What comes to mind when you think of Disney? The Disney brand is all about fun, innocent, family-friendly entertainment, full of warmth and soul and happy endings. That’s why Disney calls its world-famous theme parks the happiest places on Earth.
Grand claims like that are, of course, going to invite naysayers to open the door to Disney’s pretty pink closet to see if there are skeletons in it. To peek behind the marshmallow and find the rot. Hence, dark tales of Disney misdeeds have circulated through much of its history. People are convinced that a company that professes to be all sweetness and light cannot be, underneath.
That’s not to say people just pluck dark imaginings out of the sky. In any urban legend lurks some element of truth.
So let’s peel back the Disney curtain and find out what, if any, truth lies in the legends surrounding the happiest company on Earth…
10. Grown-up Andy gets up to naughty stuff in Toy Story 3
Soon after the June 2010 release of Toy Story 3, a screenshot started circulating the web purportedly capturing a naughty image hidden in the film: the toy characters reacting in shock to the off-camera sight of their now-adult owner, Andy, getting a blow-job. The image was typically posted with the title “Andy’s All Grown Up”.
As shocking (and hilarious) as this is, it’s a pure fake and didn’t appear in any version of the movie. Here’s the original shot.
9. A hidden image of a topless woman appears in The Rescuers
In 1999, Disney announced a recall of the home video releases of The Rescuers because of an “objectionable background image”, namely a topless woman inserted into two frames.
This one’s actually 100% true. Disney claimed that the image was inserted during post-production without their knowledge. People argue that this demonstrates an intention by Disney to corrupt kids’ minds. The problem with that is that no one knew about The Rescuers until Disney themselves announced it and recalled the videos.
I suspect it’s this incident that has led people to try and uncover other hidden images and messages inserted into Disney films (or create them to screw with people, like the Toy Story one above).
8. A banned Mickey Mouse cartoon shows Mickey surgically altering a man into a dog
This legend says that on November 15th 1929, a controversial Mickey Mouse cartoon called Mickey’s Best Friend was shown in theatres. Walt Disney wanted a short with more “mature” content because he believed kids were getting dumbed down by some of the others. However, because kids were requiring constant attention after viewing the cartoon, it was banned.
In the cartoon, a lonely and depressed Mickey befriends someone called Eustace, an anthropomorphic dog character. Mickey admits to Eustace that he’s his only friend. When Eustace decides to leave, Mickey assaults him and ties him to an operating table in the basement. He works on him off-screen and when Eustace awakens, he’s no longer an anthropomorphic dog, but a real dog. Mickey names him Pluto.
As cool as this one is, it’s a creepypasta. Creepypastas are anonymous fictional horror stories that are copied and pasted across the internet via online forums and social networking sites. This one now sits on the Creepypasta Wiki, where it’s still getting mistaken for a true story. The confusion comes from the fact that many creepypastas (like urban legends in general) are written as if they are true stories. Indeed, the one about Mickey’s Best Friend reads like a real Wikipedia page.
7. Disney park characters sometimes molest and beat guests
In 1981, Winnie the Pooh was accused of slapping a nine-year-old girl in the face, resulting in bruising, headaches and possible brain damage. In 2004, Tigger was accused of fondling the breast of a 13-year-old girl who posed for a photo with him.
These two cases actually happened, and the cast members who were wearing the costumes went to trial.
In the first, the cast member playing Pooh testified that he’d accidentally struck the girl after turning round to see who was tugging at him. I was amused to read that during the trial, the cast member returned to the courtroom after a brief recess, dressed as Pooh. When asked “What do you do at Disneyland?” he got up and did a jig in the aisle and the judge said, “Have the record show that he’s doing a two-step.” The jury acquitted Pooh on all charges.
In the second, the attorney for the man playing Tigger donned the costume himself to demonstrate the difficulty of seeing and manoeuvring while inside the outfit. Again, the jury acquitted Tigger.
So while these characters (and others, in similar stories) have certainly been accused of assaulting visitors, so far no evidence of any wrongdoing has held up in court.
6. Disney on ice
This remains one of the most famous urban legends surrounding Walt Disney himself. It says that after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1966, Walt decided to have himself cryogenically frozen, so that he could one day be brought back to life.
Some rumours state that his burial spot is a freezer underneath the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland California. There Walt lies in wait for the day when science can revive him and cure his cancer.
Not long after Disney’s death at St Joseph’s Hospital in late 1966, a correspondent for the National Spotlite claimed to have sneaked into the hospital and found Disney suspended in a metal cylinder. This may have been the source of the rumour, but it’s unclear. The rumours were advanced in French and US publications in 1969, saying that Disney had instructed doctors to thaw him in 1975. In the 80s and 90s, two Disney biographies said that Walt Disney’s preoccupation with his own mortality led him to explore the science of cryogenics and that he often mused about having himself frozen.
However, these biographies are known for being wildly unreliable and all the available evidence shows that Walt was cremated. Moreover, the idea that cryogenically frozen corpses can be brought back to life is considered pseudoscience.
5. Donald Duck is a racist
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Donald Duck allegedly calls Daffy Duck a “goddamn stupid nigger” during the piano duel sequence. Here’s the sequence—see what you think. It’s at the 36-second mark that Donald makes his alleged slur.
