By Jim Hoberman
“I don’t like depressing pictures. I don’t like pestholes. I don’t like pictures that are dirty. I don’t ever go out and pay money for studies in abnormality. I don’t have depressed moods and I don’t want to have any. I’m happy, just very, very happy.” — Walt Disney
I’ll let down my trousers and shit stories on them, stories… ” — Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable
One of the things about life that used to bug Walt Disney was death. He hated the idea of it. “Dad never goes to a funeral if he can help it,” daughter Diane once revealed. “If he has to go to one, it plunges him into a reverie which lasts for hours after he’s home.” Obviously Walt was figuring something out. “I don’t want a funeral. I want people to remember me alive,” he’d say. Accordingly, when Disney died in December 1966 his funeral service wasn’t announced until after it was over. No details, including disposition of the body, were ever released. All that The Los Angeles Times was able to discover was that the “secret rites” had been conducted at Forest Lawn Cemetery—a theme park with a “Mausoleum of Freedom” for dead soldiers and a “Babyland” for stillborn infants.
It’s not nice to kill off Santa Claus, so most cynics figured that the decision to downplay Disney’s funeral was simply good business. Romantics believed that Disney, with a late interest in cryogenics, had had himself frozen like a TV dinner to sleep on a cushion of liquid nitrogen until some Prince Charming appeared with a cure for the big C. Meanwhile Disney’s corporate heirs continued to act as though their master were still alive. By reverently and continually quoting