The Oscar-winning actress claimed during remarks at the National Board of Review awards gala that the late animator had been a sexist and an anti-Semite.
“Disney, who brought joy, arguably, to billions of people, was perhaps, or had some racist proclivities,” said Streep, according to a transcript published by Vanity Fair magazine.
“He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobby. And he was certainly, on the evidence of his company’s policies, a gender bigot”.
Streep read from a rejection letter from Disney to a young woman in Arkansas who applied for his cartooning training programme in 1938. “Women do not do any of the creative work,” he told her.
“Some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women,” Streep added. Disney, who died aged 65 in 1966, has frequently been accused of prejudice against Jews.
He was a founder member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a known anti-semitic group, and even hosted Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi film director, at his studio.
Streep made her comments while presenting the British actress Emma Thompson with an award for her portrayal of P.L. Travers, the writer of Mary Poppins, in the Disney film Saving Mr Banks.
The film charts the efforts of Disney, played by Tom Hanks, to persuade Travers to allow him to adapt her work into the musical that became one of Disney's most successful works.
Streep told the audience that Thompson would appreciate the rejection letter because “she’s also a rabid, man eating feminist, like I am”.