why: Family Guy did another “joke” aimed at tarnishing Disney’s reputation. This time Seth MacFarlane’s show took it one step further, not only calling Disney a Nazi supporter, but suggesting that the trains that run around Disneyland are actually Holocaust trains designed to kill Jews. Watch it below:

Another lame attempt by Family Guy to perpetuate the myth that Walt Disney supported the Nazis.

A video posted by Cartoon Brew (@cartoonbrew) on

Audiences don’t seem to care whether these insulting remarks toward Walt Disney have any root in historical fact. The sentiment resonates because the Walt Disney Company is the most powerful entertainment brand in the world today, and the more successful it grows, the more people search for a way to rebel against its pervasive influence in global culture. For people who are tired of Disney products being shoved down their throats, watching scurrilous attacks on the company’s namesake provides a cathartic release. Truth is besides the point.

  • Alex

    Walt Disney hired Ben Sharpsteen to run his day to day who, according to Neal Garbler’s biography, was an incredible anti semite. Hiring Sharpsteen is an anti semmetic act if he chose to turn a blind eye to it. No one is racist in 2015, they just do racist things.

    • He also hired Kay Kamen to run his merchandising, the Sherman Brothers to write his music, and had Joe Grant among his animators, and hired Gunther Lessing as his attorney, so there ya’ go. But I see here that you’re really just deferring Disney’s supposed antisemitism onto Ben Sharpsteen.

      • Alex

        So he had Jewish friends. Ben Sharpsteen wouldn’t hire Jewish animators, would fire the existing ones, belittle them, insult them, just make the workplace there a toxic place for Jews. This isn’t gossip, this was in THE biography on him. All those guys you mentioned were just employees. This was Disney’s right hand man. While he was off dreaming about trains running through his house or building a city this was the person he wanted to run everything.

        Disney said anti semmetic things casually, treated the Sherman Brothers like garbage if we want to bring them up (but then again he treated everyone like garbage, ruling through fear and whatnot) and clips like the one from The Three Little Pigs really speak for themselves.. I don’t get why this website jumps to defend a dude who– for all intents and purposes was anti semmetic– just not as anti semmetic as he COULD HAVE BEEN. That’s a deeply disrespectful stance to take. But again– no is racist in 2015 unless they’re literally Adolf Hitler, and even then.

        • AmidAmidi

          You can keep claiming that Disney was anti-Semitic and racist and all that nonsense, but there is not one shred of evidence that supports your claim. In all my research on the man, I’ve not run across a single instance of Walt Disney hiring, firing, or otherwise making a personnel decision on the basis of race or creed. (As a sidenote, you’re overstating Sharpsteen’s influence within the studio and not clearly understanding his job.)

          There were systemic inequalities in America back then just as there are today that prevented people from rising up the ranks, but Walt himself was as fair and ethical in his treatment of employees as could be reasonably expected of any corporate boss in the first half of the 20th century.

          • Bobby Bickert

            Walt Disney did fire Tomny Kirk because of his sexual orientation.

          • andreas wessel-therhorn

            not what I heard. In fact, when the mother of a boy that Tommy had had a thing with went to Walt and insisted that he fire him,Walt said no since it didn’t happen on Studio premises. Tommy worked out his contract, just like plenty of other actors who’s contract was not renewed

  • Matthew Gottula

    Family Guy hasn’t been funny in years.

  • Pedro Nakama

    With humor like that how did Seth get a lifetime achievement award from the Writer’s Guild?

    • Lutti

      Seth hasn’t touch a Family Guy script in years. Or American Dad or Cleveland Show. Isn’t he like, executive producer at FOX now? He doesn’t really have time to sit down and write scripts random TV episode scripts. His creative output has been moved to features (Blahblah “but those aren’t good either!” blahblah. Creative output is creative output, doesn’t matter if it’s good or not). He pretty much just uses his name to help people get their show started on FOX, kind of like Cosmos.

      You get those kinds of achievements based on position, money, and how much influence you have on others, not really skill.

      • Gayle

        He provided the voice for Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, Brian Griffin, and Glenn Quagmire. He’s still on the show, and he still writes for the show. as well.

    • Partyrama

      he doesn’t write every thing the other writers do most of the work

  • William Bradford

    I assume someone caught Disney saying something anti-Semitic…. which in the time period was something everyone was doing. I don’t think Disney was any more racist then anyone else of the time period; which admittedly was pretty darned racist by today’s standards.

    • Strong Enough

      lol somehow that doesn’t make it sound any better.

    • Paul M

      But can you find any such incidents written down or quoted by a credible source, anywhere?

    • Agreed Disney did and said somethings that in retrospect were not that great. However he was no different than most of his contemporaries and in some ways better. For instance the treatment of woman in his studio.

  • Bill “Danger” Robinson

    “Truth is besides the point.”

