When people find out that I love Disney, they enjoy inundating me with Disney “facts”. Some of these do sound plausible. Others, well, I swear you’d have to be more gullible than Goofy to believe them. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular:
“Walt Disney was placed in cryogenic storage and interred beneath Sleeping Beauty Castle.” No one would like to believe more than I that Walt could return someday. I feel that the world was truly robbed when he passed away from lung cancer at 65. Unfortunately, he’s gone and he’s not waiting in stasis somewhere for a cancer cure to be created so that he can return. He was cremated on December 17, 1966 and his ashes reside at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
“A phallus was drawn on the cover of The Little Mermaid video by a disgruntled Disney artist.” I’ll admit it; one of the castle spires in the background of The Little Mermaid promo art looks like a penis. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. (Wait; forget I said that.) Anyway, that artist who actually drew the cover has spoken on this topic. First off; he didn’t even work for Disney, so had no “disgruntlement” issues with the company. Further, that’s how castle spires look; surely you’ve noticed this elsewhere. The artist has also said that he was quite rushed to get the artwork completed, and simply didn’t notice resemblance until the controversy started. The alleged “phallic symbol” actually went unnoticed by the general public for about a year until Entertainment Weekly ran a story about in 1990. A mistake yes, but not an intentional attempt to -- what? Show penises to children? Subsequent artwork has be redrawn to eliminate this issue.
On this same topic, it kind of looks in this movie like the minister in the wedding scene is um, really excited. Sorry to deflate your – I mean burst your bubble, but this is actually the minister’s knee. If you study the different frames, this becomes apparent.
Walt was an anti-Semite. Just because you hear it on Family Guy doesn’t make it true. These rumors started as part of a smear campaign against Walt during the 1941 strike at the Disney Studios. The people who actually knew Walt defend him vehemently against these accusations. Per composer Robert Sherman:
“Walt was sensitive to people's feelings. He hated to see people mistreated or discriminated against. One time, Richard (Robert's brother and co-composer) and I overheard a discussion between Walt and one of his lawyers. This attorney was a real bad guy, didn't like minorities. He said something about Richard and me, and he called us 'these Jew boys writing these songs.' Well, Walt defended us, and he fired the lawyer. Walt was unbelievably great to us."
Artist Joe Grant, who is also Jewish, agrees. "Walt was not anti-Semitic," Grant told an interviewer. "Some of the most influential people at the studio were Jewish. It's much ado about nothing. I never once had a problem with him in that way. That myth should be laid to rest."
Floyd Norman, an African-American story artist, also rejects the racism accusation. He recalls that, during the 1960s, several civil rights leaders tried to force the Disney studio to hire more minorities. "The funny part," he said, "was that minorities weren't knocking at the gates to get in. The jobs were there if they wanted them and if they were qualified. It's like the old ruse that Walt didn't hire Jews, which was also ridiculous. There were plenty of Jews at Disney. Personally, I never felt any prejudice from Walt."
And finally, the letters S-E-X are formed by a swirling dust cloud in the Lion King. In one scene of the film's original home video releases, it appears as if the word "SEX" might have been embedded into the dust flying in the sky when Simba flops down, which a conservative religious organization called The American Life League asserted was a subliminal message intended to promote sexual promiscuity. (Mind you, this particular group had already been boycotting Disney for awhile at this point because they thought Disney was too nice to the gay and lesbian communities.) The film's animators, however, have stated that the letters spell "SFX" (a common abbreviation of "special effects"), and was intended as an innocent "signature" created by the effects animation team. These types of "signatures” are occasionally found in Disney films, and are actually quite common in the Disney theme parks. Due to the controversy it had caused, the scene was edited for the film's 2003 DVD and VHS releases, and the dust no longer formed any letters.
I could go on and on (and I often do), but these stories are the most common. Maybe sometime we can take a look at some of the myths that fall into the "strange but true" category!