Walt Disney just celebrated his 119th birthday on December 5th and sure, he might have died in 1966, but his memory lives on. Walt’s life and times have always been a popular topic for conversation. In many ways, he exemplified what it means to achieve the American dream.
He got his start as just a lower-class student from the Midwest and wound up becoming one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century. His theme parks have become some of the most visited locations on the planet and the characters he played a part in creating have become universally known. There are very few people on this planet unfamiliar with the Disney Brand.
But whenever someone becomes that famous, their high-profile image leads to countless rumors and myths that come out of the woodwork and ultimately cheapen the individual’s legacy. It doesn’t even matter that much of this hearsay is completely unsubstantiated, the public tends to circulate misinformation long after such claims have been thoroughly debunked. Seems we like sharing juicy gossip, whether it’s true or not.
While we’re not trying to say that Walt Disney was a saint by any means, we do think it’s time to lay to rest some of the more sensational – and unfounded – claims that have been waged against him. So let’s dive in head first – pun intended – to the first ice-cold myth about the famed American entrepreneur.
Disney Was Not Cryogenically Frozen
For some reason, this has been one of the most persistent rumors surrounding Walt Disney. Some people claim that his entire body was frozen while other sources believe that he had just his head put on ice.
The myth dates back to shortly after his death in 1966. After he died, he had a very private funeral ceremony and very little information about the event was provided to the public. Imaginative writers that probably read too many science fiction novels then began to push the conspiracy theory at Disney had his body cryogenically frozen until the day that science progressed far enough to reanimate him.
As fascinating of a theory as this might be, there are zero facts to substantiate it. In fact, it’s well known that Disney was cremated just a few days after he died of lung cancer. His ashes were then interred at a cemetery in Glendale, California. You can even visit his memorial site if you really wanted to.
His daughter Diane, penned a biography about her dad in 1972 where she stated that there was absolutely no truth to the rumor that her father wanted to be frozen after his death.
Walt Didn’t Create Mickey Mouse On His Own
Even though the names Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse are essentially synonymous with each other these days, Walt wasn’t the one that actually came up with the iconic rodent. That credit goes to an artist by the name of Ub Iwerks.
Disney’s first creation was actually a character named Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, but after losing the rights to that bit of intellectual property, Disney asked his buddy Iwerks to come up with a new character similar in design to Oswald – but not too similar of course.
That was the moment that Mickey Mouse was born. Just a couple of years later, Iwerks, after feeling like he wasn’t receiving enough credit for the character, left Disney. He’d later return to the company but he’d never work in animation again.
Disney Isn’t Featured As A Bust In The Haunted Mansion Ride At Disneyland
Even though this would be a pretty stellar Easter egg for riders of the spooky attraction, Disney died several years before the ride opened on August 9, 1969. The actual busts actually have names; Rolo Rumkin, Uncle Theodore, Cousin Algernon, Ned Nub, and Phineas P. Pock. And it’s pretty clear that neither of them resembles Disney in the slightest.
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Keep watching the whole video to find out if Walt Disney really was anti-Semitic as some people claim.
Disney Was Not Born In Robinson, Illinois
There’s a pesky little rumor that keeps resurfacing every now and then that claims that Walt Disney was born in Robinson, Illinois – a small town some 200 miles south of Chicago – and that he was further named after a kindly townsperson that gave his father some work to help provide for his family during some financially sketchy times.
While this story might be quaint and heartwarming, every single Walt Disney biography has stated that he was born in the upstairs room of his parent’s home in Chicago. The myth originated from a reporter that was trying to elevate themselves by associating their name with a famous individual.
Walt Did Not Leave Video Instructions To The Disney Board Of Executives
It’s been alleged on numerous occasions that Walt left behind detailed video instructions about how he wanted the company to be handled after his death. This myth certainly seems plausible. Walt, after all, was very interested in the future, and he was by all accounts a pragmatic man. Unfortunately, this myth falls flat on its face when you start looking for evidence of the claim.
