The Biggest Lies You've Ever Heard About Disney

Disney is one of the biggest corporations on the planet, spawning films, television shows, theme parks, merchandising and much, much more. The company is basically omnipresent at this point, and with its widespread fame also comes widespread notoriety. Rumors about Disney and its properties range from sweet to odd to downright creepy. Let's debunk some popular Disney "facts" that many falsely believe to be true.

Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen

Rumor has it that Disney founder Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen after his death in hopes that he could one day be resurrected.

Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966, from lung cancer. He was 65, and, despite what lots of people say, his body was cremated, not frozen. Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, opened the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco as a means of putting to rest some of the rumors surrounding her famous father. "Other little kids would say to my kids, 'My mother said your grandfather was anti-Semitic' or 'Your grandfather is frozen, isn't he?' And I couldn't let that stand," she told the Daily Mail. "I have a really good life because of him and the one thing I can do is establish this place, and I wasn't doing it just for him, I was doing it for all those millions of people that kind of love him."

This false fact likely took root in 1972 when Bob Nelson, the then-president of the Cryonics Society of California, told the Los Angeles Times (via Mental Floss) that Walt wanted to be frozen. "The truth is, Walt missed out," Nelson said. "He never specified it in writing, and when he died the family didn't go for it...Two weeks later we froze the first man. If Disney had been the first it would have made headlines around the world and been a real shot in the arm for cryonics." Nelson confirmed, "They had him cremated. I personally have seen his ashes."

Nelson reiterated this in his 2014 book Freezing People is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics, writing that someone at Disney had called asking for information on cryonics. When Los Angeles Magazine asked Nelson if it was possible Disney was frozen at a different facility, he replied, "There was no other facility at that time. The only other group was the Cryonics Society of New York and they had nothing—no mortician, no doctor, no nothing." Alas, it looks like the dream of a reanimated Walt will remain just a wish upon a star.

An angry artist drew a phallic image in The Little Mermaid

There are multiple stories about male genitalia in The Little Mermaid (1989). One popular rumor involves the film's VHS cover. Story has it that a disgruntled Disney artist decided to construct a phallic symbol on the castle featured on the video tape's cover. The image was supposedly so inappropriate that a supermarket employee pulled the VHS from the shelves after a customer complained.

While it's true that the offensive image did exist, most evidence points to it being an accident as opposed to the rebellion of a bitter cartoonist. In a Snopes myth-busting story titled "The Palace with the Phallus," the site actually interviewed the artist responsible for the hoopla and reported that he had no beef with Disney. Here's his version of the story, as told to Snopes: "Rushed to complete the video artwork (featuring towers that were rather phallic to begin with), the artist hurried through the background detail (at 'about four in the morning') and inadvertently drew one spire that bore a rather close resemblance to a penis. The artist himself didn't notice the resemblance until a member of his youth church group heard about the controversy on talk radio and called him at his studio with the news."

Two people died in the Haunted Mansion

Hauntings are hard to debunk, but it's unlikely Disney World and Disneyland are the hot spots of supernatural activity that many fan theories make them out to be. Most of the rides in the parks have spooky stories surrounding them, but one of the most frequent targets of this supernatural gossip is, you guessed it, the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Rumors began early in the ride's history when it sat closed for nearly six years after its 1963 completion. Word on the street was that the ride was shuttered because a guest was so frightened he had a heart attack and died. However, the delayed opening was likely due to a combination of construction factors, the national hoopla over the New York World's Fair, and the death of Walt, but there is no reputable record of a man experiencing a heart-stopping scare.

Another rumored death in the Haunted Mansion alleges two high school seniors visiting the park decided to exit the Doombuggy to look for a room called the "Séance Circle." One teen allegedly fell to his death, breaking his neck after plummeting between the tracks and the platform. However, there is also no record of this death, either. The only reported incident on the ride involves a 15-year-old who survived a fall onto the tracks.

The plane on the Great Movie Ride is from Casablanca

This rumor reportedly stems from a 1988 Chicago Tribune article. The story said Disney had been searching for a plane that looked like the original Lockheed Electra 12A used in the iconic farewell scene in Casablanca (1942) to include in an attraction called the Great Movie Ride at Disneyland. "Studio researchers began looking for a plane that looked like the original Lockheed; they found the actual plane in Hondo, Tex. (They could tell from the serial number-1204.)

According to Yesterland, the Tribune article got the actual destination of the famous plane wrong. That aircraft reportedly ended up at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) instead of at Disneyland. The site also notes that a Los Angeles Times article from 1988 said it was "probably" the same plane; but not definitely.

Others say that's still not correct. According to numerous reports about Casablanca, there wasn't a real plane involved in the making of the film at all. Some say the aircraft in the movie was a reduced-sized model shot on a soundstage. The Internet Movie Plane Database wiki reports that the production employed dwarfs in order to make the sizing look correct.

According to an interview with Disney historian Jim Korkis, the film's assistant director discussed the famous plane in a 1993 book called Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca. Korkis read an excerpt from Aljean Harmetz's book: "We were not allowed to leave the lot. So this airport was built on a stage with a cutout airplane. And, obviously, we fogged in the set not so much to give it atmosphere but because we had to conceal the fact that everything was so phony. We finally positioned the plane, which was, I thought, a pretty bad cutout, as far away as we dared. And we had no way to give it any perspective. And it occurred to me to hire a bunch of midgets to portray the mechanics. To give it a forced perspective. And it worked."

