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What if Walt Came Back?
What would Disney make of our modern age or what's become of his company? That's the question that's been intriguing Disneyana fans for decades now ... which former Disney VP of marketing Larry Pontius attempts to answer with his entertaining on-line novel, "Snowbird."
There isn't a Disney fan on the planet that hasn't heard this story.
About how Walt Disney allegedly had his body frozen back in December 1966. How the father of Mickey Mouse & Disneyland is supposedly hidden away in some cryogenic chamber even today, waiting for ... A cure for cancer? The day when his company needs him again? What exactly? Who knows?
As urban legends go, this is one of our better ones. Right up there with Elvis faking his own death and those spaceships that we supposedly have stashed away in Roswell. And -- despite the best efforts of Disney Company spokesmen as well as surviving members of the Disney family (who continually insist that Walt *ISN'T* on ice somewhere, but was in fact cremated and then buried in a crypt at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA. some 35 years ago) -- this tall tale remains just as popular today as when it was started back in the late 1960s.
Why for? To be honest, I'm not sure, folks. Maybe it's because the story just seems so plausible. After all, at the time of his death, Walt was deep in the middle of planning Epcot. Given all the cutting edge technologies that he was thinking of incorporating into his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is it really so far fetched to think that Disney -- having researched cryogenics for their possible use at EPCOT's medical facilities -- might have wanted to make use of this life-saving technique to buy himself a little more time?
So what if this did really happen? What if Disney did in fact have himself cryogenically frozen back in 1966? What would happen if Walt were to be suddenly thawed out and thrust out into today's society? How would he deal with our modern world? Or -- for that matter -- what would Walt think of today's Walt Disney Company?
That's what Larry Pontius -- the former vice president of marketing for Disneyland and Walt Disney World -- has attempted to answer in his on-line fantasy novel, "Snowbird." Though admittedly not a flaw-free book (Larry folds in a little too much Russian Mafia / Washington D.C. double dealing & intrigue for my taste), this is still quite the fun read for Disneyana fans.
How so? Well, Pontius -- who worked for Walt Disney Productions from 1974 - 1980 -- had daily contact with dozens of senior executives who knew Walt Disney personally. Larry made a point of filing away all the stories he heard from these guys, hanging on to every details about how Walt behaved in private, what Disney was really like when the cameras are off.
It's this info that really helps "Snowbird" come to life. The Walt Disney you'll read about on these pages is *NOT* the kindly old Uncle Walt who introduced "The Wonderful World of Color" every Sunday night. Larry strove to create a picture of the real man. The genius with the short fuse. The guy who could charm your socks off one minute, then cut you dead with the single lift of his eyebrow the next. The head strong, hard drinking yet very sentimental soul who -- as the plot of "Snowbird" unfolds -- often finds himself at a loss when he tries to figure out what to make of our modern age.
Whenever Walt's on stage ... er ... on the page, "Snowbird" is a genuinely fun read. Disneyana fans are sure to delight with some of the many magical moments Pontius cooks up for his book. Take -- for instance -- Walt's reaction to Epcot and Celebration. Or how about the moment where Disney's standing in front of a ticket booth at Walt Disney World and realizes that he doesn't have enough cash on him to buy an admissions ticket to the theme park that bears his name.