The role played by Hollywood in shaping our views on alien life has long been debated in the UFO community.
Although there seems to be a consensus among UFOlogists that big screen depictions of UFOs serve to acclimate the populous to the reality of the phenomenon, opinions diverge on whether this acclimation effect is the product of design (inferring the existence of a “Hollywood UFO conspiracy”), or is merely the result of a natural cultural process driven by generic trends and stemming from a simple recognition among Hollywood executives that, when it come to the box office, aliens sell like hotcakes.
Within this ongoing debate concerning UFOs and Hollywood, the name of one studio consistently has rung out over the decades – Disney. The House of Mouse has overseen the production and/or distribution of numerous UFO and alien-themed movies in recent times, with the best known examples including Flight of the Navigator (1986) Signs (2002), Lilo and Stitch (2002), Chicken Little (2005), Lifted (2007), I am Number Four (2011), Mars Needs Moms (2011) and the forthcoming John Carter (2012).
The Disney/UFO connection can be traced back to 1953 when the CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel recommended that the US government make efforts to strip UFOs of their “aura of mystery” through the exploitation of mass media including television and motion pictures. In this context, the panel highlighted Walt Disney Productions specifically as a potential conduit for its propaganda.
The panel’s singling-out of Disney made sense given the animation giant’s then firmly established working relationship with the US government: during World War II Disney made numerous propaganda shorts for the US military, and in the 1950s corporate and government sponsors helped the company produce films promoting President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” policy, as well as the retrospectively hilarious Duck and Cover documentary, which depicted schoolchildren surviving an atomic attack by sheltering under their desks.
That the Robertson Panel highlighted Disney is significant in that the Panel’s general recommendation to debunk UFOs through media channels is known to have been acted upon in at least one instance: this being the CBS TV broadcast of UFOs: Friend, Foe, or Fantasy? (1966), an anti-UFO documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite. In a letter addressed to former Robertson Panel Secretary Frederick C. Durant, Dr Thornton Page confided that he “helped organize the CBS TV show around the Robertson Panel conclusions,” even though this was thirteen years after the Panel had first convened. In light of this case alone, it seems reasonable to assume that the government may at least have attempted to follow through on the Robertson Panel’s Disney recommendation.
With this in mind, consider the case of the Oscar-winning Disney animator Ward Kimball. Best known for creating iconic Disney characters such as Jiminy Cricket and The Mad Hatter, Kimball also worked as Directing Animator on Disney classics including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938) and Pinocchio (1940). While at a MUFON symposium in 1979, Kimball claimed that the United States Air Force (USAF) had approached Walt Disney himself in the mid-1950s to request his cooperation on a documentary about UFOs that would help acclimate the American public to the reality of extraterrestrials. According to Kimball, in exchange for Disney’s cooperation, the USAF offered to furnish the production with genuine UFO footage. Kimball claimed that Disney accepted the deal and – ever faithful to Uncle Sam – began work immediately on the USAF project.
It wasn’t long, however, before the USAF reneged on its offer of UFO footage. When Kimball challenged the USAF Colonel overseeing the project he was told that “there was indeed plenty of UFO footage, but that neither Kimball, nor anyone else was going to get access to it.” The Kimball case, though, seems to be at odds with the Robertson Panel’s recommendations, which were to debunk UFO reality through media channels, not promote it. But perhaps another faction within the military-intelligence community – one with a UFO acclimation agenda – had similarly recognized Disney’s propagandist potential?
As a closing thought on Disney’s establishment ties in relation to the UFO question, in January 2011, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) staged its 5th Annual Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) – a major International business convention which this year featured keynote speeches by the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Intriguingly, this year’s GCF event also featured a special panel discussion entitled: “Contact: Learning from Outer Space,” in which names such as Stanton Friedman, Jacques Vallee, Nick Pope and Professor Michio Kaku addressed the wide-ranging implications of UFOs and potential extraterrestrial life. How is this relevant to our topic?
Well, it might not be, but the primary sponsor of the GCF event was Boeing – a company highlighted by Disclosure Project witnesses as being a key player in UFO-related ‘deep black’ programmes and which you’ll also recall is linked at a directors-board-level to the Walt Disney Company – and a key note speaker at the event was none other than Chairman of Walt Disney International, Andy Bird. UFOs, Disney, Boeing, even former heads of state – all under one roof, so to speak. It proves nothing of course, but is nevertheless worthy of mention in that it brings to mind what the famous ex-CIA operative Robert Baer once told me regarding the Hollywood/Washington relationship: “All these people that run studios – they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody’s on board.” Certainly, Disney has long been “on board” with supporting government and military power structures; as to whether or not this support extends to an involvement in some indefinable “Hollywood UFO conspiracy” is impossible to say. For now, at least, all we can do is weigh-up what little evidence is available to us and each draw our own conclusions as to precisely what UFO secrets – if any – might lie behind the Magic Kingdom.
Robbie Graham, Silver Screen Saucers