The pioneer of children’s entertainment gives the leaders of his legacy some adult advice. 1,075 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
When Walt Disney passed away on December 15, 1966, he left an artistic and commercial legacy that his successors are still mining. He also – according to persistent rumor – left behind a private film that was to be shown to his top executives exactly one year after he died. When the anniversary day arrived, they were led into “the sweat box,” the tiny airless room where animators used to screen their rough footage, and shown to assigned seats. The lights went down and Walt appeared on film. He spoke to each of them by name and told them exactly what they were to do for the next five years. When the film ended, the stunned men returned to their corner offices and the sole existing print they had just watched was destroyed — again, on Walt’s posthumous orders. Always known for meticulous, if not compulsive, planning, Walt had issued instructions for the completion of Walt Disney World in Florida, its expansion into European and Asian countries, and development details for WED Enterprises and RETLAW. He even cautioned against releasing the animated features too quickly on home video, a medium whose commercial debut was still nine years off but which his studio contracts had been predicting for decades.
It was therefore an extraordinary moment when the transcript for this film was discovered between the pages of story conference notes for The Jungle Book, the picture Walt had been developing when he died. We present it here for the first time as a tribute to the man who built an empire upon a mouse:
1. Now that I’ve been dead for one year, I want you to go to Forest Lawn and pee on Walter Lantz’s grave. I shall never forgive him for taking Oswald The Rabbit from me, even if it did force me to invent Mickey Mouse. At least Oswald was silent, not like that fucking woodpecker.
2. Let me be in the ground at least 18 years before hiring Jews to run the place.
3. Disneyland will never be finished. It will also never be affordable. Be sure to raise ticket prices every year just when families have saved up enough to go there.
4. Am I the only one who finds those big-head characters at the park creepy? There’s something not right about a five-foot-tall Mickey with a four-foot head. Besides, when kids come up to talk to MM, they’re talking to his crotch.
5. If security catches anybody taking drugs at the park, don’t call the police. Just send them to the “It’s A Small World” attraction until they flip out.
6. Burn everything you can find related to when we paid the FBI to bury Wernher von Braun’s Nazi credentials even if he was a hit on the Tomorrowland episodes of our TV show.
7. See if you can renegotiate our settlement with Britain over Dick van Dyke’s Cockney accent in Mary Poppins. How many times must we apologize for letting J. Pat O’Malley be his dialogue coach?
8. Whatever you do, never re-release Song Of The South.
9. Should any of our Mouseketeers write a tell-all book, say nothing. We have such good will that nobody will believe it, at least as long as our Annette is still alive.
10. If P.L. Travers ever sets foot in my studio again, threaten her with a biopic showing what a bitch she is.
11. I recently read a terrific book called “John Carter” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Are the screen rights available?
12. Be sure to protect my copyrights and trademarks. Find some day care center that has painted Mickey, Donald, and Pluto on their walls and sue the shit out of them.
13. Keep letting our animators slip inside jokes into our cartoon films. People will keep trying to catch them.
14. Would someone please settle once and for all whether Goofy is a dog?
15. Competition is the essence of creativity. The more that other companies develop characters whom the whole world loves, the more our own people will be inspired to create more. Therefore under no circumstances should you buy characters from comic books or science fiction movies.
16. You can’t go wrong with princesses. Little girls can get their parents to buy them all that tiara and gown crap. I tell you, princesses are the future.
17. There is a time in every kid’s life when he or she rejects Disney as being an embarrassing relic of childhood. They only return to us once they have children of their own. This means that we lose them between the ages of ten and twenty-five. That’s fifteen years when they’re giving somebody else their money. See what you can do about this. Buy a TV network or start a sports franchise or something. Use your brains, fellas. What if it gets out that a dead guy is still running the company?
18. If a film bombs in testing, just add the words “That Darn” in front of the title as we did with That Darn Cat, So That Darn Lone Ranger, That Darn Tomorrowland, etc.
19. As you know, I’m not a big fan of sequels. If you tell the story right, a sequel is unnecessary. So forget about making Peter Pan: The Puberty Years, Lady And the Tramp : The Neutering, or Pinocchio: Termites.
20. No more talk about working conditions being so oppressive that people took to calling the studio Mouseschwitz and Duckau. This is offensive. Just because we tried to make a musical out of “The Diary Of Anne Frank” called Attic! is no reason to say such things.
21. As soon as possible, give Chip ‘n’ Dale girlfriends. People are starting to talk.
22. Land is limited at the Anaheim park but there’s still plenty of room for new rides in Orlando. See what you can do with a “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” waterboarding experience, a “Bambi” where’s-my-mother? game and a “Sleeping Beauty” spinning wheel run by a prick.
23. Kids love the dinosaur sequence from Fantasia. Look into creating an attraction called “Evolutionland” that starts with The Big Bang and sends guests through millions of years. Sure, it’ll piss off Fundamentalists, but we lost them anyway years ago with our moon ride that showed the world was round.
24. Be sure to reset the mouse traps in my office. (Don’t let this get around.)
25. Finally, whatever you do, don’t hit “Defrost.”