This week, we got an announcement that Disney+ would not feature Song of the South and would trim the crows out of Dumbo. This sparked a lot of discussion—the importance of preserving even the bits of history we aren’t proud of. Whether children can really deal with the racism in those movies or will just end up internalizing it. Whether they’re the ones being discussed because they’re relevant to the moment or whether this trimming will include even more problematic things like the “What Makes the Red Man Red?” song from Peter Pan. And it turns out that what we didn’t actually discuss enough was whether the announcement should be considered official or not, as it was only reported by a single source and was neither confirmed nor denied by Disney.
My whole life, I’ve known about this sort of thing. If you listen to what people say, Walt was cryogenically frozen—and his freezer is actually hidden somewhere in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, even. Aladdin is telling kids to take off their clothes and the word “sex” is hidden in the clouds in The Lion King. The Disney studio could only be built if it were easily convertible into a hospital in case the studio failed. The turkey legs are secretly emu legs. (We’ll get back to this one.) “Black Diamond” Disney VHS tapes are worth a fortune. And so forth. Snopes.com, the Urban Legends website, maintains an entire category for just Disney legends.
And, in fact, some of them are even true! Disney did fake lemming deaths for White Wilderness. There really was a naked woman in one of the windows in The Rescuers. There is a secret basketball court in the Matterhorn, and Disneyland did keep long-haired men from entering for years. I suspect the fact that some are true is one of the reasons people are more inclined to believe the obviously fake ones.
And goodness but some of them are obviously fake. I mean, emu legs? The emu, for the curious, is the world’s second-largest bird by height, following only the ostrich. They can reach slightly over six feet tall—taller than a vast majority of Disney’s guests. An emu leg is huge. (I can’t find an exactly measurement, here, but apparently we’re looking at eight times the size of a turkey leg.) Emu meat also tends to be about $25-30 a pound, in no small part because of low demand, and that’s far too much for Disney to spend. While looking this up, I also found someone claiming that the legs were more sort of turkey loaf with a plastic leg, and that’s . . . unlikely, but at least it’s more likely than emu?
It’s strange, though, that people don’t ever seem to fact check these things. Admittedly, it’s a lot easier now. For example, today’s article image is courtesy of the website Find a Grave, which maintains the location of millions of graves. (They want to know how famous Walt Disney is, in case he’s falsely been placed in their “famous people” category.) When I was growing up, that wasn’t an option. Since the company, and the family, were so quiet about Walt’s death, cremation, and interment, gossip spread. And given Walt’s obsession with futuristic technology, what was unlikely about his being cryogenically frozen?
Disney seems to mostly ignore these things. So far as I know, they haven’t commented on the current story. And I can’t say as I blame them. They’ve been denying some of them for decades, because once you start, you can’t stop. It doesn’t seem to change what people believe, because they want to believe things. Disney’s a company with some real problems, and why not just assume that every weird thing you hear about them is true? After all, they have deleted problematic stuff from movies before—I could cite examples, and have—so why not just think that they’ll do it this time, even if the original source is a website no one’s ever heard of and not Disney themselves?