Everyone who watches films has a connection with Disney. There’s a familiarity with that company that we don’t have with any others. Most of us grew up watching Disney films. We know the characters and the movies intimately. But, Disney is bigger than just their films. They also have the theme parks, which get mocked a lot, but Disney World and Disneyland are unbelievable places. They have so much to see and the attention to detail is astounding. Then there’s the man, Walt Disney. This is a guy who has been subject to so many myths and tall tales that entire books have been written trying to clear up the truth behind the legend. He’s someone that each of us feel like we know, even if we don’t.
Well, we thought it would be fun to explore Disney as an entire entity, man, film and parks. Most of the things you hear about Disney are easily written off as lies. Most of the rumors are so silly that they could never be true. But many do have some truth behind them. Many have at least the possibility of truth, however ridiculous it might seem. So we went through all the legends to find those that either are true or could be true. For the ones that are true, we chose only the most incredible. The stories that will amaze people who haven’t heard them before. The ones that are questionable or likely false were selected because they have some interesting information behind them. Here are 15 Wild Legends About The Walt Disney Company That Could Be True.
15. Walt’s Cryogenically Frozen
He wasn’t. Well, it seems very unlikely that he was at least. But it isn’t as crazy a suggestion as some make it seem. In late 1966, Walt Disney was dying of lung cancer and cryogenics was just getting off the ground. The legend started when, in 1972, three years after Disney died, the President of the California Cryogenics Society (now called the American Cryonics Society), Bob Nelson, did an interview with the LA Times:
“’Walt Disney wanted to be frozen,’ he says, as casually as if he were talking about municipal bonds. ‘Lots of people think that he was, and that the body’s in cold storage in his basement. The truth is, Walt missed out. He never specified it in writing, and when he died the family didn’t go for it. They had him cremated. I personally have seen his ashes. They’re in Forest Lawn. Two weeks later we froze the first man. If Disney had been the first it would have made headlines around the world and been a real shot in the arm for cryonics. But that’s the way it goes.’”
Then there’s that video from the American Cryonics Society from 1967. It mentions a California man who died from cancer that had been frozen. All that was needed for a major legend about a legendary man was there. That’s why the legend exists.
14. The Rescuers Woman Was A Marketing Stunt
By now, you’ve all heard of and likely seen the bare woman in the background of two frames in The Rescuers. It’s one of the most prized Easter eggs in the Disney collection. Well, the film came out in 1977 and no one noticed it. Or, at least, those who noticed it didn’t make it well known. Then the VHS came out in 1992 and there wasn’t a big to-do about it. Suddenly, in 1999, Disney made an announcement. They were recalling the tapes because of the objectionable images in it. It was this announcement that boosted sales of the tape. No one really knew about it before that. Was it a marketing scheme? Possibly, but we can’t say for sure.
13. Haunted Lamp in Disneyland
Legend has it that Walt’s old apartment in Disneyland, on top of the Fire House on Main Street, is haunted by the man himself. There have been plenty of stories of hauntings in the parks over the years, but this one is one of the most commonly heard. Most of the evidence of the haunting revolves around the lamp in the window. Park guests can see this always-on lamp as they pass by, and many have told tales of it flickering, going out or turning on. The truth is, the lamp is always on as a tribute for Walt. The only time it goes out is when Walt’s family members are in the park and it is turned off as a sign of respect.
12. Motherless Heroes
Everyone has noticed that many Disney princesses are motherless. This is a common device used in Disney films and there has been much discussion as to why. One of the legends is that Walt, after seeing massive success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, bought a new home for his parents. Sadly, the furnace in this new home was defective and a carbon monoxide leak sprung and killed his mother Flora. This death, say the rumors, is what led to so many Disney motherless protagonists. While the story of Flora’s death is true and it did haunt Walt for the rest of his life, the motherless protagonists are the result of the common fairytale trope. Sure, Walt may have been drawn to the motherless aspect more and greenlit more films that featured it, but it’s not like he created these stories from his own imagination.
11. The Cats of Disney
Though the reasons the cats are on the Disneyland property have been turned into more legend than truth, the fact that they are there cannot be disputed. Ever since the park opened, feral cats have been spotted on the land. At first, they were left to themselves, but when they took up home in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the staff had to do something about the cat issue. Rather than kick them out of the park, Walt Disney decided to let them stay and deal with the rodent problem. They were not imported in to kill rats though (as some like to believe). Nowadays, the cats are well fed, neutered and spayed.
10. The Pregnant Man
There has long been a rumor that Walt Disney was obsessed with the concept of a man giving birth. Maybe because Walt was a bit eccentric and this would seem like something believable to the masses, this rumor has kept up. Really, it’s not true, but it is hilarious. The rumor states that Disney had in his will that he would bequeath a great deal of money to the first pregnant man. Sadly, Walt’s will did not have this in it. Instead, it had 45% of his estate go to his wife and daughters, 45% to the Disney Trust, and 10% among other family members. So, nothing for the prego males.
9. Real Skeleton On The Pirates Of The Caribbean
There’s something magical about riding the Pirates of the Caribbean. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of doing it, you know what we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone recently or in the distant past. It’s said to have always been this way. Back in 1967, when the ride was built, however, there were differences to what it is today. The story goes that the faux skeletons available at the time were too unconvincing, so the Disney imagineers decided to use real bones. Then, when the fake skeleton creators upped their games in later years, Disney replaced the real bones with the fakes. But, many still suggest that there are real bones in the ride. It turns out, that’s probably true. It is said that there are three real items, two skulls (on island after the second waterfall) and a torso (lying under a downed beam in the burning jailhouse).
