Magoo Debate Moves to UK
From the Editor: The October issue of the New Beacon, the monthly publication of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, carried a stop-press story reflecting the ongoing support European organizations of blind people are demonstrating for our position on the Disney Company's plan to release a live action movie starring Leslie Nielsen as Mr. Magoo. (See the October, 1997, Braille Monitor for a full discussion of the Magoo struggle.) Norbert Mueller went home to Germany following our convention vowing to see what he could do to alert his blind countrymen to the situation. Now the NFB of the United Kingdom is weighing in. Here is the New Beacon article:
Magoo Presents Out-of-Date and Alien Image, Says Federation
The National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom is calling upon Walt Disney Corporation not to show the feature length live-action comedy film Mr. Magoo, based on the cartoon character. The Federation believes that the character portrayed is detrimental to blind and partially sighted people.
The Federation's response follows a similar reaction from the National Federation of the Blind of America, which earlier described the film as an insult to blind people. The American Federation has also voted at its annual convention to demand a ban on the showing of the film.
The Mr. Magoo character, well-known from cartoons, is played in the new film by Leslie Nielsen. He is a bumbling but cheerful millionaire who blithely survives the scrapes which appear to be caused by his short-sightedness.
The National Federation of the Blind--the largest campaigning organization of blind and partially sighted people in the UK, which celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year--said that it had fought alongside other organizations of and for blind people to squash the Mr. Magoo image, which caused great offence in the past to blind and partially sighted people, and did not want Walt Disney to re-introduce Mr. Magoo into this country.
In its press statement last month, the Federation said:
"Over the past fifty years the mass media, given the time and space, have helped to improve the image of blind and partially sighted people, and blind people themselves have achieved a positive role in society by actively taking part in the lives of their communities, in employment, and social activities. Blind people have jobs in all walks of life, including being school teachers, physiotherapists, social workers, piano tuners, computer specialists, lawyers, accountants, and running their own businesses. The Chairman of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, John Wall CBE, himself totally blind, is a Judge, and our Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett MP, is also totally blind.
"Many blind and partially sighted people of all ages participate in leisure and sporting activities at local, national, and international levels, from elderly people playing cards, chess, or bingo to the more athletic taking part in golf, swimming, bowls, skiing, mountain climbing, sailing, dancing, rambling, tandem riding, etc.
"Although the media present a positive image, many members of the general public do not have understanding and are not aware of the capabilities shown by blind and partially sighted people. Only last week flat owners living in Bournemouth petitioned against a blind lady who wanted to buy a flat within their complex on the grounds that she would be a potential fire risk. Ironically, Mrs. Jill Allen King MBE, Public Relations Officer for the National Federation of the Blind UK, herself totally blind, said that at the National Consumer Congress held at Sheffield University a few years ago, when the fire alarms went off at 3 o'clock in the morning and all the lights failed, it was Jill who led the sighted delegates down three flights of stairs to safety. As many of the residents of the flats in Bournemouth are likely to be elderly, the chances are that some of them would have poor vision and would not necessarily be able to cope as well as Mrs Tandy, against whom they have petitioned.
"Walt Disney is a well respected name in the UK and has produced enjoyable films for many years. The Federation feels that their good reputation would be tarnished by the remaking of the Mr. Magoo feature film. We sincerely hope, therefore, that they will reconsider their decision to launch this feature film in the New Year.
"If Walt Disney do go ahead with this feature of Mr. Magoo, it will be going against the principles of the new Disability Discrimination Act introduced in this country in 1995. Since the Act came into force, a different attitude towards disability has come into being, and, in the opinion of the National Federation of the Blind, any Mr. Magoo film is likely to present an out-of-date image of blind and partially sighted people alien to today's world."