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Disney Co. has moved past Walt's racism

November 29, 2009

Disney moved past Walt

It is entirely possible that Disney was not as violently racist as an artist like D.W. Griffith ("Was Walt a Prince or a Toad?," Nov. 22). It is most likely that Disney's view of blacks was not uncommon for white men of his time and place, regarding them with gentle indifference and quiet bemusement.

Disney knew black performers, yes, but that is merely recognizing their existence and acknowledging the value of their work, not a sign of respecting them as equals. In any case, it is irrelevant whom Disney consulted in making his movies or who most prominently leveled the charge of racism against him; the crows in "Dumbo" and the concept of "Song of the South" was and remains jaw dropping even if seen in a vacuum. Art should speak for itself, which unfortunately "Song" does.

The Disney Co. has evolved drastically since Walt's death, much to, ironically, the contempt of social conservatives. "The Princess and the Frog" should be recognized as the continuation of Disney's quality of filmmaking and family entertainment, not his social views.

J. Richard Singleton

Los Angeles

Blacks' jobs at Disney limited

In regard to Neil Gabler's essay, I think he needs to do more research regarding Disney's dismal record regarding minorities.

In the middle 1950s I worked with a black fellow who had quit working as an artist in the Disney animated film department to be a lowly copy boy for the old Los Angeles Examiner (not the Herald-Examiner).

I asked him what he did when he was at Disney Studios and he said, "I painted blue." The animated sequences used a lot of blue backgrounds because the blue color could be used to add a second bit of film to the sequence and add live film shots to hand-drawn animation.

The only thing he ever painted was blue, as did the few other black employees.

Howard Decker

Desert Hot Springs

Strasberg one of many masters

The value of progeny is that they carry on your tradition, truthful or not. In the case of Charles McNulty's piece ("So Methodical," Nov. 22) about the passing of the wand of acting teaching to Lee Strasberg's children and one of his widows, the facts may seem to be truthful but the actual, simple and joyous training of an actor in the profession of acting is completely lost in this article.

Lee Strasberg was only one of the many founders and contributors of the original Group Theatre in New York City (1931-41) that is still influencing our movies, theater and acting today. Several of our greatest acting teachers, including Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler, came out of the Group Theatre.

Because Lee Strasberg founded the Actors Studio with Elia Kazan, he is perhaps the best known by the general public, but insiders of the acting profession know better about the evaluation of acting teachers. Lee Strasberg was always a knowledgeable businessperson, and he continuously knew how to keep his position by many methods.

Suzanne Hahn Astin

Malibu

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I enjoyed Charles McNulty's article. My interest was particularly piqued by the focus on acting training being a lucrative industry. Unfortunately, the more lucrative any industry becomes, the consumer has to be careful of being taken for a ride.

Being a professional actor for almost 20 years, I understand this firsthand as I have had to return to the classroom on several occasions. I say "had to" because when I go through periods of no work (which for me is, uh . . . very often), I feel the need to train and exercise, like an athlete between seasons. Each time I have returned, I have looked for someplace new and different; someplace or someone that will help me grow so I can "knock 'em dead," become the next big thing, quit my survival job, pick and choose my projects, get a long-running series, amass huge sums of money, become tabloid fodder, then retire while drifting into oblivion on a tropical island with my own chinchilla farm.

Acting is a very personal experience that is done in a very public fashion. So we get hung up on many things, not the least of which is self-confidence. The trick is finding someone who can help us maneuver through our own land mines: those physical and internal elements that keep us from being the character and serving the material at hand.

Michael Butler Murray

Eagle Rock

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