If you think there isn’t a hidden dark side to some of your favorite Disney cartoons, then… well, you’re probably right.
Starting as early as the 70s, fans of Walt Disney’s multimedia empire have spread all kinds of hoaxes and tall tales that put a dark spin on some of America’s most beloved cartoons. While there are occasional Easter Eggs and mistakes here and there which have turned out to be true, the majority of these rumors that suggest theories such as ghosts haunting Disney World are just that; rumors. Below are five popular urban legends that have somehow managed to thrive, even though they’ve been irrefutably proven false.
5: The lost “Suicide Mouse” cartoon
Have you ever watched a cartoon so scary that it made you think to yourself “well, that’s about enough of my time in this mortal coil?” Probably no, but this is actually the premise of the supposedly lost animation known as Suicide Mouse.
The story goes that this haunted cartoon was found by a Disney executive looking to compile old Mickey Mouse cartoons onto a DVD, but his reviewing of this lost footage took a sinister turn. What began as a simple loop of the iconic Mouse walking down a street suddenly started grossly distorting in ways that shouldn’t be humanly possible. The final moments of the cartoon were supposedly so terrorizing that those remaining in the room watching it proceeded to end their own lives. If this sounds like a scary ghost story you might hear around a campfire, that’s because it is; Suicide Mouse is actually a well known example of a “lost episode creepypasta” – a horror story about a lost episode of a well known TV show or franchise.
Because Suicide Mouse was one of the first stories of its kind, it wound up making the rounds across the internet and fooling readers who weren’t aware of the tale’s blatantly fictional origins. Exasperating the issue are numerous fan recreations of the Suicide Mouse cartoon on Youtube, leading certain viewers to believe that this was in fact a lost Disney animation. As a rule of thumb, if you read a story about a cartoon or movie that literally drives people insane, you can probably file it under the “not true” category.
4: Donald Duck’s lack of pants kept him out of Finland
Sometimes the worst lies are the ones that carry a modicum of truth, which is exactly the case with this silly rumor that Donald Duck was banned in Finland for not wearing pants.
While Donald Duck was technically “banned” from Finland at one point, it had nothing to do with his wardrobe. According to the popular myth-busting website Snopes, the city of Helsinki temporarily discontinued purchasing Donald Duck comics for its youth centers in order to allocate funds toward sports publications. However, in an act similar to the mudslinging we see in United States politics, Finish newspapers called out the manager of the meeting, Markku Holopainen, as “the man who banned Donald Duck.” This was done to stymie Holopainen’s political campaign which ran the year after this meeting had taken place, but as the headline began to spread internationally, the news lost all of its context. Once the story was covered by tabloids exaggerating details without verifying any facts, the myth was spread far past the point of no return.
Meanwhile, poor Holopainen wound up losing his political battle because half the world literally believed he found Donald Duck to be obscene.
3: The hidden message in The Lion King’s dust
Speaking of obscene, this infamous scene from The Lion King shows how eager some people are to find dirty little secrets in otherwise innocuous places.
In a dramatic moment that occurs in the latter half of the film, Simba lays down at the edge of a cliff while a cloud of dust springs up from under his feet. Viewers analyzing the scene may notice that the dust flies into the sky in a peculiar pattern, and the popular urban legend posits that the dust forms the letters “S-E-X.” In truth, the dust does hold a secret message, but it’s more banal than the legend would have you believe. Tom Sito, one of the animators of the film, disclosed that the dusty letters are actually “S-F-X,” an acronym for special effects. So yes, all that’s hidden in the scene is a cute little signature from the special effects team, nothing more.
2: A disgruntled employee secretly corrupted the cover of The Little Mermaid
Speaking of obscene, this infamous poster from The Little Mermaid shows how eager some people are to… hey, it looks like there’s a trend with these Disney urban legends.
Let’s cut to the chase; on the front cover of the original VHS release of The Little Mermaid, one of the castle spires depicted in the background has a… well, phallic shape. If we are to believe the internet and tabloids, this design was the work of a disgruntled Disney employee who wanted to tarnish the reputation of the company before his impending termination. However, as you may have guessed, this story is entirely fictitious. Snopes was able to question the original artist about his work and found that he was neither upset nor in fear of losing his job at the time of its creation. The truth of the matter is, the image was simply drawn in haste. Any resemblance the tower bore to inappropriate subject matter was simply coincidence.
Disney wound up changing the cover of The Little Mermaid in subsequent rereleases of the movie, indicating the bad press influenced Disney regardless of the truth of the situation.
1: Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen
As arguably the oldest and most popular Disney urban legend to date, we’d be impressed with the staying power of this hoax if it wasn’t so ridiculous.
Basically, sometime back in the 60s and 70s, rumors spread by word of mouth that Walt Disney was frozen at the end of his life. Because Walt hid a harmful, lifelong addiction to cigarettes, the theory claims that Walt chose to be one of the first men to undergo the futuristic cryonic procedure so that he might one day be brought back to life when a cure for lung cancer had been discovered. Funny enough, even though this rumor was debunked as early as 1972, any efforts to prove that Walt wasn’t frozen seemed to fan the flames that claimed he was. It’s a legend that has gone on for so long that it motivated Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, to open the Walt Disney Family Museum to debunk the hoax once and for all. The truth of the matter is, Walt Disney prematurely passed away in 1966 at the age of 65, and he was cremated two days later. Though some of us may like to believe that Walt could magically come back to life in a way that wouldn’t be unlike one of his fairy tale animations, we have to face the facts on this one.
Though conflicting reports remain over whether or not Walt Disney had an interest in cryonics, this is one notorious myth that’s categorically false. On the other hand, maybe it’s just more fun to believe Walt penned a haunted cartoon called Suicide Mouse and decided his body would live on forever after getting Donald Duck banned in Finland. Either way, urban legends may get your attention, just don’t believe everything you read on the internet.