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O.J. Simpson’s Disney Career Ended Almost As Quickly As It Began

oj simpson and cinderella castle
Credit: Disney/ABC/Good Morning America/Canva

O.J. Simpson, the former NFL star and Pro Football Hall of Famer who was tried and acquitted for the double homicides of his ex-wife and her friend, died Wednesday at the age of 76.

And though many will likely remember Simpson’s achievements in the NFL, his ads for Hertz Rental Cars, and his legal woes that began in the mid-1990s, many don’t realize that once upon a time, O.J. Simpson also began a career with Disney, though it ended almost as quickly as it began.

o j simpson

Credit: Disney/ABC/Good Morning America

Simpson’s Family Announces His Passing

On Thursday, Simpson’s family posted an announcement about his death on his X account, asking for grace and privacy during their time of mourning.

The post reads, “On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace.”

An Impressive (and Forgiving) Career in the NFL

Born July 9, 1947, Orenthal James Simpson, who was better known as “O.J.” and later by his NFL teammates as “The Juice,” played football in college before going on to play 11 seasons in the NFL–nine with the Buffalo Bills and two with the San Francisco 49ers. During his time with the Bills, Simpson played with an offensive line that came to be known as “The Electric Company.”

His football career was a successful one, as he won a total of four NFL rushing titles, having rushed for more than 11,000 yards. He also scored 76 touchdowns over the course of his career and played in five Pro Bowls.

In 1985, six years after he retired from the National Football League, the former Bills running back was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Despite the legal woes he ultimately faced in the 1990s and beyond, including standing trial for the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her friend and serving jail time after being found guilty of armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas, Simpson has never been removed from the Hall of Fame.

pro football hall of fame and bust of oj simpson

Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (L) and bust of O.J. Simpson (R)/Credit: NFL/Flickr/Eric Drost/Canva

His bust remains in Canton, Ohio, because it’s the Hall of Fame’s practice to never remove an inductee, regardless of the circumstances. But not every part of Simpson’s professional career was as forgiving or, dare we say, willing to overlook Simpson’s personal transgressions.

Simpson’s Celebrity Status Keeps His Post-NFL Career in the Spotlight

Following Simpson’s retirement from the NFL in 1979, he continued to enjoy a career in the spotlight. Though fans could no longer watch Simpson rushing for yards on the football field on Sunday afternoons, they could catch him in various television shows, films, and even television ads.

Related: Legendary NFL Great & Hall of Famer Dick Butkis Dead at 80

Simpson had broken into the acting world before he signed with the NFL, and following his football career, he had roles in a variety of films, including those in Paramount Pictures’ Naked Gun series, during which he starred alongside Priscilla Presley, Leslie Neilsen, and George Kennedy.

oj simpson in naked gun film

Credit: Paramount Pictures

According to former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Simpson was considered by director James Cameron to play the lead role in The Terminator (1984) when Schwarzenegger was originally cast as Kyle Reese. Ultimately, however, the veteran director cast Schwarzenegger in the lead role, and Simpson has no role in the film whatsoever.

O.J. Simpson Dabbles in Disney

But Simpson also stepped into the wonderful, magical world of Disney at one point in his post-NFL career, embracing a role in the 99th episode of a series called Adventures in Wonderland.

The series was a live-action musical comedy based on Disney’s animated masterpiece Alice in Wonderland. As part of the series, Alice, played by actress Elisabeth Harnois, journeys back and forth between her home and Wonderland, simply by walking through a mirror (Lewis Carroll referred to it as a looking glass).

The series debuted on March 23, 1992 and ran through 1995, with the first 40 episodes having been filmed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then called Disney/MGM Studios).

In 1994, Disney welcomed O.J. Simpson to the cast of the 99th episode of Adventures in Wonderland, titled, “White Rabbits Can’t Jump.” In the episode, the White Rabbit looks to his hero, O.J. Simpson, for help when the residents of Wonderland hold the annual sports competition. The White Rabbit is fearful about losing the competition, and Simpson helps him to take a different perspective.

Simpson’s Disney Career Never Took Off

But the episode never aired. It was filmed before it was discovered that Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, had been brutally murdered at Ms. Simpson’s home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. O.J. Simpson was named the prime suspect in the investigation only days after the murders, which took place on June 12, 1994.

oj simpson disney

O.J. Simpson in the 99th episode of Disney’s “Adventures in Wonderland” (1994)/Credit: Disney

Disney immediately halted the release of the episode, though it was later adapted into a children’s book. The original episode wasn’t released, even following Simpson’s acquittal in 1995 by a jury of his peers.

In April 2021, the series was added to the content catalog on Disney+, but the 99th episode featuring O.J. Simpson remains unavailable and is the only episode in the series missing from the streaming platform.

oj simpson disney

Credit: Disney

Simpson’s appearance in the Disney series marks the “once upon a time” that the Pro Football Hall of Famer stepped into a career with Disney–one that was over just as quickly as it began, as Disney wasn’t quite as willing to overlook the public’s perception of Simpson as the Hall of Fame continues to be to this day.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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