At some point in your life, whether on the Internet or watching Family Guy, you have probably come across the rumor that Walt Disney had himself cryonically frozen after his death, in the hopes of one day being thawed out and revived.
You may also have come across a secondary conspiracy theory that Disney released a film called Frozen so that when you googled "Walt Disney frozen" you weren't greeted with articles speculating about the whereabouts and temperature of his corpse. If not that, you may have heard the corpse was stored in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World.
It's not the move you'd expect from the mind behind Dumbo, but is there any truth to it?
While it's true that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride did use to contain human remains, these were skeletal remains used to decorate it and make it look all pirate-y, and have since been removed. Walt Disney is most definitely not going to emerge one day, confused by being brought back to life and the fact that Jack Sparrow is there.
The rumors of Walt Disney getting cryonically frozen, or being interested in cryonics, came out decades after his death. They are also not well sourced, coming largely from two books on Disney which contained many inaccuracies, likely relaying old rumors rather than facts.
"Disney's growing preoccupation with his own mortality also led him to explore the science of cryogenics [sic], the freezing of an aging or ill person until such time as the human body can be revived and restored to health," one such passage reads, as per Snopes. "Disney often mused to Roy about the notion of perhaps having himself frozen, an idea which received ... indulgent nods from his brother."
In truth, there is no real evidence that Disney had heard of cryonics or pursued an interest in it. Disney was cremated shortly after his death of lung cancer in 1966.
"There is absolutely no truth that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen," Disney's daughter Diane wrote in 1972. "I doubt that my father had ever heard of cryonics.”
In terms of dignity after death, Disney likely chose the better option. The main problem facing cryonics is that ice crystals forming in your cells will eventually destroy them entirely, making them impossible to restore. The most likely scenario at the moment is that, rather than wake up in the future having been revived by future scientists, you will become and likely remain an unrevivable popsicle. Worst case scenario, half-frozen sludge.
Curious about what happens to a body after death? Dr Devin Finaughty will be telling us all about it at CURIOUS Live, IFLScience’s first-ever virtual event. Streaming online on October 21, 2023, you can join us anywhere, for free, for a line-up of fascinating talks on all things Life, Death, and Creation – y'know, the small stuff. Sign up now to find out more and secure your spot.
All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.