The legacy of Walt Disney lives on, growing larger and larger each year. His company has blossomed from a humble animation studio to an entertainment juggernaut. The Walt Disney Company is home to multiple film studios, television networks, and theme parks (just to name a few).
But one of the most persistent rumors about Walt Disney himself is also one of the strangest…For years, there have been stories about what happened to Walt’s body after his death. According to the rumors, Walt has his head (or his entire body, depending on the story) cryogenically frozen. The reason being, Walt wanted to be revived when medical science discovered a way to do so.
No one knows who started these rumors or when they began. They were mentioned in two different biographies of Walt Disney. But both books have been criticized for inaccuracies. There is one thing we definitely do know about the rumors, though: they aren’t true.
The Downfall of Walt Disney
Walt Disney was a very heavy smoker for most of his life. In fact, he was rarely seen without a cigarette in his hand. As a young man he had smoked a pipe, as well. The cigarettes he favored did not have filters either.
In fact, when Tom Hanks portrayed Walt in the 2013 film, Saving Mr. Banks, the studio specifically requested that he not be shown smoking. This was not an attempt to distort history, but rather a result of recent anti-smoking movements. Disney has a studio policy not to depict smoking onscreen. The Motion Picture Association of America is also known to give films an R rating due to the presence of smoking.
Nonetheless, there is one scene showing Walt putting out a lit cigarette. In addition, his notorious smoker’s cough can be heard several times throughout the film.
Ultimately, Walt’s smoking led him to be diagnosed with lung cancer in November 1966. He was treated with an early form of radiation therapy called cobalt therapy. The treatment uses gamma rays to remove tumors, but it was unsuccessful. On November 30, 1966, Walt felt unwell and was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California. To this day, the hospital is located directly across the street from the world headquarters of the Walt Disney Company.
Fifteen days later, Walt suffered a circulatory collapse and died. He had turned 65 only ten days earlier.
The Truth About Walt Disney’s Burial
Contrary to popular belief, Walt Disney was cremated two days later. His remains were then interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
So where did the story about having himself frozen come from? Well, it’s true that Walt had been fascinated by futuristic technologies all his life. Research in cryonics had begun in earnest in the years before his death. Walt had expressed some interest in the idea. He was also well known as a pioneer in using and creating new technology. Ultimately, though, the first cryonic procedure didn’t even take place until a month after Walt’s passing.
Walt Disney may be gone, but his legacy will endure as long as his movies and his company continue to delight fans throughout the ages.