The magic of Disney is fading, according to the president of the Catholic League.
Disney has adopted a woke “idea of diversity, which sounds innocuous on the face of it, [but] is really an agenda to divide people,” Bill Donohue says. “And that’s what they’re doing. They’re dividing people on the basis of family, on the basis of race, on the basis of sex, sexual orientation.”
Donohue joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss his group’s new documentary, “Walt’s Disenchanted Kingdom.” The film shines a light on how Disney has drifted from its pro-family roots to become a poster child for an agenda that puts radical political ideology before the innocence of children.
Virginia Allen: We are joined today by Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, to discuss the new documentary “Walt’s Disenchanted Kingdom.” Mr. Donohue, thank you for being here today.
Bill Donohue: Thank you so much for having me.
Allen: Well, the documentary “Walt’s Disenchanted Kingdom,” it’s out and available for individuals to watch. They can watch it for free on YouTube.
And you have so many great voices in this documentary, true leaders right now in our generation, and one of those individuals is Brent Bozell, the founder and president of the Media Research Center. And I was really fascinated by what Brent had to say in the documentary because he said that Disney, “that they are not only promoting ideology that is anti-parent right now, but that they’re actually being anti the nuclear family.”
Explain this, if you would. What are we seeing from Disney that is causing individuals like yourself and Brent Bozell to say, “No, Disney has actually become anti the nuclear family”?
Donohue: Well, it’s striking, isn’t it? It seems to me that Black Lives Matter played a major role on this as well as the Smithsonian because they’re promoting the idea that the nuclear family is a problem.
Now, their argument is that we should not look down on one-parent families. I happen to come from one and I agree, you shouldn’t look down on one-parent families, but let’s not pretend that there isn’t a gold standard.
The blue-chip family is the intact family, and if you look at the successful ethnic groups in this country, as I have coming up with a new book, I’m looking at the Asians, the Mormons, the Nigerians, Jews, they all come from major intact families.
The Left, however, has long regarded, going back to Germany in the ’40s and the ’50s and ’60s in the Frankfurt School, they’ve regarded the family as a problem. The reason the family is a problem is because it stands in the way, like the church. It stands in the way of the state from having too much power.
Now, Disney, I am not saying that the very top people of Disney are even aware of the Frankfurt School. I am saying that there are people there who are working in Disney who understand what the radical agenda is like. I don’t believe they’re the majority, but like we’ve seen over and over again, organizations can actually be taken over by a tyranny of the minority. And they’re caving into this woke culture, which says that the family is a problem and they use the guise of, let’s say, being tolerant to people who come from one-parent families. That’s not really it.
Disney made its money in its glory days off of being family-friendly, the most family-friendly institution in American history. And for it now to pivot and listen to those on the far Left, this is very disturbing. It’s one of the reasons why I decided to go with this movie.
Allen: Well, it’s been fascinating to watch some of the events that have just taken place within the last year in regards to Disney.
Of course, last year we saw Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis introduce the Parental Rights in Education Act that just simply was introduced to prevent the teaching of gender identity ideology to kids in grades K-3. And Disney lost their minds over this and really came out in strong opposition to this bill.
And we’ve seen this shift that for so many years, for decades, Disney had these four guiding keys that they told their employees, that their mission, the foundation of what they were about was about safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. Those were their four guiding principles, but then they introduced a fifth key. Talk a little bit about that fifth key and that shift that we’ve seen at Disney, really, I would say, over a number of years, but maybe put on warp speed within the last one to five years.
Donohue: Well, their idea of diversity, of course, is something which is very controversial. By the way, this is not just Disney. I’ve been doing this job here at the Catholic League now for about 30 years. We’ve always seen this kind of a, they didn’t use the term woke culture, woke politics, left-wing politics. We’ve always seen it in the media and education, entertainment industry, the arts, nonprofit activist organizations.
Only in the last few years, in the last, I’d say, three to five years have we seen the elite at the top in the military, the health care industry, and the corporate world—and certainly Disney’s in the corporate world—go down this road.
But their idea of diversity, which sounds innocuous on the face of it, is really an agenda to divide people. And that’s what they’re doing. They’re dividing people on the basis of family, on the basis of race, on the basis of sex, sexual orientation. That’s what drove multiculturalism back in the 1980s when Jesse Jackson showed up at Stanford University, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s got to go.”
Well, there’s an animus on the part of the Left against Western civilization, and they use this idea of diversity as a wedge to divide people. And that’s why you have separate graduation ceremonies at Harvard and Yale and others on the basis of race. …
Allen: So what do you think the motivator is for Disney with all of this? We know that they have adopted a lot of these really, really radical ideologies, but why?
