Animation Historian Jake Friedman Reveals Disney’s Labor History

FIT faculty member Jake S. Friedman, instructor of the History of Animation course, has published his third book. In The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation’s Golden Age, Friedman examines a chapter of Disney history that has gone unreported for 80 years.

Cover of "The Disney Revolt"In the 1930s and ’40s, often referred to as animation’s golden age, labor unions spread across Hollywood and the United States enacted the most comprehensive labor laws in the nation’s history. At Disney, the era saw star animator Art Babbitt contribute to studio-defining projects including Fantasia, Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Dumbo—while throwing his weight behind a nascent unionizing effort among the studio’s animators. Walt Disney vehemently opposed the move, and the disagreement that came to a head in 1941 in a strike that nearly destroyed the studio, and changed the two men’s relationship forever.

Friedman used never-before-seen research from previously lost records, including conversation transcriptions from within the studio walls, to recount the blow-by-blow story leading up to the strike in a work that Booklist called “a fascinating chronicle of an essential labor dispute.”

The Disney Revolt was published in July by Chicago Review Press.

Learn more about Friedman’s process and the book on the School of Art and Design blog.

Friedman was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition in July about the book. Listen here.

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