National Council on Disability Document Archive

NFB statements on Disneys Magoo movie

Posted by: Jamal Mazrui
Date Mailed: Saturday, August 9th 1997 08:12 AM

                  Magoo Resolution Adopted by the
           	 Annual Convention of the
			       July 2, 1997, New Orleans, Louisiana
      And President Marc Maurer's Letter to 
		    Mr. Michael Eisner, 
	  President, Walt Disney Company

     WHEREAS, for 58 years the cartoon character Mr. Magoo has
perpetuated the old myth that blind people are bumbling,
unaware, helpless, and often crotchety; and

     WHEREAS, two generations of blind children have already
endured taunts in school and elsewhere with the belittling
label "Mr.  Magoo"; and

     WHEREAS, the Magoo character has fortunately become such
an anachronism that no studio has filmed any new Magoo movies
or TV shows for 32 years; and

     WHEREAS, until now the Walt Disney Company has never
offended blind Americans by producing entertainment which
included the inept and unaware Magoo character; and

     WHEREAS, recent press reports indicate that the Walt
Disney Company has bought the rights to Mr. Magoo in order to
capitalize on Magoo's supposed nostalgia by filming a new
feature-length, live-action Magoo movie expected to be
released during the Christmas holiday of 1997; and

     WHEREAS, the inescapable nature of Magoo is as offensive
and stereotypical to us today as Little Black Sambo and Amos
and Andy are to Americans of every race; and

     WHEREAS, the Los Angeles Times has quoted Jim Backus,
voice of Mr. Magoo, as saying of Magoo in 1976 that he'd "like
to bury the old creep and get some good dramatic roles"; and

     WHEREAS, a central element to the Magoo character is his
so-called funny ineptness in activities of ordinary life
because he can't see--an artless prejudice against the blind
that the National Federation of the Blind has fought to change
since 1940; and

     WHEREAS, we believe that the multi-million dollar budget
for Magoo--which exceeds the entire annual operating budget of
the National Federation of the Blind--represents a colossal
waste of resources toward an end unworthy of the Disney name;

     WHEREAS, the nation's largest organization of blind
people finds it objectionable that the multi-billion dollar
Walt Disney Company has apparently chosen to make new profits
at the expense of blind people; and

     WHEREAS, we believe that the values of this year's
holiday season (when this movie is projected to open) would be
better served by portraying blind competence, not
incompetence, blind alternative techniques rather than
helplessness, blind fellowship rather than isolation, and
blind inclusive humor rather than ridicule of us; and

     WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind stands
ready immediately to assist the Walt Disney Company in
developing movies and cartoons that show this positive, modern
understanding of the normal abilities of blind people without
resorting to ancient stereotypes: Now, therefore,

     BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this 2nd day of July, 1997, in the city
of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization condemn and
deplore Disney's attempt to raise Mr. Magoo from his deathbed;

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Walt Disney
Company to abandon production of this offensive project; to
return to Disney's tradition of making films which celebrate
people and their capacity to learn, adapt, and grow; and to
let Quincy Magoo die a natural death; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon Leslie Nielsen
and other actors and Disney staff associated with the Magoo
project to stop working on this ill-conceived movie which will
be an embarrassment to their careers and an insult to the
millions of blind or visually-impaired Americans; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we take whatever action
appropriate to protest the revival of the Mr. Magoo character.

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Marc Maurer, President

July 3, 1997

Mr.  Michael Eisner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
500 Buena Vista Street
Burbank, California 91521-1010

Sent via facsimile (818) 560-1300

Dear Mr. Eisner:

     The National Federation of the Blind, the largest and
most active organization of blind people in the United
States, at its 1997 convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, (a
convention currently in progress) adopted the attached
resolution condemning and deploring the irresponsible
perpetration of the stereotype of blindness which holds that
the blind are incompetent or foolish or worse.  It is our
understanding that The Walt Disney Company is planning to
give significant added emphasis to this stereotype by
creating and distributing a full-length film featuring the
bumbling and idiotic character, Mr. Magoo.

     Sometime ago I wrote a letter to you urging that you
think better of such a misguided action.  I have not
received a response.  My letter was not the first request
you received to abandon this project.  Back in 1995, at the
time that The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to Mr.
Magoo, an article questioning the wisdom of purchasing these
rights appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  The Walt Disney
Company ignored the appeal for understanding, and it appears
that you are planning to continue the same behavior.
Consequently, the convention of the National Federation of
the Blind adopted the attached resolution.  Members of the
media have written articles reporting the outrage that we
feel about the plan to make our lives more difficult by
portraying us, the blind and visually impaired, as without
sense or judgment.  We have not had a response from The Walt
Disney Company, but we have read commentary in the press
which purports to be from your organization that you do not
plan to discuss the matter with us and that you do plan to
release the film sometime during the Christmas season.

     Our lives will be affected by what you do.  The jobs
that we urgently want to perform will be harder to get.  The
interaction that we would hope to have within our
communities will be more difficult to achieve.  The
matriculation of blind students in school will be bedeviled
by the taunts and tricks engendered by the thought processes
contained in your film.

     The National Federation of the Blind, with over 3,000
blind people in attendance at our convention, is offering
you an opportunity.  We are asking that you come to our
convention to discuss the matter.  We have written you a
letter.  When you did not respond, we prepared our
resolution.  From all that we can tell, your public
relations department is unwilling to believe that there is
any harm in what you are planning.  They have stonewalled,
but we will not permit it.  We invite you to come to the
convention to discuss your plans and the damage they will
do.  We make you a promise.  If you come we will treat you
with courtesy and respect.  If you do not come, we will make
the plans to bring this to the attention of the public in a
dramatic way.

     Our convention closes at 5:00 p.m. Central Daylight
Time on Saturday, July 5. We will welcome you at any time
that day.  We are meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New
Orleans.  We are sending you this letter by fax so that you
will have time to respond.  We would prefer to discuss the
matter calmly, but we are prepared for confrontation if that
is the only alternative.

                         Very truly yours,

			 Marc Maurer, President
                         NATIONAL F

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