Donohue: Well, a lot of the people in the financial industry now, BlackRock and others with this entire idea of equity, are pushing this. A lot of it has to do with just being chic. They want to show that they have a moral perch, that they are better than the rest of us. A lot of it is white guilt. A lot of it is driven by white guilt. Some of it’s ideologically-based.
But they’re trying to say, “We’re not like everybody else.” Basically what they’re saying is that, “The working class people are the problem. We’re not that problem,” which is why they don’t mind raising the rates for their theme parks because they really don’t want the working class. They don’t want middle-class people. They prefer the more well-educated people.
And if you take a look at the surveys, the more well-educated people, particularly those with post-graduate education, they’re the most Left of any segment of American society. Sure. Why shouldn’t they be? They live in neighborhoods where they have gated communities. They have their own private security. Their kids go to private school, they don’t go to the public schools, and we know that.
So they’re aloof from the consequences of their own ideas. And until people have to live with the consequences of their ideas, they have an escape valve and that’s going on at Disney.
Allen: One of the things that I found really interesting and that I really appreciated about the documentary “Walt’s Disenchanted Kingdom” is that you-all actually talked to Disney employees, to people that have watched this shift in change. What is the perspective from those on the inside? How do they feel about the direction that Disney’s headed in?
Donohue: Well, once again, we see the same kind of phenomena. The average American wants to go out on the golf course or go bowling or go to a movie or take a vacation or go out with their kids, go to a park, go to a picnic. They don’t get involved in politics. A tiny minority have always been involved in politics, but today it’s gone to such extremes that they are misrepresenting the average person.
From what we’ve learned, and I can’t prove this, but from what we’ve learned, the average Disney employee is not a political animal. They are not motivated by some animus against the family or religion. A lot of this is an attack on Christianity, let’s face it. But they’re not represented. They don’t have a voice. They’re not organized. And those people who are organized, the old adage about the squeaky wheel has always been true, but now it’s more true than ever. And unless the rank and file begin to push back—by the way, that’s what this movie is about.
This movie is not about making money for the Catholic League, if anything, it’s costing us a lot of money. We went into this for one purpose, to be a cultural marker, to get to hit a cultural nerve in our society, to get people jacked up.
The average person—look at all those great women out there, the mothers who learned, through COVID, what was going on in the classroom. That’s very much related to this. That’s how we found out about what’s going on in the classroom and what DeSantis was doing.
Getting kids at the age of 5, 6, 7, and 8 to question, “Are you happy, satisfied being a boy or a girl?” What is the purpose of this? This is sexual engineering. It’s child abuse. It’s exploitative. They shouldn’t be teaching the kids about gay or straight, anything to do with sexuality at those ages. They should let kids be kids. But the loud minority now has spoken up.
I am hoping that with this documentary, if it gets wide distribution, more and more people will learn. They’ll say, “You know what? It’s gone too far.” And then the message gets back to Disney. I’m not saying we’ll radically change them, but I think they might tap the brakes.
Allen: Well, what are the implications on Disney? Because we see at an increasing number Disney’s willingness to put gay characters, to put trans characters into their movies. We saw last year with the film “Lightyear” that it included a scene with two women kissing. What is the tangible effect that we know or do we know if there’s a bottom-line effect that Disney is feeling?
Donohue: Well, the whole idea here of sexualizing children and then getting to question about whether they’re happy being a boy or a girl is to play into this idea that there’s no such thing as human nature. And if there’s no such thing as human nature, there’s no such thing as nature’s God. Everything is fluid.
Well, I have a doctorate in sociology from New York University, and I’ve written and spoken on this subject for decades, quite frankly, there is such a thing as truth. There is such a thing as reality. All right? I’m not a woman. I can’t get pregnant. And unless we speak up and speak the truth, this thing’s only going to get worse. And that’s what’s going on. The Left would have you believe—and this is what’s driving this whole thing here with Disney—that life is nothing more than a social construct. No, that’s not the case.
As a matter of fact, if you look at human universals, those characteristics are true across cultures throughout all of history. There are hundreds of them. Then the society and the culture takes its cues from nature. That’s why we have, for example, the mother taking care of the child more than the father. They’re taking cues from nature. This is what they don’t want. They want the idea that there’s no fundamental difference between the sexes. Everything is fluid. Everything is a rolling social construct. That’s simply a lie.
There is truth. There’s an anthropological difference between men and women and an anatomical difference between men and women. Biological differences between men and women. They want to erase it and it’s madness on stilts.
Allen: Mr. Donohue, are you comfortable with the kids in your family watching Disney movies?
