On this day, the legendary film producer, entrepreneur and voice actor added another title to his long list of skills: FBI informer. He started working for the FBI and continued doing so until his death in 1966. The whole affair remained a well kept secret for more than 50 years. Only in 1993 was it revealed that Disney was serving as an informant for the Bureau, after classified documents were published under the Freedom of Information Act.
Disney’s role consisted in gathering information about suspected Hollywood subversives (aka communists) for the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Some of the information in the top secret documents disclosed in the 90’s was redacted for national security reasons, which means it’s impossible to know what names he passed on to the Bureau. However, in 1993 the New York Times wrote that in 1941, Disney accused several of the his studio’s animators of being communists because they had gone on strike. When he appeared in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in Washington that same year, Disney reiterated his accusations against some of these animators.
Disney also appeared to have a close relationship with the controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. He allowed Disney to film in the F.B.I. headquarters in Washington in return for the information. Disney also gave Hoover access to some Disney scripts and allowed him to make changes, though there’s no evidence he interfered with any of the classic animated features. In 1954, Disney was made “full Special Agent in Charge Contact” – S.A.C. Contact. The title referred to reliable informants that could be trusted with equipment.
Disney was not the only famous FBI Hollywood informant. In 1985, it was revealed Ronald Reagan had also helped the Bureau identify suspected communists working in Los Angeles in the 1940’s. Then an actor, the future president of the USA had the code name T-10. Even before McCarthyism prompted a slew of anti-Communist witch hunts in the 1950’s, Hoover, who was the FBI supremo from 1935 to 1972, was obsessed with hunting down and exposing alleged communist infiltration of American culture.
Silent cinema legend Charlie Chaplin, was one of Hoover’s biggest scalps in the anti-communist purge of Hollywood. Branded a “parlour Bolshevik” and blacklisted, the star of Modern Times and The Great Dictator, was banned from America in 1953 and lived the rest of his life in Switzerland.