The claim: Walt Disney’s frozen body will be thawed in December to bring him back to life
In the decades following American animator and director Walt Disney’s death in November 1966, pop culture conspiracy theorists have promoted a myth that his cryogenically frozen corpse is stored away in a hidden vault.
Over the years, the legend has taken different forms online. Some have speculated his frozen body is located under the Pirates of Caribbean ride, while others have claimed Disney named the movie “Frozen” so stories about his frozen head would stop showing up on Google.
Now, people are asserting that Disney’s frozen body will be thawed in December in an attempt to resurrect him.
“55 Years After His Death, Walt Disney’s Frozen Body Will Be Thawed December 2021 In An Attempt To Bring Him Back To Life,” reads a screenshot of a news headline shared to Facebook on Sept. 23 by the page Disney After Dark.
The post accumulated more than 1,700 shares and reactions in less than a day. The same claim has made its way to Instagram, blog pages and YouTube. On TikTok, a video about the article gained more than 92,000 likes in less than a week.
But Disney’s body isn't frozen. And the screenshot of the headline circulating online originated on a satirical website, which the posts fail to mention.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Claim originated as satire
The headline first appeared in a Sept. 15 article from Daily News Reported, which bills itself as a “fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.”
“Daily News Reported uses invented names in all its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized,” reads a disclaimer on the site’s about page. “Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.”
The disclaimer is not included in the screenshots shared to social media.
It's an example of what could be called "stolen satire," where stories written as satire and presented that way originally are captured via screenshot and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.
Dennis Kowalski, president of the Cryonics Institute – a company that cryogenically freezes bodies and was mentioned in the Daily News Reported article - told USA TODAY the company is not bringing Disney back to life.
"We have heard of this rumor as well and we can confirm that it is not true," Kowalski said via email.
Disney’s body is not frozen
The claim that Disney’s body is frozen is based on the theory of cryonics, an experimental process in which patients’ bodies are frozen with the hope that future technology will bring them back to life.
But scientists have criticized the cryonics industry – and researchers say the theory is based on faith, not science.
"Reanimation or simulation is an abjectly false hope that is beyond the promise of technology and is certainly impossible with the frozen, dead tissue offered by the 'cryonics' industry," Michael Hendricks of McGill University wrote for MIT Technology Review in 2015.
Regardless, Disney's body was not frozen. His death certificate says he was cremated, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2003. His ashes were interred at a family mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, per PBS.
People close to Disney have also refuted the conspiracy theory.
“There is absolutely no truth that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen," Disney's daughter, Diane, wrote in her 1972 biography. "I doubt that my father had ever heard of cryonics.”
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Disney’s body will be thawed in December to bring him back to life. The claim originated on a satirical website. Disney’s body was cremated and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Our fact-check sources:
Daily News Reported, Sept. 15, 55 Years After His Death, Walt Disney's Frozen Body Will Be Thawed December 2021 In An Attempt to Bring Him Back To Life (archived)
Daily News Reported, accessed Sept. 24, About Us (archived)
Forbes, July 8, 2019, Cryonics: Medicine, Or the Modern Mummy?
Journal of Religion and Health, Feb. 1, Cryonics: Science or Religion
MIT Technology Review, Sept. 15, 2015, The False Science of Cryonics
Los Angeles Times, Aug. 27, 2003, Disney Heir May Breathe New Life in Cremation Firm
PBS NewsHour, Dec. 17, 2018, How a strange rumor of Walt Disney's death became legend
Dennis Kowalski, Sept. 24, Email exchange with USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Walt Disney's frozen body will not be thawed in December