A Mickey Mouse Operation

December 5, 1901-December 15, 1966

The following is an excerpt from “Wills of the Rich & Famous: A Fascinating Glimpse at the Legacies of Celebrities”  by Herbert E. Nass, Esq.

Walt Disney
December 5, 1901
Chicago, Illinois

December 15, 1966
St. Joseph’s Hospital
Los Angeles, California

A Mickey Mouse Operation

Walter Elias Disney was raised on a farm. That might partially explain his fascination with mice, ducks, dogs, deer, crickets, pigs, and just about every other kind of animal real or imagined. In his creations of Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daffy, Pluto, Bambi, Jiminy, and three little pigs, it has been said that Disney was the first person to give animals a soul and imbue them with dis-tinct personalities.

About his most famous international star, known as Topolino in Italy, Michel Souris in France, Miki Kuchi in Japan, Miguel Ratoncito in Spain, and Mikki Maus in Russia, Disney once said, “Sometimes I’ve tried to figure out why Mickey appealed to the whole world…He’s a pretty nice fellow who never does anybody any harm, who gets into scraps through no fault of his own, but always manages to come up grinning. Why, Mickey’s even been faithful to one girl, Minnie, all his life. Mickey is so simple and uncomplicated,  so easy to understand that you can’t help liking him.”

Like his favorite character Mickey Mouse, Walt himself was married to one girl all his life. He married the woman who had been the maid of honor at his brother Roy’s wedding on April 7, 1925. Lillian Bounds was from Idaho and had been working as an inker and painter at the Disney Studios. On July 13, 1925, Walt married Lillian in her uncle’s living room in Idaho. After their marriage, Lillian worked at the studio in times of need and was with her husband over forty years later until the night before he died. Together, they had two daughters, Diane and Sharon. As Walt’s 1966 Will states:

I declare that I am married to LILLIAN B. DISNEY and that I have only two children, namely, DIANE DAISEY MILLER and SHARON DISNEY BROWN.

To Lillian, Disney gave “all of my tangible personal property and personal effects, including without limitation, all my household furniture, furnishings, silverware, books, paintings, works of art, automobiles, clothing, jewelry, miniatures, awards and all other similar items.” In addition, Lillian was the beneficiary and a trustee of a family trust consisting of 45 percent of Disney’s residuary estate, which was quite substantial and continues to receive royalty payments from the many Disney creations. Another 45 percent of the residuary trust was distributed to the Disney charitable foundation, which contributed part of its funds toward the completion of Disney’s esteemed California Institute of the Arts (“Cal Arts”) campus. The remaining 10 percent of the residuary estate was held in trust for a group of Disney relatives.

In his Will, Disney appointed his wife, Lillian, his attorney, Herbert F. Sturdy, and the United California Bank as his executors. The Will was prepared by one of Los Angeles’s most expensive law firms and is quite detailed.

There is also the standard in terrorem clause and the following:

Except as otherwise provided in this Will, I have intentionally and with full knowledge omitted to provide for my heirs, including any persons who may claim to be an issue of mine.

Perhaps Walt was concerned that there might be some others claiming to be little Disney mice scampering around.

Conspicuously absent from Disney’s Will are any instructions or provisions for his funeral or burial. It has been reported that Disney was intrigued by the possibilities of cryogenesis. (Cryogenesis is the scientific technique whereby a person may be chemically frozen or preserved until a cure for the particular fatal ailment has been discovered.) It has long been rumored that Disney himself opted to avail himself of cryogenesis. However, papers filed with the court indicate a payment made by Disney’s estate to the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Association in Glendale, California, in an amount exceeding $40,000 “for the interment property, a memorial tablet, Endowment Care Fund deposit and state and city sales taxes.” It is noteworthy that the interment property was not selected until September 19, 1967, almost a year after Disney’s death. It may have been this delay that has fueled the speculation of Walt Disney on ice.

Seeming to whistle while he worked throughout his productive career, Walt Disney left a legacy of happiness, dopiness, grumpiness, bashfulness, and sheer joyfulness. All around the world, countless wishes have been made, on his stars.

/s/ Walter E. Disney

Will dated March 18, 1966

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