  • Tony

    I don’t think McFarlane believes Walt Disney was an anti-Semite. I think he just capitalizes on that myth for a cheap laugh.

  • Alexandria Lynn

    I think this all has to do with the fact that Seth got angry when Dan Povenmire left Family Guy for Disney to make Phineas and Ferb because the two were good co-workers. This was how he delt with the loss. If anyone begs to differ, please tell me so!

    • Ken Smith

      Nope. “Family Guy” was making Walt Disney is anti-Semite jokes long before Dan moved on to other pastures. Plus – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4qrFQUG_ow

      • Lotta Litter

        He looks different in this picture. Has Seth had some work done? Maybe a show can make fun of that.

  • Lexie

    So this article boils down to Family Guy went too far, think of the children and “I’m offended”.

    First of all, the show is not intended for kids. It’s such a cheap tactic to use kids as a shield to hide your own sensibilities behind. Family Guy isn’t responsible for anyone’s damn kids or their lack of critical thinking. Rather than blame the show for it’s material, parents should simply block access to the show from their kids if they honestly care that much. Also, this is not the farthest Family Guy or any show could go. Not by a trillion billion million miles.

    What does this have to do with animation or art? You’re offended, and? So what do advocate? Censorship? This article complains but does not offer a solution to a perceived problem.

    • Sam Kail

      This isnt about protecting the children or being oversensitive, this is about Family Guy and other media using their platform to spread misinformation that people will undoubtedly believe, which is very dangerous. Dont take Family Guy seriously? What about when Family Guy says Star Wars is good? Or the sky is blue? How are we supposed to know what constitutes as truths and what constitutes as “just jokes”? Everyones heard of the Walt Disney as a Nazi myth, Family Guy making a joke pretending its true only further purports that myth.

      • Ben

        Two words: critical, thinking.

        Getting your facts from Family Guy? Reevaluate your choices and maybe consider cross-referencing something. Read a book. Ask a friend.

        brb gonna go thaw out Walt and ask him myself.

      • mick

        ‘a joke pretending its true only further purports that myth’

        well I’m confused does that mean I should take it seriously? Isn’t a myth already a pretend truth?

        and the sky is actually blue… just to clear that one up

  • chris b

    Family Guy makes jokes based on exaggerated (or entirely false) stuff all the time, so it’s no big deal to see this one on the air. Although, I get that it’s a little irritating when you imagine the college kid who’s now going to say “yeah, well Disney was a Nazi” at his next frat party, based purely off seeing this one stupid joke.

    • rockyhardwick

      Or, you know, the fact that his descendants are still living.

      • enochrox

        I thought Ron was the last one with any involvement while the rest just collect checks because they were born into the family….

        • Matthew

          Ron’s minding the museum and his winery these days. Still not too late for him and Don Bluth to bury the hatchet.

  • Kris Åsard

    Calling out Family Guy for “taking it to far” is like calling out Philip Morris for the low nutritional value in cigarettes. Anyone who expects that kind of show to deliver facts to them has bigger issues to deal with.

  • Hössberger

    Family Guy is still on television?! News to me!

  • MaskedManAICN

    Speaking of becoming the ‘enemy’ when you’ve gained too much power and money. I’m surprised no cartoon is lampooning Seth.

  • Paul Jones

    Is Family Guy still even a thing? Is Seth? The answer to both is no. Time for him to go away.

  • Nicolás M.

    Who was Disney? Just look at his work you will find the true values of man he was.

  • @SpitAndSpite

    Aw man!!! And I already turned in my report!

  • KH

    It is a cartoon. Get over it. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. There are more important things to worry about than a cartoon making jokes.

    • NamelessDrake

      You do know you are on CARTOON Brew, right?

  • Cassie Devereaux

    I have no problems with people poking fun at The Mouse. But, it works better when it’s satire. I feel like when South Park has made fun of Disney they were doing it in this spirit, such as when they had fun with the cynical corporate Jonas Brothers/Purity Rings phenomenon. One might not agree with their conclusions, but the episode had a point of view behind it. It was actually /about something/, not just a reference. Family Guy relies too often on using references in place of humor. People chuckle because they’re a part of the group of people who get the reference, and that can be satisfying, but it’s not terribly funny on its own merits.

  • Mister_Munchie

    Katrina Longworth’s very detailed and well researched Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This talks about Disney’s backing of the very anti-union, anti-communist and anti-Semitic Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which is also well documented beyond the podcast. And the notion that whatever personal biases Disney may have had would have stopped him from hiring the best talent due to their ethnicbackground is highly disingenuous.

  • ddrazen

    It was here on Cartoon Brew that I read the the anecdote about Gyo Fujikawa, who was working at the Disney studio at the time (during World War 2), telling Walt how she disarmed some people on a train who suspected she was Japanese by making them think she was Chinese — Anna Mae Wong, to be precise. Walt railed against the ruse, telling her that as “an American citizen,” she shouldn’t have to have done that.

