The Disney Brothers Face a Fiscal Crisis
After years of war, both Walt and Roy worried about the future of their studio. No wonder. In October 1944, an interoffice memo spelled out the cumulative losses of Victory Through Air Power, The Reluctant Dragon and the three features that followed Snow White. Roy, in particular, was dismayed by the company’s financial status. A re-release of Snow White had done well the previous winter but no new major animated features were in the works. They were simply too expensive.
Though the studio continued to put out about a dozen short cartoons a year, they weren’t making much -- nor were there enough of them to make much of a difference. Creating films for the government made no money at all; Walt and Roy were lucky when they brought in enough from the government to just maintain the staff and studio.
To make matters worse, the brothers worried about the $4 million they still owed to the Bank of America. Would bankers continue to float the studio that much cash?
They were rescued by the founder of Bank of America, the famous A.P. Giannini. In a tense meeting that likely occurred in 1945, he heard others argue that the Disney loan was shaky and that the bank should, perhaps, reconsider extending credit to the studio.
Giannini finally cut in: “I’ve been watching the Disneys’ pictures quite closely,” he said, “because I knew we were lending them money far above the financial risk. But I realized that there’s nothing about those pictures that will be changed by the war. You have to relax and give them time to market their product. This war isn’t going to last forever.”
With that, the brothers were back in business.