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The Iceman Cometh? Happy Birthday, Walt Disney!

December 4, 2015

One of the Disney company’s most popular movies is Frozen. But was the company’s founder and namesake also frozen after he died? On what would have been Walt Disney’s 114th birthday, we put some ice on the story.

Walt Disney 1946Contrary to the urban legend, Walt Disney was not cryogenically frozen. First of all, the technology to freeze deceased human beings and then thaw them out at a future date and cure them of all of the ills that killed them is nowhere near being ready today, let alone in 1966 when Disney passed away at age 65. (Some people, or parts of people, have been cryogenically frozen, most famously, Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams. But bringing him back to life? Science is still working on that.)

The Disney urban legend likely got its start years after Disney’s death. In 1972, a man named Bob Nelson of the Cryonics Society of California, in trying to promote his company and cryogenic technology itself, told the Los Angeles Times that prior to his death, Disney spoke with the agency about the science of cryonics, and where the technology was headed. While Uncle Walt was fascinated with the idea, he didn’t go through with it, because the technology was not yet completely sound.

Nevertheless, Nelson’s nugget was widely reported and over time was exaggerated into “Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen”…or in some takes on the story, only his head was frozen.

In reality, Disney died from lung cancer—he smoked three packs a day. His body was cremated, and his ashes were interred at the Forest Lawn Cemetery outside Los Angeles in his family plot.

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