    Walt was a lot of things, including conservative and anti-communist and a fan of barnyard humor, but as mentioned above anti-Semitic was not part of the profile. Even if the writers are aware of this, it probably wouldn’t alter their strategy of writing for their audience of 13-year-olds of all ages.

    This is just another reason I’m glad I quit watching the show cold turkey and walked away.

  • Landon Kemp

    Family Guy hasn’t been relevant for years. Everyone hates it now, and they’ve done this sort of joke before, so why should this matter?

  • Michel Van

    This joke isn’t funny, it’s sordid and maladroit…

  • otterhead

    I think that when Seth MacFarlane watches South Park, all the nuance and intelligent commentary go over his head and he just sees permission to “push the envelope further”. Which he does, with stupid, foolish ‘jokes’ that are about on the level of Banksy’s “Dismaland”.

  • Lutti

    “but instead they go for another cheap Disney joke”
    Their audience laughs at cheap jokes and they have to push out an average of 20 scripts for a season, and they KNOW they’re going to be renewed. Why try very hard for a complicated joke that will only appear for 8 seconds then get lost in the sea of other Family Guy material?

    This isn’t a creative-driven show, it’s really just a way for a lot of people to get paid. American Dad has a whole different team of writers who actually care what happens to the characters because they were there since Day 1. The FG writing team gets swapped out periodically. They probably write fast, write easy jokes, get good ratings, call it a day. Family Guy doesn’t have to try very hard to succeed. American Dad on the other hand, is always on the verge of being cancelled.

    • Barrett

      You make “Family Guy” sound like the entertainment equivalent of McDonald’s – a crap factory that needs to pump out X number of turds on a bun per hour to make a profit. I suppose I’ve heard worse comparisons.

      If that really is the mindset behind the current showrunners, they ought to be ashamed to themselves. Un-PC humor? Fine. Not every show needs to be polite or intelligent. Beavis and Butthead worked wonderfully for what it was. But lazy, throw sh-t at the walls writing just to meet your episode quota? Even “Family Guy” used to be better than that in its first run, and American Dad and Cleveland Show most certainly are/were better than that.

  • Steven Bowser

    It’s so ironic that people wish it were true just so they can joke about it. It’s like Willie Wonka being evil, it’s just too funny to ignore. But it’s total b.s.

  • Strong Enough

    we all know who Disney really hated. COMMIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gordan

    Amid: “The sentiment resonates because the Walt Disney Company is the most powerful entertainment brand in the world today, and the more successful it grows, the more people search for a way to rebel against its pervasive influence in global culture.”

    I think this is only part of the reason, Amid. This joke also “works” because it perfidiously juxtaposes the established image of Disney’s wholesomeness (e.g., innocent entertainment for children) with the most egregious horrors of one of the most brutal regimes on earth (e.g., Nazi death camps). Here we have Auschwitz as the magic kingdom and Disneyland as a concentration camp! It’s almost as if there is some perverse pleasure in demonstrating that the man responsible for the most innocuous magical kingdom in the world was, at the same time, the most bigoted, xenophobic, racist, sexist sadist who now turns out to have also been complicit in genocide and human rights violations. How ironic, how funny, haha….NOT! Too cheap!

    • Barrett

      It’s also annoying because Seth and his writers are so “late to the party.” The whole “Uncle Walt was an anti-Semite” thing was really big in the late 80s and early 90s. After a few rounds of debunking, the rumors were shown to be a true as those of him being frozen for later revival. This is old, tired stuff in the same vein as “Elvis faked his death” or “Richard Gere stuck a gerbil up his butt.” It’s not even worth making jokes about anymore it’s so old and lame, yet that doesn’t stop them from doing it.

      It also seems like it keeps escalating, from early jokes where it was just Walt demanding to be re-frozen because the Jews were still around, to later episodes where there’s sometimes bloody on-screen violence done to Jewish characters (such as the otherwise-excellent multiverse scene in the “Disney universe.”) I am not a huge South Park fan, but I have to give those guys credit for constantly going after fresh targets. It makes the show a bit more “of the moment” but it helps them from going stale. “Family Guy” clearly isn’t interested in that.

  • Barrett

    I dunno, I’d say Seth has done even more “Back to the Future”-based gags than Disney gags. The guy must have lived, breathed, and eaten that movie for all the references he’s made in all three of his shows over the years. Hell, he even had Doc Brown do an (admittedly funny) cameo in his western.

  • Obo Agboghidi

    “Cis was a popular term before Southpark touched any transexual issue. Not sure what you are blaming Southpark for

    • Ben Laserlove

      Yeah, but I was talking about specifc twist of ‘Cis’ that appeared in that South Park episode (unless you know where it originated). I was also very carefully to not blame the content itself.

  • Tyson James
  • Matthew

    I’ve been watching FG since day one and I liked TED a lot better than AMWTDITW.