Disney Icon and Historian Dies at 72

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Credit: Disney

Many of us Disney fans like to think of ourselves as experts regarding topics such as Walt Disney, Disney Parks, and perhaps even the Walt Disney Company. But there are some whose entire lives revolve around the love and expertise of the Disney brand.

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Credit: Disney Archives

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Jim Korkis / Wade Sampson

One of these legendary experts was Jim Korkis (AKA Wade Sampson) – a famous author and Disney historian. His work includes nearly two dozen books about Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Walt Disney (the man himself). Jim Korkis’ best-selling and most famous works include The Vault of Walt, Secret Stories of Disneyland, Secret Stories of Disneyland: Things You Never Knew You Never Knew, and Who’s Afraid of The Song of the South and Other Forbidden Disney Stories.

JIm Korkis holding his book

Credit: Animation World Network

Health Problems

An accident in February sent the Disney historian to the hospital, where doctors discovered various severe health problems. Doctors found that Jim desperately needed a quadruple bypass and had stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his liver.

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Despite a hard fight against cancer, including chemotherapy, Jim Korkis could not beat the disease. It was announced on July 28 that Jim Korkis passed away at 72 years old.

Mark Goldhaber, the organizer of a GoFundMe campaign designed to help with the Korkis’ household and medical bills, shared the news on Facebook.

Friends, I am heartbroken to have to inform you that our friend Jim Korkis passed away this morning. He was unresponsive this morning at the rehab center and was transported to the hospital. His brother Mike was able to arrive a few minutes before Jim passed. While Jim could not respond, Mike said that Jim appeared to be able to hear him, and he was able to talk to Jim for those last few minutes.

Jim had been feeling good this week, and there really was no indication that things would take a turn for the worse. He did not appear to be in pain, and went quickly and quietly as he had wished.

There will be a memorial for Jim at a date and time to be determined. It will be held via Zoom so that those elsewhere in the US or overseas can attend. We’ll publicize the details once it’s set, but for now Mike needs to focus on taking care of the necessary details.

To those of you who contributed to this GoFundMe, THANK YOU! Your contributions and messages of support gave life and light to Jim over these last several weeks. He was astonished to see how many people loved him. The remaining balance will be used to help pay off his final medical bills.

As I get more information from Mike, I will share it. In the meantime, thank you all for your support.


The GoFundMe account raised over $40,000 from family, friends, and Disney fans to help Jim’s battle. Any amount not used to aid in his fight will help pay Jim’s final medical bills.

Jim Korkis and Disney Statue

Credit: Dennis D., Flickr

The Disney Dining family offers condolences to all those impacted by the loss of Jim Korkis.

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About Steven Wilk

Steven has a complicated relationship with Disney. As a child, he visited Walt Disney World every few years with his family. But he never understood why kids his age (and older) were so scared of Snow White or Alien Encounter. He is a former participant of the Disney College Program (left early…long story), and he also previously worked in Children’s publishing, where he adapted multiple Disney movies and TV shows. He has many controversial opinions about Disney…like having a positive view of Michael Eisner, believing Return of the Jedi is superior to The Empire Strikes Back, and that Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge should have never been built (at least not at Hollywood Studios). Every year for the past two decades, Steven has visited either Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or went on a Disney Cruise. He’s happy to share any and all knowledge of the Disney destinations (and he likes using parenthesis a lot…as well as ellipses…)