Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made the studio record profits in 1938. Yet its animators received no credits, and were instead left facing low wages and lay-offs. The Screen Cartoonist’s Guild Local #858 Hollywood had won union contracts with MGM and Looney Tunes, and tried to open negotiations. But Disney refused to recognize the union, and on May 29th, the animators went to the picket line. The five-week strike only ended when President Roosevelt sent in federal mediators. They found in the Guild’s favor on every issue, from pay to screen credits.
After unionization, the atmosphere at Disney became intolerable for guild members. Several left to form United Productions of America, the studio that defined the modernist style of animation in the 1950s. Disney, meanwhile, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that he believed the strike leaders were communists, and many of his former artists were blacklisted.
“I’d rather be a cartoon dog. . . than a scab”
This CPH poster printed at the worker-owned and union-run Community Printers, Santa Cruz, CA.
This is #180 in the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series.
Lindsay Draws is an artist working with paper, clay, wood, and wool in East London.