Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Secret of Walt Disney’s Head

Walter Elias Disney has some of the most controversial and hotly contested biographies. This is weird considering he’s hardly Stalin or Jesus. If you really want to piss off a Disney biographer, claim he was a Nazi. Hell, it’s even one of my pet peeves, and I’m far from a serious academic. A major source of contention amongst Disney historians is not whether his head was frozen (spoilers: it wasn’t) but where exactly this urban legend came from.

Wait... that's not Disney!

Almost all of the biographers agree that the urban legend about his cryogenically frozen head is a myth. (I say almost all because there’ll always be a fringe of extreme conspiracy theorists – Illuminati-botherers who believe Walt was a lizard man from space, shape shifted into a human form to brainwash our children and steal the brains of our leaders).

The first cryogenically preserved man was frozen a month after Disney died. Maybe this helped fuel the idea. Incidentally, we have yet to develop the ability to bring these corpse-sicles back from the dead, and until we do there’s probably no way to really tell how useful cryogenic freezing is. Until I see a revived subject in the adverts for cryogenics, smiling and saying ‘How refreshing!’ I will doubt the effectiveness of the procedure.

The privacy surrounding Walt Disney’s death has only fuelled speculation. One of the things people love to repeat is that after he died, his family waited three days to announce his death to the public. Obviously they just wanted time to grieve before the media circus started, but it looks suspicious from a certain (paranoid) angle. What does a three-day news delay have to do with cryogenics anyway? Is it one of the secret signs? Is there a three-day ritual that mustn’t be interrupted? If so, then science is stranger than I thought.

Disney was certainly capable of planning big, and a major Futurist. EPCOT was intended to be a revolutionary new city. For example, this short film was made shortly before Disney’s death, and goes on and on and on about how great EPCOT will be. For twenty whole damn minutes! It’s the kind of corporate propaganda film that clichéd supervillains can only dream about:

Personally, I can’t watch that film without imagining all the ways it could go wrong, but that’s because my head is full of twisted utopias like Bioshock’s Rapture, the Breen nation from Aeon Flux, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the civilization from Logan’s Run and dozens more. “Welcome to EPCOT, the utopia designed by Disney’s very own Imagineers! Just one rule: you only eat what you kill. Take my advice – find shelter before sunset or the Mouseketeers will catch your scent. Stay out of the centre of the city, that’s where they nest.”

Anyway, planning a city is pretty eccentric, but some people credit Walt with much more eccentric ideas. They say he planned far ahead in his city’s future, laying down plans for an entirely immortal population. They say he intended the city to outlast the Earth itself, and go floating off into space. As with any powerful man, you can imagine all kinds of crap about them.

Disney's father?

But he didn’t freeze his brain. The real secret of Walt Disney’s head is the lesson it teaches us: some academics will become furious, cold-hearted and spiteful monsters over the most petty and irrelevant issues. Historians and researchers studying his life go crazy when an opposing opinion is voiced, and they will tear each other’s work apart with accusations of being sensationalist, groundless and unfair or sanitised, white-washed, corporate sellouts. The question of who first suggested that Walt Disney cryogenically preserved his head is a good example of this: a massive amount of people don’t care, but a select few will probably fight to the death over it if ever trapped in the same room. In this way, it’s probably also a good example of most arguments anywhere on the internet.

Dear Disney historians and aficionados, let’s stop arguing about who has the bigger brain-dick. Instead let’s address the question we all ought to be asking: What happened to Kennedy’s brain? Answer: SHAPE SHIFTING SPACE LIZARDS!

Grr! Arg!

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