✨Joe the Artist✨blogging doodles, inspirations, mah face, and loads more. ;)
✨Joe the Artist✨blogging doodles, inspirations, mah face, and loads more. ;)
The Disney Company has made it’s back-catalog of work the foundation of the corporation since the 90′s. While at the same time, distancing themselves from the ugly realities that plague the companies history. Covering them up in hopes that the public forgets. Racism, animal abuse, and their now-obscure, former-superstar, young Bobby Driscoll.
The Disney Company, while so-often celebrating their “masterpiece collection” of films, and “Disney Legends” such as Mary Blaire, Annette Funicello and Kathryn Beaumont, the name Bobby Driscoll remains conveniently left out. This is entirely intentional.
Who is Bobby Driscoll?
Discovered in a barber shop at the age of 5, Bobby was the first actor to ever be signed under-contract by Disney Studios. In 1946, his starring role in Song of the South made him an overnight sensation. At one point, he was the highest paid child actor in Hollywood. Soon, he was Disney’s golden-goose, with films like Melody Time, So Dear to My Heart and Treasure Island. He even won an Academy Award for his performance in the film noir, the Window.
Today, he is best remembered as the voice and live-action model of the titular Peter Pan.
What Happened to Bobby Driscoll?
Despite his success, Bobby could never seem to please his parents. They physically abused him, and kept him locked in a closet for hours at a time. Sometimes, all night. When Bobby was around 9, the beatings became so bad Disney temporarily moved the boy in with the family of his co-star, Luana Patten. They could not shoot, after all, if their star was battered and bruised.
When shooting wrapped, he went back home. Child abuse was still extremely normalized during this time, and was also an accepted method of getting a good performance out of a child. Many of Bobby’s contemporaries describe being slapped in the face or being manhandled by adults as every-day occurrences on set.
Around this time, Walt Disney himself became fixated on Driscoll, Marc Elliot stating Walt often referred to Bobby as “the living embodiment of his own youth.” He saw the child as an extension of himself, and ignored Bobby’s own identity. Bobby was susceptible to the attention and latched onto Walt as a father figure. He came to see Disney Studios as a family, and indeed “Uncle Walt” encouraged this idea, especially among his child performers. One former animator described feeling uncomfortable by seeing higher-ups kiss Bobby on the face and mouth.
During Bobby’s pre-teen years, he was signed to a new 7-year contract and given a substantial raise of $1750 per week. Bizarrely, Bobby was now making the most money he ever would, while actually working less than ever before.
He was cast in the leading role of Peter Pan, as both the voice and visual inspiration for the character. Peter had Bobby’s wide eyes, and upturned nose. If you watch any Bobby Driscoll movie, and then watch Peter Pan in motion, you can easily see the character’s every facial expression and mannerism taken directly from Driscoll. His expressive eyebrows, nose-scrunching, even down to the way he positions his wrists.
As Bobby got older, Walt stopped speaking affectionately of him in meetings. He stated Bobby was no longer likeable enough to play protagonists. Meanwhile, Peter Pan was released, and is a massive hit.
In 1953, Bobby began to hear rumours he would be fired. He tried asking the higher-ups he was formerly friendly with, but none would speak to him. He went to Walt’s secretary, asking to speak to Mr. Disney. She refused to call him, and when Bobby asked again, she abruptly told him he was no longer needed and to get out.
Stunned, Bobby burst into tears. She called security, and had the boy escorted off of Disney property. Disney Studios told the press they had let Bobby go due to an extreme case of acne, which sullied his image with other movie studios.
Personally, I don’t buy the acne explanation. Acne can be covered, and Disney was focusing heavily on television at this time, which had terrible picture quality compared to film. Not to mention, Walt had already talked about shifting Bobby into playing unlikeable bully characters. But the true reason for the cancellation of Bobby’s seven year contract may never be known.
Unable to find work, Bobby’s parents enrolled him in public school. He was mercilessly bullied for his Disney roles, being beaten up by his classmates constantly. He stated he “became afraid all the time”, and it was at this time he began experimenting with drugs.
After being imprisoned for possession of marijuana, he was eventually sentenced to a “rehab centre”. The so-called first of it’s kind, employed no doctors or nurses, and used abusive psychiatric practices now outlawed.
During this time, Disney was making millions off of the heavy merchandising of Peter Pan. Bobby never saw a dime from this, despite his likeness being used.
Bobby’s life remained difficult, and although he had a few more acting roles, and became a talented artist in the beatnik scene, he just couldn’t make enough money to get by.
He died on March 30th 1968, aged 31, without a penny to his name. Alone, and forgotten. He was found on a dirty cot in an abandoned building. His body was unidentified, and police could not find anyone who recognized him. He was buried in a mass grave, unmarked, on Hart Island.
Eventually, his mother asked Disney to help find him, and he was finally identified through finger prints. Although, his remains were not moved to a cemetery, which would have been possible at the time.
The public did not learn of Bobby’s death until 1973, when Song of the South was re-released in theatres. After his death had been reported, actress Jane Wyman insinuated in an interview that Bobby had been sexually abused while working for Disney.
Erasure of Bobby by Disney
As mentioned above, Bobby has never been named an official “Disney Legend”, despite fan petitions and letter-writing campaigns since the start of the program in the late 80′s.
Both the Peter Pan VHS, and DVD making-of featurettes only mention Bobby Driscoll in passing. Compared to the Alice in Wonderland DVD, which features an entire documentary about Alice’s voice actress.
The DVD release of So Dear to My Heart was cancelled without explanation. Years later, it was quietly released as a Disney Movie Club Exclusive. Making it rare and difficult to find.
Fan requests for a memorial to Bobby Driscoll in Disney Parks have also gone unanswered. Disney will likely never own up to Bobby Driscoll, or what the company did to him. His story is tragic, and paints the company in an uncomfortable light, going directly against it’s branding of love, family and happy endings. After all, if the average joe-blows and Karens of the world knew what happened to Bobby Driscoll, they might cancel their Disney+ subscription. And Disney certainly doesn’t want that to happen.
Disney is gross and denies its own history of problematic behaviour
1700's medical illustrators be like "hey boss can I put a rhinoceros behind this anotomically correct sketch of the human skeleton" and the boss be like "only for the books being published in these specific european countries" and then they high-five and go out for drinks
France, Holland and Germany:
yoooo that’s Clara the rhinoceros - she was towed around Europe so much in the mid 18thc. as an exotic attraction that she became like a fad and all sorts of artists drew, painted, and sculpted her (and also randomly stuck her in the bkgds of anatomical drawings)
lol, for everyone asking about the ‘void face’ woman - she’s wearing a mask called a ‘vizard’ or ‘moretta’. they originally show up in late 16thc upper class European ladies fashion. They were worn while traveling to maintain a fashionably pale complexion, but they evolved over time to become a popular component of masquerades.
In Venice in particular, the style lingered and became popular to wear during Carnival, or as a way for upper class women to disguise their identity so they could engage in activities that might otherwise be considered improper (gambling, flirting, or just like... going about the city without a proper chaperone)
an interesting construction note - these masks weren’t tied on. They were made with a bead or button attached inside the mask which was held between the teeth. If a wearer wanted to speak, she would have to remove the mask.
This was a lot of history to absorb at 1:42 am