According to recently-disclosed US government documents, the cartoon king served for more than a quarter of a century as a special agent for the FBI, feeding the bureau information about actors, writers, producers and others deemed to be subversive.
The papers reveal that in an era when Hollywood talents were being blacklisted on often flimsy suspicions of Communist tendencies and dragged before witch-hunting congressional committees, Disney was working as a secret informer for the FBI's Los Angeles office with the title 'Full Special Agent in Charge Contact' - a term used for a trusted operative.
Evidence that there was a sinister side to the man behind Goofy and Donald Duck is contained in Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince, an unauthorised biography by Marc Eliot, which is soon to be published in the US. The documents, acquired by Mr Eliot under the Freedom of Information Act, have been independently authenticated by the New York Times.
Nor was the animator, who was known to be right-wing, the only spy in Tinseltown. The bureau also valued 'Source T-10'. Step forward, Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Disney's relationship with the G-men, which stretched from 1940 until his death in 1966, appears to have been complex. He allowed J Edgar Hoover access to some of his scripts, and made minor changes to placate him. .
Pleasing the notoriously neurotic Hoover cannot have been easy. He once took issue with a Disney film called That Darn Cat, in which the main character was a cat-cum-undercover FBI agent. According to a memorandum from the bureau, the agency was none too happy about the cat's activities, which it felt were disrespectful. It 'happily forages in garbage cans every night', the memo complained. A pursuit which the Feds, of course, would never contemplate.Reuse content