What Walt Disney Knew

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1. Fiction writer Oakley Hall (inspiration, obviously, of the band Oakley Hall) has died. I did not know this author's work well, but once when I was a kid a long time ago I heard him read a wonderful short story called "What Walt Disney Knew" on the radio. I've been trying to find a copy of the story, or any proof that the story exists, ever since. The story begins (if I remember correctly) when a lone traveler picks up a stranger hitchhiker who tells him about an alien race of humanoids who once inhabited our planet. They were superior to us in most ways and life was like paradise, but through some ironic twist (which I can't remember) they died off, and very few people know the secret that they were once here. But Walt Disney knew. And he left us a clue about them: they had only four fingers.

As I retell this story now, I wonder how much of it I have made up. I wonder if it was even Oakley Hall who wrote it, because I've never found it in one of his books. If anybody knows where I can find this story, please let me know. And if anybody knows what Walt Disney knew, let us know too.

Good timing department: Jonathan Zeitlin of the Mezzanine Owls happens to mention Oakley Hall in a recent Book Notes at largeheartedboy.

2. Forget what Walt Disney knew. What did Walt Dizzy know? If that rings a bell, you probably know that classic-era Mad cartoonist Will Elder, also known as Bill Elder, has died. I can't say enough about Elder's brilliant work with Harvey Kurtzman, which can be found in books like The Mad Reader. Elder was responsible for "Starchie", "Mickey Rodent", "Sherlock Shomes" and so very much more. "Little Annie Fanny" was a disappointing sequel, but the Mad Magazine work will live forever. The New York Times obituary is particularly good on the influence of Elder's signature "margin work". There's some good video at Tom Richmond's Mad Blog.

3. Deconstructed album cover art (via Gawker).

4. Leora Skolkin-Smith on Leon Wieseltier and A. B. Yehoshua.

5. Bat Segundo interviews Cynthia Ozick.
20 Responses to "What Walt Disney Knew"

by jennifer cuddy on

hey, my dad worked as a cartoonist for Walt Disney once upon a very long time ago.

by Dan on

Levi -

The story "What Walt Disney Knew" was never published. Hall wrote it specifically for radio broadcast. It was based on a bizarre fact: Walt Disney, himself, only had four fingers on each hand. He was the last surviving member of the alien species. (Think back: No one ever saw his hands!)

Shortly before his death, Oakley Hall sent me the typescript of this story, the only copy in existence. It was accompanied by a handwritten note from Disney himself, vouching for the facts I've just noted.

I intend to put this item on Ebay with a reserve of $10,000,000. However, before I do so I am offering it to you or your readers for only $9,500,000. No bad checks, please -- Walt is watching.

Levi, by any chance, did you hear the Disney story while abducted by a UFO? Perhaps you should share your experience with an understanding doctor, under hypnosis.

by rubiao on

Wait. Is that a joke? Did someone just cut the price down by half a million dollars? What a steal! That message was actually pretty damn interesting until it transformed into snake oil. (I'm assuming that person is joking?) I didn't think it could happen, but Walt Disney just got a lot more interesting.

by TKG on

Wow.

Jennifer, when did your dad work at Disney?

For some reason, about two years ago I became very interested in Walt Disney. Amazingly coincidentally two biographies were released shortly after I'd read older bios of him, these recent ones are by Neal Gabler and Michael Barrier (who pioneered actually paying attention to cartoon history).

The aliens were from the planet Marecelline. Ub Iwerks even kept the same alien name.

More clues in, of course, Fantasia and Three Caballeros.

Tangentially speaking of cool Disney stuff, I always liked the cartoon satire of the Magic Kingdom that Paul Kassner printed in his magazine "The Realist" back in the day. You can see it at:
http://www.paulkrassner.com/

And Walt had himself frozen so that when the mother ship returns they can thaw him out and take him back to the home planet. "Nano-Nano"

by jennifer cuddy on

TKG,

he worked for Walt Disney sometime in the 50's, when he single and living in California. I'm the youngest of 7, so my father (now deceased) is alot older. He also worked with Charles Schultz ( my parents were married in his house in Minneapolis. ) He also knew Mort Walker. We have alot of original stuff framed in my mother's house. My two brothers stole all the others.
My parents met at the Minneapolis School of Art, and that's when and where they met Schultz.

by jennifer cuddy on

ah! very cool, Levi!

my father wrote satiral cartoons whilst in the Navy during the Korean War. His cartoons were dispersed in Quarterlies throughout all branches of the military. Apparently, he was quite the hit! lol

by TKG on

Hi Levi and Jennifer,

I didn't know your Dad was a cartoonist Levi. That's cool.

Jennifer, I'd like to put you, or rather your dad, in contact with Didier Ghez, a historian who has done a multi volume series of interviews with people who've worked for Walt Disney.

Here's his web site Disney History.

Just this year there was also a bio of Charles Schulz. Interestingly he applied to Disney and got turned down. He went on woth developing his comics and at about the same time as he was about to get his chance with Peanuts he got a letter saying he was accepted to work at Disney.

Just think how different our culture would be if he had decided to take the Disney gig rather than stay with the much more uncertain path of developing his own comic strip.

TKG, I didn't know that about Charles Schulz. Fascinating stuff. Peanuts got mega-popular when I was in the 6th or 7th grade. It was like The Simpsons are now. I remember when the Sunday paper replaced Dick Tracy with Peanuts as front page of the comics section.

by TKG on

Hi Bill, I've loved Peanuts since I was a kid. I used to get the books and read them and often laugh out loud.

The bio I referred to is called Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. Was released last year.

I've been buying each volume of the Complete Peanuts as they are released so I can have all of them for posterity. It will be a huge set by the time they put them all out. It's the sort of thing I want to have to keep and pass down. Kind of like an encyclopedia that never goes out of date.

My daughter though who is now 13 has treated them like a regular ol book and read them all through, just like I did at her age, and taken them to school, lost the covers etc...They are still alive.

by jennifer cuddy on

TKG,

I often wonder what would have happened had my father continued to work for Disney! For some unknown reason he opted to go to Art school in Minneapolis. Fate, I suppose.

Unfortunately, he is long deceased, and so, the likelihood of an interview with him is rather slim. lol

by Eli Stein on

Well, Levi, all this talk about cartoons and cartoonists, and you finally got around to me. Who is this guy Walt Disney, anyway?
Eli

Don't we all only have four fingers on each hand? The opposable thumb isn't considered a finger.

by TKG on

Hi Jennifer, I'm sorry to hear your father is not with us anymore. Do you happen to have any old drawings from his time at Disney? They are valuable (which is not why I bring it up, that's just an aside) and a lot of people are interested in that sort of thing. If so, it'd be great to post them.

Mr Stein, Disney was an urban planner who died before he could finish his planned community in Florida. I heard he dabbled in the film and entertainment industries for a bit as well.

Really enjoyed your web site.

by jennifer cuddy on

TKG,

Not that I've seen. We have plenty of original Peanut's strips, and Charles Schulz used to send us little autographed books for Christmas. If we did have anything remotely close to original drawings for Disney, my oldest brother would have it locked up in some safe deposit box somewhere, the greedy bastard!

by jennifer cuddy on

We even had this sculpture given to my parents for a wedding gift by this sculptor named Roger Majorowitz (sp), who took the sculpture back at my father's funeral stating he was going to repair it, and never returned it! Madness, eh?

by TKG on

Madness, I call it gladness.

A fellow named Floyd Norman who began at Disney as an animator in the 50's writes columns about those times.

Check this one out about a Disney animator in the 50's named Elizabeth Case who Norman says was thrown out of City Lights by Ferlinghetti.