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Debunking Myths: Is Walt Disney Frozen?

Walt Disney is probably the most famous “frozen” person (or, to say it in a more technical way, cryopreserved person) in the world. Despite the fact that he has never been cryopreserved. After his legal death, Uncle Disney was in fact cremated and, shortly after, his urn was interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. If he could rise from the grave (which is impossible, since he was cremated), he would probably be impressed by how elaborate this theory became. But let’s now have a look at what happened and let’s finally have a cryonics company debunking Disney’s cryonics myth.

Disney and Mickey Mouse statue at Disney World in Orlando, Florida

The origin of the myth

Walt Elias Disney founded with his brother Roy O. Disney the Walt Disney Company in 1923. At the time, it was a small animation studio focusing on short animated silent films — years before Mickey Mouse came to life. Today, Disney is one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization. Just look at the numbers: 1400 live-action Disney movies, 400 animated Disney movies, 12 Disney parks, 51 Disney resorts and 350 Disney shops. For generations, Disney has been entertaining and shaping the imagination of kids and adults all around the world. With such a worldwide reputation, it’s hard to avoid rumors. But what exactly is Disney’s link to cryonics?

Disney’s death

After being a heavy smoker his whole life, in early November 1966 Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer. After less than a month, he died of circulatory collapse. It was the 15th of December, 1966. Two days later, after a private funeral, his family had his body cremated and buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

From the Los Angeles Times’ archives: Wizard of Fantasy Walt Disney Dies

Nothing but a traditional death ceremony for Uncle Disney and his family. But, although there are legal documents proving it, many people around the world suspect that things went differently. According to some, Disney’s body (or head) was cryopreserved and is now kept hidden under his most famous attraction: the Pirates of Caribbean at Disneyland Anaheim, California. Or, according to others, under Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Waiting for medical technology to develop enough to treat cancer and bring this animation genius back to life.

First rumors

So where did all these rumors come from?

  • In early 1967 a reporter from The National Spotlite, claimed he had snuck into St. Joseph’s Hospital, where Disney was hospitalized. There, he found the recently deceased Disney suspended in a cryogenic metal cylinder inside a storage room. There is however no proof that the magazine, or the reporter, has ever existed. In addition, unlike what we see in the movies, dewars don’t have a glass through which you can look inside. This to assure better thermal insulation and long term storage. Still, the reporter could have opened the lid of a random cryogenic metal cylinder in a storage room and recognized Disney’s through the nitrogen gasses…
  • In 1969, a provocative US supermarket tabloid called The National Tattler continued the rumors, predicting Disney would be thawed out in 1975. The same tabloid published, in May 1955, an article with the title “With no arms and legs, HUMAN CATERPILLAR is husband and father!” — that says a lot about their reliability. From there, the myth proliferated, with newspapers around the globe reporting it as a fact.
Pirates of Caribbean attraction — Credit image: Los Angeles Times
  • In addition, some of Disneyland’s former employees contributed to the spreading of this “secret information”. Their quotes were used in two separate biographies of Disney: Leonard Mosely’s Disney’s World (1986) and Marc Eliot’s Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince (1993). According to the biographies, Disney’s obsession with death led him to an interest in cryonics. And this is the only detail of the myth that could actually be true.
  • In 1972 Robert Nelson, president at the time of the Cryonics Society of California (CSC), claimed in a Los Angeles Times story that, quoted, “Walt Disney wanted to be frozen”. He added that, unluckily, Disney “missed out”, since “he never specified it in writing and when he died his family didn’t go for it”. When asked to elaborate, he added that: “We got a call from Walt Disney Studios, asking us how many people had been frozen, and what kind of facilities we had, and who the medical staff was. He was a very brilliant individual and he was checking all the bases.” We can neither confirm nor deny the occurrence of this call. The CSC was actually the society that performed the first human cryopreservation. Only a few weeks after Disney’s death. It also performed other 9 cryopreservations, according to Nelson, between 1967 and 1970.

Are we sure this is just a myth?

It is true that Walt Disney was fascinated with death. And at the same time, he was very interested in technology and innovation. Just think of his EPCOT — “Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow” project, a themed park, opened only after his death, that was dedicated to the celebration of human future achievements and cultures.

But, as Disney’s daughter Diane wrote in 1972, “There is absolutely no truth that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen. I doubt that my father had ever heard of cryonics.”

California Adventure and Disneyland are the two parks forming the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California

We can’t really tell if Disney knew of the existence of cryonics. There is a chance that he did read Ettinger’s book The Prospect of Immortality that, at the time of Disney’s death, was a much debated book. And this is probably another reason why this rumor spread so easily. But there is no solid evidence, no document and no credible witness to prove Disney had been cryopreserved.

In addition, cryonics was then in its infancy. If a prominent figure like Disney had chosen to be cryopreserved, no cryonics society would have kept it a secret. Just consider how much publicity cryonics would have gained back then having Disney as the first ever cryopreserved human.

Conclusion

The truth is that many people around the world would be happy to know that Disney was “frozen”. And that he will eventually come back to life, drawing again cartoons that the future generations will love. This is probably why the rumors keep thriving, even if the evidence against it is strong.

Many people wish Disney could eventually come back

Cryopreservation is currently the only slight possibility for anybody to have a chance to come back to life. We all would love to know that the people we love, if anything happened to them, could live again. This chance may be still low, considering cryonics and medical technology have a long way ahead. But it is still better than having no chance at all.

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