8. Lemmings andWhite Wilderness
If you have heard only one thing about a lemming, it’s possible that it was the long-held belief that lemmings commit mass suicide. Though this myth was around before Disney’s film, White Wilderness, and the so-called documentary footage of the event didn’t help matters. So, did Disney fake the footage of the apparent mass suicide of the lemmings as so many believe? Yeah, they did. The film shows a horde of lemmings jumping into the Arctic sea, apparently mistaking it for a lake, thus causing them to drown. The film suggests lemmings are compelled to follow and migrate, even if that leads to death. What really happened is that the filmmakers imported lemmings into Alberta and then initiated the footage of them jumping into the water. Lemmings aren’t from Alberta and they would not know the area. That wasn’t the Arctic sea. It was the Bow River. While some lemmings do die in migrations, it is not their nature.
7. The Nazi
There’s always been talk about Walt Disney’s alleged anti-semitic beliefs, but many point to actual evidence to prove it. Take the mural in Disney World’s Grand Floridian resort, for example. Many see a Nazi figure overlooking the guests in the Great Gatsby themed mural. While it’s possible that the man is a Nazi, Walt himself never asked for this. The artist claims that he did in secret, stating, “In the background there was this balcony where I painted this little SS Stormtrooper. It was my little comment on what was happening in the rest of the world while the Great Gatsbys were whittling away their hours with cocktails. My boss noticed it and said that it looked like a soldier, but I convinced him it was a security guard. He dropped it at that.” The other proof people use is from 101 Dalmatians. Some of the dots on Pongo’s back appear to make a swastika. There’s really nothing we can say about that. Either you think it was intentional or not.
6. Cinderella’s Fountain
One of the coolest things about the Disney parks is the design features. Take the ground, for instance. It changes in texture whenever you crossover into a new land. This change causes people to perk up and notice their new surroundings more. But the best is Cinderella’s fountain. As you approach it, you might notice that she looks sad and is looking down at the animals around her. This is an adult’s perspective. She’s dressed in rags and looks downtrodden. But, when you look up at her from below, from the perspective of a child, she is smiling and the crown on the fountain appears to be positioned on her head.
5. The Grand Pixar Theory
Even though the Grand Unified Pixar Theory is a Pixar thing, it’ll get included in this Disney piece because it’s awesome and Disney has their hands in everything. This theory explores the relationship between all Pixar films. It concludes that the world of Pixar begins and ends with Boo from Monsters Inc. Boo uses time travel gained in that film to travel back in time to find Sully. Eventually, she lands in the middle ages and becomes the witch in Brave. This is why she carves a Sully doll. Years later, technology is advanced in The Incredibles, Buy-N-Large begins to take over and unanimated objects are brought to life in Toy Story, humans gain the ability to understand animals in Up and Ratatouille, machines take over in Cars, the world comes to an end but is brought back with the help of Wall-E, humans and animals regrow but in separate worlds in A Bug’s Life, animals take over and are thought of as monsters in Monster’s Inc and the cycle repeats.
4. Cast Members Sharing Underwear
Though this may seem like the most obvious lie about the Disney parks, it is true. Or, at least, it was true. Up until about 2001, this was taking place. Because regular underwear can bunch up and become noticeable in the costumes, Disney ordered that all cast members use Disney underwear. At the end of the day, the cast members would return their underwear and, the next day, pick up a laundered pair. This had been going on for ages. It wasn’t until there were numerous complaints to the union that people were contracting pubic lice and scabies that they fixed the rule. Now, people get to take home their underwear and don’t have to share it with their co-workers.
3. Pinocchio Premiere
After the massive popularity of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Disney team decided to make the premiere of Pinocchio as special as possible. They hired 11 little people to dress up in Pinocchio costumes and party it up on the theater roof. This was going great, but it was a long and hot day. To cheer up the actors, the team gave out food and beer. At first, the actors seemed to liven up, but, after drinking in a hot suit on a hot day, the little people started getting testy, swearing at the kids. Then they got so hot that they took off their suits. Many were naked underneath, so the premiere ended up with a bunch of nude little people dancing on a theater roof and swearing at guests.
2. Andy’s Mom and Jessie’s Owner
The fact that Andy’s mom was once the owner of Jessie is so obvious it hurts us that we didn’t notice it. But some keen-eyed fans did. The evidence is clear. Andy wears an old cowboy, but it’s not like Woody’s hat. It’s exactly like Jessie’s. The only difference is that Andy’s hat is missing the white lace, which means it’s probably old. Now, look back to Jessie’s backstory. She tells of her past owner. We see images of the little girl playing with Jessie and, in those shots, we see the same hat as Andy wears. This hat, however, is new and has the lace. Now, when the little girl packs up Jessie and gives her away, the hat is not one of those items. It would stand to reason that Andy’s mom was that little and she gave her son the hat.
1. Mickey’s “Tape”
There’s been several different variations of this legend. Some say that animators added in a single frame of nudity into a movie to see if Walt would catch it. Others say that it was accidental. But we prefer this story more. It is said that on Walt’s 35th birthday, the Disney people threw him a surprise party. Two of the animators decided it would be funny to create a Mickey and Minnie “tape” (you know what we mean). They did and they showed it at the party. When it finished, Walt looked happy. He asked who made the tape. The animators, thinking it was safe to reveal themselves, took ownership of their work. Walt then promptly fired both of them and had all copies of the tape destroyed. The fact that this legend exists in multiple forms suggests it almost certainly isn’t true, but we wonder how and why it started.
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