A bizarre Disney theory has been floating around since the release of “Frozen” in 2013, and people just can’t ... let it go.
The people demand to know: Did Disney name the movie “Frozen” so stories about Walt Disney’s frozen head would stop showing up on a Google search?
The legend of Walt Disney being cryogenically frozen is easily one of the most enduring pop culture conspiracy theories. It’s impressive considering all indications are that he was cremated. But no matter how many times the notion has been put on ice in the last 50 years, it keeps being revived, popping up again and again, serving as the butt of jokes in TV shows such as “30 Rock” and “Family Guy.”
With “Frozen 2” coming to theaters on Nov. 22, now seems as good a time as any to find out if the franchise had anything to do with the theory.
The answer, according to writer/director Jennifer Lee? Hell snow.
In a 2018 interview about another one of her movies, “A Wrinkle in Time,” HuffPost asked if she’d heard about the theory.
“I have heard that one,” Lee said. “These are things where I’m like, we called it ‘Frozen’ for thematic reasons, and we called it Disney’s ‘Frozen’ because Disney made the film. Disney paid for the film and distributed it.”
Lee, who heads Disney Animation Studios, said all her creative energy went into the movie itself. She added with a laugh, “I wish I were that clever.”
The rumor that Walt Disney was frozen after his death has a few possible origins. But the theory seems to have been traced back to a 1972 interview between The Los Angeles Times and Robert Nelson, a former TV repairman who was enamored with cryonics and became the president of the Cryonics Society of California.
In comments from the interview surfaced by Los Angeles Magazine, Nelson mentions that Disney wanted to be frozen but claims he missed out. Weeks after his death in December 1966, a man named James Bedford became the first to freeze. (He’s still chilling today.)
In Nelson’s 2014 memoir, “Freezing People Is (Not) Easy,” he recalled his rise and fall in the field of cryonics — including a scandal in which nine bodies Nelson was preserving in a cemetery vault in Chatsworth, a Los Angeles suburb, had thawed out. He also describes how he believes the Disney legend started.
According to the book, shortly before Disney’s death, Nelson received a call from a woman who described herself as “an associate of the Walt Disney Studio.” The Disney rep had called to get information on cryopreservation, including what facilities there were, what doctors were involved and how many people had been frozen.
Nelson wrote that his “heart sank.” No one had been frozen yet, and no cryogenic facility existed. He gave the rep the names of two doctors, Dr. Dante Brunol and Dr. Renault Able, who were scientific collaborators. She thanked him and the call ended.
Nelson died in 2018 and is currently frozen at the Cryonics Institute. But in researching the origins of the Disney story, we were led to Dr. Michael Perry, a historian of cryonics, who’s been interested in the field since the 1960s and is a member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Perry, who’d known Nelson since 1990, had helped him with his memoir, performing such tasks as fact-checking.
Perry confirmed Disney wasn’t frozen.
“As far as any of us knows, and according to all the claims I have ever seen, he was cremated, not frozen,” he told HuffPost.
He also said Nelson’s description of the Disney call is accurate.
“Disney studios did briefly contact him,” Perry said. “It was before his organization, Cryonics Society of California, had frozen anybody. They didn’t have any real facilities. They had a couple of doctors they worked with, but they’re not really doing it yet. And that’s pretty much it. Apparently, that was the only contact (Nelson) had, just that one phone call.”
One call was enough, it seems, to perpetuate the rumor.
“Some rumors just won’t die down, and I think it just captures people’s attention, and they keep it going,” Perry said. “Maybe people find it intriguing that Disney might be frozen.”