For those who still aren't willing to let this rumor go, it's worth noting that some people believe that even though the plane on the Great Movie Ride might not be the one pictured in the classic Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman farewell, the aircraft could have been used in another scene that shows the plane taking off. This would mean the ride misrepresents where in the film the plane was used, but it would technically qualify as an aircraft used in Casablanca.

Animators put the word "SEX" in clouds in The Lion King

The scene's existence can't be denied. In The Lion King (1994), Simba kicks up a cloud of dust which drifts into the sky in a way that could, to some, resemble the word "SEX," but the notion that it was put there on purpose as some sort of subliminal message is likely not true.

Former Disney animator Tom Sito told The Huffington Post the letters actually read "SFX" as a shout-out to the film's special effects department. Other producers have reportedly confirmed this was the intention of the lettering, noting that additional dust was added in the film's rerelease to avoid mixed messages.

The website Disney Lies reports a different story, claiming the letters actually spell out "STYX" in honor of the popular band. It backs this up by saying that a few notes of the rock band's "Mr. Roboto" can be heard in the background of the scene.

Regardless, there does not appear to be any confirmation that Disney subtly sexed up the kids' film.

Walt Disney left a fortune for the first man to become pregnant

There are variations of this rumor, but they all boil down to one idea: Walt decided to bequeath a large portion of his massive fortune to the first man to become pregnant. Some say it was $10 million; others allege it was the entire Disney estate. However, Disney's apparent last will and testament has been well documented online, appearing on multiple websites. The breakdown of the will indicates that 45 percent goes to Walt's wife and daughters, 45 percent to charity via the Disney Foundation, and the remainder to a trust for his sister, nieces, and nephews. There's no mention of a prize for the first pregnant man.

The Tower of Terror is haunted by a ghost

"Proof" that the Tower of Terror is haunted surfaced in a YouTube video allegedly showing a ghost on the ride during an after-hours maintenance check. Sorry, folks, but watching the video doesn't confirm the apparition is real. Rather, the footage looks like a combination of the reflection from the maintenance man's clipboard and dust in the air.

The minister at the Little Mermaid's wedding has an erection

Another dirty little The Little Mermaid rumor involves the wedding scene between Prince Eric and Vanessa, the sea witch in disguise. Folks claim the minister is sporting an erection during the nuptials. One woman, Janet Gilmer, even sued Disney for "all damages that are recoverable at law, including punitive damages" due to the emotional trauma she incurred from the experience.

If you look carefully, the offensive bulge is actually just the minister's knees, although it is easy to see how people could miss that in the brief scene. Disney reportedly recognized the confusion and altered the animation in later versions of the film. Gilmer dropped her lawsuit, too.

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is possessed

Here's yet another ghost story making the rounds at Disney: the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is inhabited by the ghost of a welder named George who died during its construction. We did some digging, but found no legitimate reports substantiating the death of a construction worker.

We did find an authentic article in the Orlando Sentinel about an employee who slipped and hit his head while acting in a mock sword fight during the "Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial" show in 2009. The actor, 47-year-old Mark Priest, reportedly suffered a broken vertebra and a cut to his scalp and died days later in the hospital. "It was a very freakish thing," longtime friend Jeffrey Breslauer told the paper.

Walt Disney was an illegitimate child

Walt's life has been the subject of much speculation. One of the primary rumors surrounding the legendary creator claims he was born in Spain and secretly adopted by American parents. The scuttlebutt alleges Walt is the illegitimate son of Gines Carrillo, a Spanish doctor, and a local washerwoman named Isabel Zamora. Pressured by Carrillo's family, Zamora emigrated to the United States with her baby, named Jose, and resettled in the same Chicago neighborhood where Walt grew up. Zamora put Jose up for adoption, and Elias and Flora Call Disney took him in. Believers claim there is no record of a Walt Disney in Chicago until more than a year after his birthday when he was baptized at a local church. There are also rumors of President Herbert Hoover's men trying to cover up Walt's true parentage in order to protect one of America's rising stars.

"The story is irresistibly, perhaps impossibly, romantic," wrote The Guardian in a 2001 article about the tale, which "combines forbidden love, an orphan child, wicked step-parents and even the sinister presence of J Edgar Hoover and his G-men." It's also intriguing because, at the time of this writing, it has not been indisputably proved true or false. According to The Guardian, the Disneys said Walt was born Dec. 5, 1901, "But it was not until 17 years later, when Walt needed a passport, that Flora would sign an affidavit saying he had been born at their home [in Chicago]. Oddly, she signed a second affidavit—presumably on Walt's urging—in Oregon in 1934..." The birth registry from 1901 in the Spanish town in which Disney was supposedly born has also disappeared, meaning that it's impossible to confirm that a child was born to Zamora in that year.

Walt was the fourth child in the family— he had three older brothers named Roy, Herbert and Raymond, plus a younger sister named Ruth. None of his siblings were adopted, and there is no evidence as to why the Disneys would want to adopt a child secretly.

Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, has also denied that her father was illegitimate, calling a book which alleged that her dad was an FBI informant who used the organization to figure out his true parentage "all so crazy." She told the Los Angeles Times, "I can't understand why it got such wide acceptance...Evidently there's a little town in Spain that's supposed to be very pretty; a friend of ours showed us a brochure from there that says 'and among other things, we are also the birthplace of Walt Disney, although he does not choose to acknowledge it.' Apparently the story's been out there for a long time."