“Walt Did Damage”: Disney Acknowledges Mickey’s Offensive Past in a New Documentary

mickey mouse documentary

Since the Walt Disney Company has been making movies for a very long time, it stands to reason that many of Disney’s old movies or shows are offensive and inappropriate when seen from modern perspectives. Disney has been consciously recognizing many of these older, more “problematic” films or shows (even going so far as to remove “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from a parade), and now a new documentary is coming to Disney+ that will actually directly discuss Disney and Mickey Mouse’s sordid past!

Walt Disney with Wernher von Braun and his team.

Walt Disney with Wernher von Braun and his team. Credit:

In an interview about the upcoming documentary Mickey: The Story of A Mouse (which is premiering at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas and will soon come to Disney+), director Jeff Malmberg openly discussed his approach to displaying the inappropriate or offensive content that came from Disney in the past.


Credit: Disney

I come at Mickey from a very loving place. Like I think the world is a little less happy without Mickey in it, honestly,” Jeff Malmberg told The Wrap. “Anything that’s a universal kind of shortcut to joy and smiles is great by me. But I wanted [this documentary] to be an honest portrait…I had some questions and it was something I wanted to explore”.

jeff malmberg

Director and documentary filmmaker Jeff Malmberg Credit:

The Mickey Mouse content released during World War II will also be examined in the documentary Mickey: The Story of A Mouse, and this film will apparently not shy away from that either. When asked about the opinions of higher-ups at the Walt Disney Company regarding the no-holds-barred film, Jeff Malmberg said the following: “I think [it was okay] because we’d set a tone of like, “Hey, don’t get us wrong. We love Mickey, but there’s some interesting things that happened…I can’t speak for them, but it’s like in that instance, although it is World War II and I had heard that they were sensitive to that, really what we’re trying to bring up is that this character has tremendous power in a positive way. I didn’t ever get a sense from them that was a problem”.

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World. Credit: Disney

Director Jeff Malmberg also revealed that there is a discussion about racism in the documentary. “I mean, it was very important to me that we included it … it’s an 89-minute documentary, we’re not going to solve the issue of that. But we can at least bring up the question, and the line that I was glad that they let us include was that some of the images that Walt did with Mickey, Walt did damage. And I think that’s exactly right. And for a character who’s so supposedly inclusive, it’s just a sad moment. To their credit, they never flinched when we sent them that scene,” Malmberg said, referring to Mickey Mouse’s ‘blackface’.

The main purpose of this documentary will be, it seems, to ask questions in the hope that it will lead to progress. “I’ve got a seven-year-old. I love watching Disney+ with her. I love watching all that old animation. But some of that stuff’s problematic. So how do you solve that? Do you solve it with a paragraph?” Malmberg mused. “Do you solve it with a conversation? I don’t know. It just was important to us to create a scene that was honest. And that would hopefully lead to people talking about it”.

About Sharon

Sharon is a writer and animal lover from New England. Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures!

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