When Walt suddenly died from Lung cancer in 1966, Disney World was in the process of being constructed in Orlando, Florida. Walt’s brother Roy decided that it would be best if he put off his retirement so that he could oversee its development – just as his brother likely would have wanted.
During the 1980s, Disney’s stock fell after a string of lackluster films failed to do well at the box office. This era is typically referred to as the ‘Bronze Age’ of Disney. In Fact, the company actually was on the verge of being bought by another corporation, before it experienced a tremendous revival in the 90s which is now known as the ‘The Disney Renaissance’.
Given all this uncertainty for the company in the time period following Walt’s death, it remains unlikely that he left behind any kind of specific instructions outlining his wishes for the next steps of the brand.
Disney Was Probably Not An Anti-Semite
This rumor is just about as persistent as the cryogenesis one. It’s been referenced in various pieces of media throughout the last several decades. Family Guy did a bit lampooning Walt’s supposed hatred of Jewish people and Meryle Streep referred to it like it was a well-known fact in 2014.
However, accusations of Mr. Disney’s supposed antisemitism have never been proven. Neal Gabler, a writer who penned a Biography about Disney called Walt Disney; The Triumph of the American Imagination noted that numerous Jewish people worked at Disney and none accused Walt of being an Anti-Semite.
On the other hand, Walt was one of the founding members of the Motion Picture Alliance – a group that allegedly had many closeted anti-semitic members. So while there is no direct proof that Walt held any personal ill-will towards the Jewish people, some would say that he was complicit due to the company that he kept.
He Absolutely Did Not Leave Money In His Will For The First Man Who Managed To Get Pregnant
Where do people come up with this stuff? This has to be the most absurd rumor to make it on our list. We literally have no idea where this myth came from but it’s persisted for many years now.
It’s actually a matter of public record that his will left 45% person of his estate to his immediate family, he left another 45% to the Disney Foundation, and the last 10% he divvied up to his nieces, nephews, and sister.
Nope, He Wasn’t Born Out Of Wedlock In Spain
This particularly wild and unsubstantiated claim traces its roots to a widely discredited pseudo-biography titled Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince by Marc Eliot. The book makes a number of claims such as one that accuses Disney of refusing to lower the American flag at Disneyland after JFK’s assassination and another that alleges that Walt worked as a spy against communists in Hollywood.
But the Spain accusation asserts that Walt was born in 1890 out of wedlock to a woman named Isabelle Zamora somewhere in southern Spain and that he was later adopted by the Disneys.
Of course, there is a mountain of evidence that Walt was born in Chicago in Elias and Flora Disney’s home. There’s not a shred of evidence for the Spain theory.
The Disney Logo Is Not Walt’s Handwriting
Pretty much everyone is familiar with the Disney Logo – it’s a cultural touchstone of sorts. In fact the logo is sometimes referred to as a ‘Waltograph” – leading many to come to believe that it’s in fact a representation of Disney’s personal handwriting.
The logo wasn’t actually first used until 1984 – almost 2 decades after Walt’s death. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to find out what Mr. Disney’s actual signature really looked like. Apparently, there were numerous people that were authorized to sign his name for him.
Evidently, the logo is indeed a stylized version of a signature that he was confirmed to make on numerous occasions. So while it might be his exact mark, it is a derivative form. So perhaps we should say that this particular rumor is only half-false.
In the future do you think that there will be as many rumors circling around dead celebrities? It seems like virtually every moment of our lives is recorded by our computers and smart devices – and much of that is fully voluntary. If only Disney blogged, documented his whole life on Twitter, and took more selfies then maybe some of these myths would be put to rest.
There’s one thing about Walt Disney that we want to make perfectly clear. Just because we are debunking some myths around him doesn’t mean he was completely without blame. Ever see Song of the South? That is one racist movie! So much so, that Disney refuses to re-release it in any form or allow it to be screened in public.
And then there are numerous reports of Disney making sexist remarks to his colleagues and employees. Granted, those were very times than the ones we live in today. Not necessarily an excuse, just stating a fact.
Anyways, what do you think about Walt Disney? Do you buy into all of the hype and think he was some kind of villain or do you think that he was probably an alright guy? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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