A company like Disney, which has been around for ages and maintains a family-friendly image, is bound to be the subject of some strange stories. But are any of them true? Is Walt Disney's body lying frozen beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, waiting to be revived? Was Donald Duck really banned in Finland because he doesn't wear pants? Did Disney really make a cartoon to teach girls about their time of the month? TheFW has the real story on these and more of the most popular Disney urban legends.
Walt Disney on Ice
The Rumor: The oft-repeated legend states that Walt Disney arranged to have his body placed in cold storage after his death with the intention of being revived sometime in the future when medical science was up to the challenge. The details of the story range from the plausible notion that the removal of a cancerous lung more than a month before his death had Disney thinking about whether he would live long enough to complete his unfinished projects to the ludicrous idea that his body is currently being stored beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland.
The Truth: There is almost no credible evidence to suggest that Disney was even interested in the potential of cryogenics. Most of the claims that Disney did have himself frozen come from discredited biographers whose sources are hearsay at best, outright fabrication at worst. Disney's death certificate states that he was cremated and statements from the Disney family bear this out. But as long as conspiracy theories and the dream of seeing Walt come back to put the House of Mouse in order persist, the legend will live on.
No One Dies in Disney World
The Rumor: Disney prevents anyone from being declared dead while on their property allowing Disney to claim that no one has ever "died" at the parks.
The Truth: Regardless of whether Disney would like to avoid having people declared dead on their property, it has happened. Snopes cites as least two examples of people declared dead in Disney World and Disneyland. In some cases, medical procedure dictates a person cannot be declared dead before arriving at a hospital, regardless of Disney parks policies.
Obviously, deaths at the Disney parks are not a subject the family company enjoys discussing, so whatever rules they may or may not have will likely remain shrouded in mystery.
The Rumor: All you have to do is yell "Andy's coming!" and the costumed Toy Story characters at the Disney parks will drop to the ground and lie motionless until the coast is clear.
The Truth: It was true, until the internet ruined it. On special occasions, such as the arrival of a kid named Andy, the characters used to collapse when warned that Andy was on the way, much to the delight of park guests. But once news of the trick started circulating on the internet, everyone wanted to try it. Fearing damaged costumes and angry families whose character meet and greets had been cut short by other guests yelling that Andy was near, Disney instructed Woody, Jessie, and Buzz to ignore the prompt.
Disney vs. Daycare
The Rumor: When Disney discovered that three Florida daycare centers had painted images of Disney characters on their walls without permission, the company demanded that the day cares remove Mickey and friends from their walls or face legal action.
The Truth: Disney actually did threaten to sue a trio of daycares in Hallandale, Florida for copyright infringement back in 1989. The day care centers were understandably reluctant to face the legal team of a media giant and painted over the Disney characters.
As anyone but Disney's lawyers could have anticipated, the move was a PR debacle for the Mouse House, especially when theme park rival Universal allowed the centers to redecorate their walls using Hanna-Barbera characters. Though Disney remains diligent about enforcing its copyrights and is a major supporter of continued copyright extensions, their lawyers have learned to tread a bit more cautiously in some cases.
No Girls Allowed
The Rumor: Disney used to have a policy stating that women could not be hired at the animation studio outside of the Ink and Paint department.
The Truth: It's sadly true, though no longer the case. As the above 1938 rejection letter received by animator Mary Ford reads, "Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men." (Read the full letter here.) The concern was that Disney would invest a considerable amount of time and money in training a new animator only to lose that investment when she "inevitably" left to get married and start a family. This says more about the culture of the time than about women animators, who may well have been happy to keep their jobs had they lived in a society that allowed them to do so.
There were a few happy exceptions to this sexist policy. Mary Blair was a conceptual artist at Disney whose bold, graphic artwork was extremely influential on the Disney films and parks. Retta Scott created animation for a number of Disney films, including 'Bambi,' where she drew not adorable baby bunnies, but the ferocious hunting dogs that torment Bambi and Faline. The many women who worked at the Ink and Paint department over the years are among the unsung heroes of the Disney studio. None of the classic Disney films could have existed without them tracing and coloring every drawing of every character onto clear sheets to be filmed.
Disney's 'The Story of Menstruation'
The Rumor: Disney created an animated film in 1946 explaining the menstrual cycle to young girls.
The Truth: Obviously the film exists; you can watch it above. It may seem hard to imagine Disney, which generally tries to tiptoe around anything remotely taboo, tackling a subject like menstruation. But there was a time when Disney produced a number of educational films for use in schools, including this one in cooperation with Kotex. It is dated, but probably no more ridiculous than any other film on the same subject from that era.
Put Some Pants on That Duck!
The Rumor: Finland once banned Donald Duck because he doesn't wear pants.
The Truth: This one is false, but it has its roots in a true story. It started in Helsinki when a local politician proposed that the cash-strapped city could save a little money if they stopped purchasing Donald Duck comics for youth centers. The measure passed easily, but when that same politician ran for higher office, the story was blown out of proportion. The unfortunate candidate was accused of banning Donald Duck outright.
Despite the candidate's repeated attempt to set the record straight, the story stuck and cost him the race. The story -- and a similar one from another Finnish town -- became further exaggerated overseas where it gained added fictional details, such as Donald's lack of pants and uncertain marital status. Ironically, Donald Duck comics are extremely popular in Finland. The 'Aku Ankka' comics magazine is the most popular weekly publication there.