There’s something about Walt Disney the man that spawned a plethora of weird and wonderful myths and “facts” over his life, and since his death. Perhaps it’s a result of his own mythmaking and magic spun during a prolifically creative life as detailed in the fascinating two-part documentary Walt Disney.
Before we present some weird facts like Walt’s hotdog obsession, mice phobia and his perplexing final words, a disclaimer: Some of these may be “alternative facts”, may in fact be taking the mickey and will definitely have Walt turning in his cryogenic chamber.
His last words were “Kurt Russell”
One of the strangest facts about Walt Disney came about at the end of his life when on his deathbed in 1966, he wrote on a piece of paper “Kurt Russell”. The consensus is that these were probably his last words.
Russell was a teen actor on a ten-year contract at the studio at the time and had a close relationship with Walt Disney. But no one really knows what he was trying to communicate by scribbling his name.
The actor corroborates the story, saying that he found out about the scribbling a few years after Disney’s death when a staff member showed it to him.
“She was pointing out that that’s the last thing he wrote,” he said. “That’s the only thing I know.”
The storied piece of paper with Russell’s name on it is said to still sit on Disney’s office desk.
He was afraid of mice. Mice!
This one’s pretty whacky but perhaps his creating Mickey Mouse was some kind of radical exposure therapy to overcome his musophobia? It does sound like an “alternate fact” but consider this; Disneyland has a feral cat problem but they are tolerated because they control the mouse population. So if the Mouse House is murdering mice perhaps there is some twisted truth to this “fact”.
He had a thing for hot dogs
The first clue to Disney’s love of the processed junk food came in the 1929 animation The Karnival Kid in which he scripted Mickey Mouse’s first words as “Hot dog! Hot dog!”
The second is the meticulous way he designed the hot dog stall at Disney World to be 25 steps away from the rubbish bins. That’s how long it took him to eat one.
He had a “No facial hair” policy
Now this is the pot calling the kettle hairy. Even though Disney sported a moustache from the age of 25, facial hair was verboten for Disneyland employees. It took until 2000 for the rule to be bent (sort of) with moustaches allowed, and then in 2012 employees got the go ahead to grow “short, inch-long-or-less goatees and baby beards”! So in other words, hipsters needn’t apply.
Early Disney films were motherless, as he felt guilty over his mother’s death
Bambi, Pinocchio and The Jungle Book were all motherless movies – apparently thanks to Disney’s guilt over his mother Flora’s tragic death in 1938. Disney had bought a house for his parents but his mother perished in the dwelling from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty heating system.
It was his idea to open a speakeasy at Disneyland
Disneyland is a dry-zone unless you’re one of the lucky ones to be welcomed to an unlikely secret venue Club 33. Hidden above the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square, the exclusive speakeasy was Disney’s brainchild though he never got to see it fulfilled, dying six months before it opened in 1967.
Away from the family-friendly chaos of the happiest place on earth you can get really happy drinking cocktails and eating five star meals in style. But it’ll cost you; there’s an “initiation fee” of $25,000 and a membership fee of $12,000 per year. Oh, and there’s a 15-year waiting list.
He green-lighted Disneyland’s “Wonderful Wizard of Bras”
Another odd addition to the very family-friendly Disneyland was “The Wonderful Wizard of Bras", one that presumably was green-lighted by Disney himself given his micromanagement of the venture. The shop run by “Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Co. of Los Angeles” was situated on Main Street and opened in the early days of the park. It displayed an array of women’s unmentionables including 3D imagery with its host a “male” bra-wizard robot dressed in a corset and stockings. Unsurprisingly, the store closed after six months.
Watch part 2 of the documentary Walt Disney at SBS On Demand right here: