It’s common knowledge that the genius animator responsible for Mickey Mouse, Disney animated classics, and Disney Parks was a . Those who knew him best say that smoked as many as three packs of cigarettes a day.
His favorite brand was Lucky Strike.
And now, because The Walt Disney Company has long regarded Walt’s habits as one of the company’s dark secrets, lots of Imagineering has gone into striking that secret from history, keeping Walt’s affinity for hidden, as evidenced by the plethora of photos online that show Walt with a strange “two-finger point,” but no .
That’s because The spend considerable time and money on having the cigarettes in photos of Walt painstakingly removed. In short, many photos of Walt have the Photoshopped out of the image.
The practice began years ago as the company wanted to keep Walt’s habit a secret from children who visited the . Search online for photos of , and you’ll be entertained for hours; there are thousands of photos online of the gifted animator and visionary.
But more importantly, look to see how many of the images include Walt’s in them. Chances are you’ll find many of them with the removed from the photo.
But Walt’s disappearing Cast Members to also point with two fingers. habit is only part of the story; what makes the story a bit strange is that the photos with Walt’s “two-finger point” look somewhat unnatural and out of place. For this reason, the company felt the look of Walt’s point had to be explained somehow. That’s when Disney Parks allegedly began training
A touching tribute–or a rewriting of history?
The and the Disney empire are so large and their influence so far-reaching, it’s no surprise that and Disney Parks have found their way into many an urban legend over the years. So training Cast Members to point with two fingers so that no one found out about Walt’s habit seemed to fit the description of such a legend.
But in 2015, The Huffington Post published an article in which an anonymous Cast Member confirmed the urban legend was no legend at all.
According to the Huffington Post:
“The action is seemingly innocuous at first, but it’s apparently a murky tribute to ‘s habits, with the company side-stepping around the reason as to why the icon pointed that way.
“Though it’s been long speculated about, [an] anonymous employee was informed by a ‘lead’ that the strange gesture seen from Cast Members at Disney Parks is actually based on Walt’s old habit. This is along with it being considered less rude of a gesture by the company, and that it avoids the stigma pointing receives in other cultures.”
Despite the absence of a confirmation of the practice from The itself, the truth about the odd practice of airbrushing out Walt’s cigarettes becomes undeniably evident when fans see photos in which the nicotine is missing, but the remains. (Possibly incomplete Photoshopping?)
long suffered from a dry, hacking cough. Then, in November 1966, underwent preparations for neck surgery, according to Biography. The procedure was scheduled to take place to address an old polo injury Walt had. But during the pre-procedure x-rays, doctors discovered a tumor on Walt’s lung. Only a month later, on December 15, 1966, died of lung cancer at the age of 65.
It is understood that Walt’s lung cancer was the terribly unfortunate result of his long history of , making it understandable that the company would want to keep stoic reminders of this sad truth out of the spotlight, especially in light of the fact that during his lifetime, Walt was reportedly very careful not to around children.
Still, the practice of what some see as “Photoshopping history” has been met with criticism–criticism that ultimately led to a significant change in Disney policy.
In 2014, Joe Rogan posted a photo on Instagram of minus his . The caption reads:
“Another shot of with his Photoshopped out. They’ve recently discontinued this policy at Disneyland acknowledging the importance of being honest about cigarettes being the reason he died young.”
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In 2007, The put into effect a ban on in its films. In a statement, then Chairman and CEO said “We expect that depictions of in future Disney-branded films will be non-existent.”
At a shareholder’s meeting in 2015, Iger announced that Studios would “prohibit in movies across the board: Marvel, Lucas, Pixar and ,” saying the policy “was the right thing for [Disney] to do.”
Saving only features a singular unlit in one scene of the film, but it still doesn’t depict . The scene only shows as Disney stubbing out a as Ms. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, steps into his office. Even so, the scene does not show a or the s
The Disney+ streaming platform has incorporated content warnings since its inception in 2019, one of which is related to The ‘s commitment to “helping parents raise healthy, happy children.” As such, Disney content that features characters cigarettes, cigars, or pipes–and in the case of the caterpillar in Disney’s use. The content warning that reads, “contains depiction” carries through Alice in Wonderland, a hookah–also features a warning before the streaming content begins.
It reads as follows:
“Disney is committed to limiting depictions of and , particularly in youth-rated content. However, use is sometimes portrayed, primarily in older films that were produced when the impacts of were not well-known. We strive to label any feature-length films with depictions so that parents and caregivers are aware.
“Disney’s commitment to helping parents raise healthy, happy children includes our understanding that some families may struggle with use. As such, we recommend families seek the advice of experts, including the American Association of Pediatrics. For resources on how to talk to kids about , please visit Common Sense Media.”
So while Walt’s death will always remain tragedy in the hearts and minds of Disney fans of all ages, perhaps all is not in vain, as the company used it as motivation to keep the depiction of tobacco as far removed from its youngest fans as possible.
And we think Walt would be very pleased with that decision, indeed.