Personally, I can’t hear it at all. I checked my DVD of the movie and the subtitles say the line is “doggone stubborn nitwit”. According to a couple of sources, the line in the script was “doggone stubborn little—” Most people agree that this is just some variation of the thing he shouts in almost all of his cartoons: “Why you doggone little… I’ll… waaaaaggggh!”
This is one of those instances of people hearing what they want to hear (not unlike the alleged “Good teenagers, take off your clothes” in Aladdin).
4. A Mickey Mouse cartoon called Suicide Mouse causes viewers to experience panic, disorientation and memory loss
This is a creepy one. Suicide Mouse is supposedly a brief, black-and-white clip of Mickey Mouse walking past buildings, played on a continuous loop for several minutes. The file, entitled Suicidemouse.avi, was originally discovered and uploaded to YouTube in 2009. However, there was nothing particularly ominous about it apart from the dissonant score and despondent look on Mickey’s face. After walking past buildings for 3 minutes, the short faded to black.
However, it was claimed that those first 3 minutes were only the first third of the cartoon. The other 6 minutes, after the fadeout, were extremely disturbing, capable of causing extreme panic, disorientation and memory loss in viewers.
It’s said that film critic Leonard Maltin was considering it for inclusion in the Walt Disney Treasures DVD sets and requested a digitised version of the full 9-minute reel.
Apparently, after the fadeout, we see Mickey again, walking, accompanied by a strange murmur that morphs into a gurgled cry and then an anguished scream. The background shifts and bends in surreal ways and Mickey’s expression turns into a frightening Joker-esque sneer, continuing to warp as the buildings around him crumble and burn. By the 8th minute he’s running frantically, eventually collapsing to the ground, dead, as a large syringe-like object flies out of his grasp. Then there’s a flash of a demonic creature similar to Chernabog in the Night on Bald Mountain sequence of Fantasia.
Apparently Maltin couldn’t watch the full cartoon, so his assistant finished it—and killed himself shortly after.
There are various versions of Suicide Mouse you can find on YouTube, including the one below, which matches the description I’ve just given, with Mickey’s face becoming increasingly warped, the buildings crumbling around him, and the syringe at the end. However, most of these videos are thought to be fabrications. It’s believed that the original Suicidemouse.avi was destroyed, perhaps by Disney themselves.
It’s difficult to piece together the full story of this one, but the internet seems to regard it, again, as a creepypasta. It’s sometimes credited as the creepypasta that popularised the many lost episode-type stories that followed it (including the other Mickey one, Mickey’s Best Friend).
Then again, there are some who believe that the creepypasta label is just a cover…
3. The original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction used real skeletons
Pirates of the Caribbean was the last Disneyland ride that Walt Disney himself worked on before his death. It features scenes of villages overrun with pirates as well as cursed undead skeletal pirates drinking, guarding treasure and playing chess (which inspired the story of the first Pirates movie).
It’s said that the ride’s designers were unhappy with the fake skeletons, so they contacted their friends at the UCLA Medical Centre and sourced some real ones from the anatomy department. These skeletons were gradually replaced with fake ones over the years, as fake skeleton technology improved. However, some human remains were never replaced and are still there in the ride.
Astonishingly, this one’s true! Most of it anyway. Real skeletons were actually used in the original iteration of the ride because the fake ones looked so awful. (This is not dissimilar to the movie Poltergeist infamously using real skeletons in its swimming pool scene.) The urban legend aspect of this tale is that some of those skeletons remain today. Official word is that all have since been removed and replaced, but some believe the skull used for the skeleton sitting up in bed with a magnifying glass genuinely used to be someone’s head…
2. The priest in The Little Mermaid gets an erection
During the wedding scene on the boat, the priest gets a tad overexcited.
This was actually included as an example of “subliminal sex messages” in Disney films that formed the, erm, thrust of a lawsuit by an Arkansas woman, Janet Gilmer.
The side-profile shot of the priest certainly does look like he’s sporting a hard-on. That said, in other scenes you can see bulges that are quite clearly his knees.
This one’s a bit unclear. It’s probably his knees, but the way the bulge moves makes you wonder. Although Gilmer dropped her lawsuit, Disney responded to the controversy by editing it out of later releases. So perhaps they thought it looked dodgy too?
1. A Disney cartoon shows Mickey Mouse using his penis to make Swiss cheese
Anyone starting to notice a penis theme? Perhaps the world’s just obsessed with phalluses…
Anyway, this one’s about a very early Disney cartoon in which Mickey Mouse uses an unconventional method of poking holes in Swiss cheese, as Peg Leg Pete looks on in horror.
Funny as it is, this one’s a fake as well, much like the Toy Story one. It was posted on the B3Ta Board by ‘Drimble’, who used images from classic Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie and overlaid his own animations, including Mickey’s hole-punching boner. Here are all the bits Drimble used.
Does the Mouse really have a dark side?
While there are many more Disney urban legends, they tend to follow similar themes. And while there is truth to some of them, such as the Pirates skeletons and the topless woman in The Rescuers, do they demonstrate Disney’s darker side? Not really. People love finding skeletons in closets. But what I’ve found is that, in a lot of cases, people love it so much that they put the skeletons there themselves.