With today’s wide release of the fabricated and manipulative Saving Mr. Banks, it is an appropriate time to take a look at a different and more authentic side of the man, Walt Disney. These incredible photos, which came to my attention a few years ago, completely altered my perception of his personality.
The advertised image of Walt Disney is that he was all business—gruff and slow to crack a smile. These revealing snapshots taken at a private party, away from the confines of work and business, unveil a man who knew how to have a good time, who could be playful and goofy, and who doesn’t fit the stereotypes often invoked about him. Disney animator Ward Kimball, who knew Walt on a more personal basis than almost any other Disney employee, often described Disney as excitable and child-like. These photos are the clearest visual evidence of that side of Walt.
This hand-made spiral-bound book popped up at an auction in 2011. Titled “Walt Disney demonstrates an appendectomy with Drs. Bowers, Avery & Nelson,” the photos depict Walt doing all sorts of crazy things like wearing his suit inside-out and backwards, checking his heartbeat, wearing a make-shift surgical cap and mask, and performing an operation on an orange. The set ends with a priceless maniacal look as he cuts into the orange.
The original mailing envelope was from Warner Bros. Pictures, and was addressed to Disney’s story director William Cottrell, who also happened to be Walt’s brother-in-law. The photographer of these pieces was Earl Theisen, who had a knack for taking candid snapshots of other famous people as well.
Click on any of the images to enlarge.