Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but the man behind it wasn’t. Behind the popular movies, the theme park empire and the Mouse, Walt Disney carried a tragedy with him that he refused to speak about even with his family members.
When Walt was growing up, his parents (that's Walt and his mom in the picture) were far from well off. They struggled to make ends meet, moving many times to pursue better job opportunities and trying to keep food in the mouths of five children.
So when Walt and his brother Roy were finally met with success, the brothers were proud to buy their parents a new home in North Hollywood, not far from Disney Studios. The elder Disneys had only been there a few months when Flora started to complain of headaches and said she felt constantly ill. Suspecting the furnace, Walt sent over a Disney Studios handyman to look into the matter. Whatever the handyman did, it wasn’t enough - one November morning, the housekeeper felt woozy and went to get the Disneys out of the house. Walt’s father, Elias, had collapsed in the hallway; Flora had fallen on the bathroom floor. They were able to revive Elias, but it was too late for Flora. She passed away from asphyxiation on November 26, 1938, at the age of 70.
To add insult to injury, Roy had an inspection done on the faulty furnace. Included in the write up were these particularly awful words: “installation of the furnace showed either a complete lack of knowledge of the requirements of the furnace or a flagrant disregard of these conditions if they were known.”
Walt felt terribly guilty and refused to talk about the matter for the rest of his life - to anyone. Even many years later, when his daughter asked where her grandparents were buried, he wouldn’t discuss it.
Many have speculated that Walt’s guilt over his mother fueled the tragic fates of the mothers in so many of his films, but the fact is, Disney borrowed a lot of his material from fairy tales. Apparently orphans or children with one parent just open up more plot lines.
[Photo via MiceChat]