Surfing the web, I saw that it is Walt Disney’s birthday today. One of the most famous urban legends about him, of course, is the one that Disney was cryogenically frozen upon his death. Part of this legend had it that the frozen mausoleum holding him and many others in suspension had not been able to pay their electric bills and the electricity had been turned off leaving all the frozen remains no longer frozen. I believed this for years including another legend that knowing he was going to die, Disney had produced a short film that was played to the executives of the studio after his demise directing them to take care of a variety of loose ends. Supposedly it freaked the executives out—Walt speaking from the other side. The frozen legend has been debunked; he was indeed cremated. I’m not sure of the veracity of the post mortem movie story.
I was glued to his TV show Disneyland in the fifties, still holding some scenes vividly in my memory. In one episode, “Man in Space,” there was a segment about floating free in the solar system. If a person were not protected, half of him/her would freeze and the other half (the side toward the sun) would burn, the german scientist voiceover explained (both Heinz Haber and Wernher von Braun narrated). The image of an animated character with a line running vertically down his body, one side in icy and the other in fiery death was conveyed playfully but oh so poignantly (see image above). The burning was accompanied with the crackling sound of a fire in a fireplace and the icing was accompanied with soft bells alluding to Christmas cheer. (Part 2 of the show is below with half burning, half frozen man appearing at 12:02 minutes.) I still remember feeling great awe (and a bit of terror) at this possible phenomena and actually viscerally projecting extreme heat and cold on the right and left sides of my body, wondering how it could possibly happen. I can still feel my heart beating in my 9 year old throat just thinking about it. Conceiving of this terminal yin/yang was way too alarming for me and, I was sure, for Tinkerbell as well.
Disney must have been just as compelled with this free floating body in space. Though it was believed he was frozen at death to be revived and cured at a later date, in fact, he was summarily cremated. For Disney, myth and reality combined to mimic “man in space” sans spacesuit.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.