True or False: The Walt Disney Edition

Joan Feder

Feature Article
This article appeared in the December 1, 2020 (#1113) edition of ALL EARS®

Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Walt Disney holds a few of his “friends” while standing near an ABC-TV camera. [The Walt Disney Company]

There are many urban legends about the Disney theme parks. Some are true (you can play basketball inside the Matterhorn) and some are false (Disney World’s castle does not come apart for hurricanes). There are also lots of myths about Walt Disney himself. Here are our top five.

1. Walt said: “If you dream it you can do it”

This quote can be found on twitter and in memes. It has appeared in the Parks on construction walls. It is also attributed to Walt on several Disney DVDs. You can buy this inspirational phrase on products ranging from coffee cups to key chains and wall art. Walt must have said it.

True or False? FALSE.

This quote was actually part of Horizons, an Epcot attraction that has since been replaced by Mission: SPACE.

Horizons showed guests what life might be like in the future, living in a space station, in an underwater city or as part of a desert farming community. The attraction was a kind of sequel to the Carousel of Progress, one of Walt’s favorite attractions.

It is no surprise then that this phrase sounds like something that Walt might have said. But he didn’t. So where did it come from?

It was written by Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald. He said: “I am very familiar with that line because I wrote it! It was written specifically for the Horizons attraction at EPCOT and used in numerous ways, from dialogue in the ride to graphics.”

He even found the confusion about the line’s origin entertaining. According to Tom, “I find it amusing that the Science of Imagineering DVD series attributes it to Walt Disney, but I guess I should be flattered.”

2. Walt Disney is one of the singing busts in the Haunted Mansion

The graveyard is one of the most iconic scenes in the Mansion. Some of its most famous residents are the five busts singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts”. One of the busts is broken; the head is severed from the neck. Despite that, he sings on in a deep bass voice. Many people believe that this mustached minstrel is none other than Walt Disney himself.

True or False? FALSE.

The bust actually depicts voice actor and Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft. His voice can be heard all over the Parks. He is Fritz in the Enchanted Tiki Room, and several Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also Buff in the Country Bear Jamboree and a bullfrog on Splash Mountain.

Ravenscroft also voiced characters in many Disney films including Monstro the whale from Pinocchio. He can also be heard in the Aristocats, Sword in the Stone, and Lady and the Tramp.

His most famous work though was for television. Thurl was the originator of Tony the Tiger’s signature catchphrase: “They’re GRRRRRRREEEAT!”. He also sang the theme song to the animated classic Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

There is even a tribute to Thurl at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The organ in the Haunted Mansion stand-by queue is an “authentic” Ravenscroft.

3. Walt Disney’s last words were “Kurt Russell”

This story has been around for over 50 years. According to this myth “Kurt Russell” was either the last thing Walt said or wrote before he died.

True or False? FALSE.

When Walt died on December 15, 1966, his office was locked and left virtually untouched until 1970. It was then that Dave Smith, former Disney archivist, went in and catalogued everything just as it was. A handwritten note that he found there probably gave rise to this urban legend.

On Walt’s desk was a document entitled “TV Projects in Production: Ready for Production or Possible for Escalation and Story.” At the bottom were notes written in Walt’s signature red grease pencil. The scribble read:

Ron Miller—

2 Way Down Cellar

2. Kirt [sic] Russell

3. CIA—Mobley”

Earlier that year, Walt had signed Russell to a 10-year exclusive contract. Based on his note, Walt was thinking of having Kurt appear in a new project.

There were several other documents left out on Walt’s desk. He had written a note on the “Progress Report on the Disney World Project” “to discuss with Card Walker and others.”

There is no way to determine which note on his desk was the last Walt wrote. But even assuming it was the “Kirt” item, Russell’s name was not the last thing on it.

In Walt’s last filmed appearance, he also mentioned Kurt Russell.

Russell’s first film, Follow Me Boys, was scheduled to be released in early December 1966 (it was the last picture Walt produced before he died).

There was going to be an invitational showing of the movie. Walt filmed an introduction for that event on October 27, 1966. It was called “An Evening with Walt Disney.”

In it, Disney discusses several upcoming films including Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Happiest Millionaire. But he specifically focused on his new protege, Kurt Russell. Walt predicted that Russell would have a great future in acting.

So, Disney did discuss and write about Russell towards the end of his life, but Kurt’s name was not the last thing that Walt ever communicated.

4. The Cinderella Castle Dream Suite was originally built for Walt

Walt had an apartment over the Fire Station in Disneyland. A second suite was being built in New Orleans Square just before he died. It makes sense that the suite at the Magic Kingdom would be his home in Florida.

True or False? FALSE.

The timing of the suite’s construction separates this fiction from fact.

Walt did work on the plans for Disney World. But when he died, in late 1966, the Florida project was in its early development. They had not even broken ground yet.

The suite was not part of the castle when the Magic Kingdom opened. Instead, that space housed phone operators and was used as storage for decades.

The Year of a Million Dreams promotion took place from October 1, 2006 – December 31, 2008. The Cinderella Dream Suite was actually constructed as a grand prize for that event. Every day a one night stay was gifted to a lucky family.

Why has this myth persisted when it so clearly isn’t true? Walt’s planned apartment in New Orleans Square in Disneyland was, in fact, transformed into the Disneyland Dream Suite for the Year of a Million Dreams. It is not much of a stretch to believe the same was true for the Cinderella Castle space in Florida.

5. The Partner Statue’s Walt is pointing at….

The Partners Statue is a bronze sculpture featuring Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Walt is posed holding Mickey’s hand and pointing off into the distance. At Walt Disney World, it is located in the hub in front of the castle, facing down Main Street USA.

There are several myths surrounding this statue.

Some believe that Walt is pointing toward EPCOT and telling Mickey to go forward without him. Others say he is pointing at the Train Station.

Many think Walt is pointing to the statue of his brother, Roy Disney, sitting with Minnie on a park bench. That sculpture is located in Town Square in front of the train station on Main Street USA.

Are any of these tales true? No—they are all FALSE.

Blaine Gibson, master sculptor and Disney Legend, came out of retirement to create the statue. He set the record straight, explaining, “I think Walt is admiring the park and saying to Mickey, ‘Look what we’ve accomplished together,’ because truly they were very much a team through it all. ‘Look at all the happy people who have come to visit us today.’”

Gibson has also explicitly stated that there is no other meaning to the statue.

This is supported by the fact that the Roy statue (also sculpted by Gibson) does not even exist in all the locales that have the Partners Statue.

The first Partners Statue was installed at Disneyland on November 18, 1993 as part of Mickey’s 65th birthday celebration. Over the years, identical sculptures were placed at Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Walt Disney Studios Paris, and the Disney Studio located in Burbank.

The Roy/Minnie statue only exists at three of these five locations. As a result, Walt could not be pointing at Roy.

Those are our five top myths about Walt Disney. But what about that other legend—the one about Walt’s death? This may come as a shock, but just like all the rest, those stories are false.

Walt Disney is not cryogenically frozen, nor is he buried under the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. He was cremated two days after his death. His ashes were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery located in Glendale, California.