Unfortunately I didn't make it out to the Bay Area in time to see John J. Power's avant-garde play Disney & Deutschland which imagines a meeting between Adolf Hitler and Walt Disney in 1935 with supporting roles of Leni Riefenstahl (as Hitler's lover!) as well as Josef and Magda Goebbels. The play had a short run and, judging from the reviews, is unlikely to open on Broadway anytime soon. Still, the drama opens up some interesting ideas, such as the nature of the fascist aesthetic, and Albert Speer as the inspiration for Disneyland. (Anyone who has visited Disney World can attest to a creepy totalitarian aspect to the place at times.)
But what was the true relationship between Walt Disney and Nazi Germany? It is interesting that the San Francisco Weekly writes of "historically documented 1935 meeting between Walt Disney and Adolf Hitler." I don't have access to the Disney Archives - perhaps John J. Powers does - but there is no record of a meeting between Walt Disney and Hitler. What has been documented is an automobile trip in 1935 by Walt Disney and his brother Roy through Germany which included a stop in Munich to meet with the German distributor of Disney's cartoons. But Mario Dressler writes in a catalog to an exhibition of Disney cartoons in Potsdam (Im Reiche der Micky Maus: Walt Disney in Deutschland 1927-1945) that the Propaganda Ministry in Berlin was aware of the Disney brothers' visit in Munich and flew them to Berlin for meetings. Whom they met with - if such a special visit even took place - is unfortunately not known. In view of the detailed records kept by Hitler's Sekretariat, it is unlikely that they met with Der Führer in an undocumented meeting.
However, after leaving Munich the DIsney brothers did drive on to Rome where they were greeted as cultural heroes by Il Duce, Benito Mussolini.
What is indisputable is that Hitler was a huge fan of Disney. Goebbels gave him 12 Disney shorts as a Christmas present in 1937, and noted in his diary with satisifaction that Der Führer "freut sich sehr darüber. Ist ganz glücklich über diesen Schatz." (He is very pleased and very happy about this treasure.") Hitler dreamed about creating a German version of Walt Disney and instructed Goebbels to establish the "Deutsche Zeichentrickfilm GmbH" in 1942. But the first production - Armer Hansi - about a canary that longs to be safe in its cage - was a great disappointment and did not come anywhere near to matching the Disney quality.
Did Hitler the artist try to improve the quality of these cartoons himself? Recently, the director of the war museum in northern Norway claims that he acquired drawings of Disney characters signed A.Hitler at an auction in Germany. The authenticity, however, cannot be confirmed.