Today marks anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney, the animator and entrepreneur who shaped the childhood lives of generations across the globe. Disney’s influence, contributions to the entertainment industry, and enduring legacy have made him the center of some of the strangest urban legends in popular culture. Here are eight enduring rumors and myths about the Mouse House creator that simply aren’t true.
Walt Disney’s body is frozen
Perhaps the biggest urban legend about Walt Disney is that he had his body cryonically frozen — and some accounts indicate that he had his body stored under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. But Disney had his remains cremated and ashes spread at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, in the Little Garden of Communion. “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen. I doubt that my father had ever heard of cryonics,” Disney’s daughter Diane once stated. We also know this isn’t true, because the first human cryonic freezing took place in January 1967, after Disney died.
The ghost of Disney haunts the Main Street Firehouse
No, that light in the window of the secret apartment above the fire station on Main Street USA in Disneyland, where Walt Disney sometimes stayed, is not the work of Disney’s ghost. The light is kept on to remember the Mickey Mouse maestro, although the park used to turn it off when Disney’s daughters were there out of respect for the family.
Walt appears in the Haunted Mansion attraction
Walt Disney does not appear as one of the singing busts in the graveyard scene at the Haunted Mansion attraction. That’s Thurl Ravenscroft (what a name!), who voiced Tony the Tiger.
Walt Disney is the illegitimate son of a doctor and washer woman from Spain
Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago to Elias Charles Disney, who was Irish-Canadian, and Flora Call Disney, who was of German and English descent. But a long-standing rumor persists that Disney was adopted by Elias and Flora, and was actually born to a Spanish noble and a washer woman. “Gines Carrillo, a doctor whose family were the “señoritos”, the ruling clan, of Mojacar until the middle of this century,” is reported to be Disney’s father. “A local washerwoman, Isabel Zamora,” is reported to be his mother. The legend says that she took him to the US, but abandoned him when he was just a few months old. From the Guardian:
The story is irresistibly, perhaps impossibly, romantic. Mojacar is a fairy-tale place – a whitewashed village perched on a towering slab of rock, its houses clinging to the edge of the slopes, looking out over a sparkling, emerald sea. Where better for a creative genius – obsessed by castles, magic and small, vulnerable animals – to be born? The Mojacar tale combines forbidden love, an orphan child, wicked step-parents and even the sinister presence of J Edgar Hoover and his G-men. “This is a story of an orphan, brought up by nasty parents, who becomes a wizard,” says Jones. “It is the story of Harry Potter gone sour.” And, Jones says, the only time Walt was challenged – by a well-known Disney animator – on whether he might have been born in Spain, he added further fuel to the story. “Who knows?” he replied.
The fact that there is no record of Disney’s birth complicates matters (records show he “did not officially exist until June 8 1902, the year after his supposed birthday”), but as of now there is no concrete proof that Disney had different parents.
Disney received a dishonorable discharge from the army
Disney wanted to join the army at age 16 and dropped out of high school, but was rejected for being too young. He joined the Red Cross and was sent to France where he drove an ambulance, but the war ended a year later in November 1918. Walt himself tells a story about the Red Cross that might be cause for the rumor he was dishonorably discharged from the army:
It was in February…they sent me with a white truck. I was the driver and I had a helper. A white truck loaded with beans and sugar to the devastated area in Soissons. Well, I went out of Paris and it started to snow. I got up part way and I burned out a bearing on the truck, close to a watchman’s shed…So, the orders were never to leave your truck. Sugar and beans were gold. So the helper was supposed to go, and I’d stay with the truck. There was this little watchman’s shed…and I sat with the watchman. I sat two nights and no help came. So, the third day I was so tired, so sleepy, that I left my truck and walked up to this town and ordered a meal. Then I got a bed and I flopped into this French bed. And I slept clear around the clock… And then I went back and my truck was gone…I didn’t know what had happened…I got a train into Paris. When I got into Paris, I found out the story. This helper got into Paris and went out that night before he reported to the headquarters…and got drunk and he was drunk for two days. Then he finally reported and he came to find me. I was gone and he picked up the truck. So I was court-martialed. They brought me up before this board, and…the greatest disgrace would be to be kicked out of the Red Cross, you know… Then this fellow that I had worked for…came to my defense…He was almost like my attorney He said ‘Look, this boy sat there for two nights.’ He said ‘What happened to the helper?’ He said, ‘Have you court-martialed the helper?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He was in the brig. So they let me off.
Walt Disney will give the keys to the kingdom to the first pregnant man
Google “Walt Disney pregnant man” and there are endless inquiries about the myth that Disney will bequeath his fortune to the first pregnant man. Snopes advises the rumor isn’t true and that Disney’s 1966 will left “45% of his estate to his wife and daughters, another 45% to the Disney Foundation in a charitable trust (most of which was dedicated to CalArts), and the remaining 10% in a trust to be divided among his sister, nieces, and nephews.”
Disney designed Snow White‘s seven dwarfs to represent the seven stages of cocaine addiction
Rumors about Walt Disney and drugs were probably started due to the adoption of films like Fantasia and Alice in Wonderland as head flicks by ‘70s-era kids. And Disney’s company catered to these audiences by releasing the films in art house theaters in college towns, with trippy posters and other psychedelic marketing materials.
Walt is a Satanist or was involved in the occult
Disney was a confirmed Congregationalist, part of the Protestant Christian church. But this myth probably persists for two reasons. Blanche Barton, the former partner of the Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, listed Disney in the mocking dedication of her 1990 book The Church of Satan. The belief that Disney hides occult and sexual imagery in his work also contributes to the legend. There is no concrete proof that Disney participated in any occult activities or had a relationship with the Satanic church.