Donohue: Well, I happen to have some grandkids, and my daughter and her husband are, they do allow them to watch some Disney movies, but they’re screening, and I think what’s going to happen is that many more people are going to filter it. If Disney gets the message and they’ve been losing at the box office, let’s face it, on this, if they get the message through this documentary and other people pushing back, I do think they’ll tap the brake. I think they may push the envelope a little bit here and there, but they have to make money. And there’s an outrage. That’s why we’re making this documentary.
We knew that there was a cultural nerve out there, and if enough people independent of religion, you could be an atheist and still find this thing objectionable. And by the way, a number of people in the gay community are taking affront to this. They don’t like it. So this is not splitting on the basis of straight or gay whatsoever. Certainly if you have children and grandchildren, yes, it touches a nerve that’s even much more tender.
Allen: One thing that you discuss in the documentary is Disney’s relationship with China, which I found very fascinating. How is Disney approaching and navigating their relationship with China?
Donohue: Well, China, of course, is potentially the biggest audience for Hollywood. I say potentially, not right now, but they’re looking to get that way. Bob Iger, who’s the new CEO, he was the previous CEO before [Bob] Chapek, he came in there now and he got China to accept the Marvel Comics. OK, that’s one thing.
But the Chinese communists as well as the Muslim nations of the Middle East, they are not exposed to sexual engineering of the likes that we were complaining about. Getting to the kids and questioning their sexuality … they’re being spared that because there’s a pushback on the part of the communists and part of the Muslim-run nations. They don’t afford us in America and in Western Europe the same courtesy. They’re trying to use the kind of corruption that’s been going on in the West as an anvil to hammer away at us. So I think that if they can persuade them, there’s more money in it.
I certainly do not support what’s going on in China at all, and I certainly can’t accept a lot of the censorial things that are going on in the Muslim-run nations. But it does say something that, even they are wary. Why does anybody want to confuse kids? And that’s what this is about. It’s about confusing kids.
If you read what’s going on with the drag queens—and I have to say, you guys have done as good a job as anybody in exposing what’s been going on here. The proponents of it admit, “We want to confuse people.” That’s the goal, to confuse people and the children, if you can get to the kids, and then everything becomes very fluid. To me, it’s pernicious.
Allen: Is Disney going to course-correct?
Donohue: Oh, I think there’s no such thing as an iron law in history. That’s a fable. So things are reversible. Big institutions do change. Sometimes they change quickly. Sometimes it’s like turning the Queen Mary. But I do know that there is a bottom line, not just with money, but people have to be concerned about their image.
I’ve been fighting Disney for a long time. I fought with them back in 1995 when the Disney-owned distributor, Miramax, the Weinstein brothers, they put out this invidious movie about a Catholic priest, the name of the movie, it was called “Priest.” And I’m not going to go through all that right now, but we pushed back on that and we saw some changes.
All I’m saying is this, the average person is not an activist. They’re looking to people like myself and many, many others. Many of them are in this movie to be leaders, to be the warriors. But we alone are like the generals. We don’t win wars by ourselves. We need troops and the troops need the generals.
And if this culture war is up for grabs, I am not saying at all that our side is winning. I am not saying that the other side has won. But at some point, this clash between cultures, the secular militants and those who believe in traditional moral values, we just can’t live in a bifurcated society any longer. One side will triumph over the other, and it’s my hope that those people that believe in traditional moral values will succeed.
Allen: Before we let you go, could you just take a moment to explain what you-all do at the Catholic League and how making documentaries like “Walt’s Disenchanted Kingdom” fits into your mission?
Donohue: That’s an excellent question. Our primary goal is to fight anti-Catholicism and to fight against infringements on religious liberty affecting any particular group. But we’re primarily involved with Catholics and Christians in a more general sense. But the reason we want the voice of the Catholic Church to be out there despite some failures on the part of the leaders, the teachings have always been solid. The teachings of the Catholic Church have been solid and we want that voice to be heard.
So the documentary is tapping into what’s going in our culture. We’re trying to get support for traditional moral values as understood by practicing Catholics, observant Jews, evangelical Protestants, most Mormons and Muslims. We should never leave these people out of the equation. They have kids. They’re concerned as well. And I dare say, people who are unbelievers, if you’ve got kids, you’ve got to be concerned about the direction of our culture. That’s what we’re trying to do here with this documentary.
Allen: Well, for anyone who wants to watch the documentary themselves, they can find it on YouTube. We’ll put the link in today’s show notes. You can also learn more about the Catholic League and the work that they’re doing catholicleague.org. Mr. Donohue, thank you so much for your time today and for joining us to explain the work that you-all are doing and what you have done with this documentary “Walt’s Disenchanted Kingdom.”
Donohue: Thank you for the great work you’re doing at The Daily Signal. Keep it up.
Reporting from The Daily Signal.