Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Disney animators slipped a single frame of a naked woman into a film to see if Walt could spot it.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1996]
Origins: It's always interesting when, in attempting to verify a story we've heard, we come across another version of the same story with a completely different ending. That's the case here, as Charles Shows, a scriptwriter and producer-director with the Disney Studio in the 1950s and 1960s, related in his 1980 book about his experiences working for Walt Disney:
Since Walt Disney personally examined every foot of film produced at his studio, he was quite adept at spotting even the smallest mistakes.We've also come across yet another version of this anecdote, one set at a birthday party thrown for Walt by studio employees, which allegedly included the showing of a film (drawn by a few animators) depicting various Disney characters in "intimate" activities. Walt supposedly laughed along with everyone else, calmly asked who had put together the film, and fired the parties responsible for it.
One day a few of us studio staffers were arguing about how quick Walt's eye really was. One director, who had seen Walt spot mistakes that no one else could see, even contended that Walt could catch a mistake on a single frame of film as it was run full speed in the projection room.
Since a single frame of film is about one inch wide and runs at the rate of
We finally decided that the best way to find out whether Walt could perform this incredible feat was to test him. Thus we had a film editor cut one tiny frame in a strip of film and in its place cut in another
When the time of the screening arrived, we all sat nervously quiet in the sweatbox watching Walt. He stared at the screen as the film was shown, not saying a word.
All of a suddent Walt yelled, "Hold it!" The film projector stopped. Walt raised his hand. "Back the film up a few feet." Then, "Hold it!" And sure enough, right there on the screen was the single frame of the nakedest woman we'd ever seen.
Walt registered surprise. He asked what the hell a picture of a naked woman was doing in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Since nobody could think of a more inventive answer, we just told Walt the truth
Walt looked pleased. He had succeeded in catching the mistake, and he was proud of his keen eye. So instead of firing us all, Walt laughed off the incident by remarking, "If that gal had had any clothes on, I wouldn't have paid any attention to her."
This appears to be another one of those anecdotes that plenty of former Disney employees have heard, told to them as a "true story" by other Disney employees, yet nobody seems to have been there when it happened, or to know anyone who was. (That former studio staffer Charles Shows recounted this tale in his book does little to establish its veracity: all throughout the book he presents first-person accounts of incidents he clearly did not witness, but only heard about from others.) It remains one of the many stories that can (for now) neither be proved nor definitively ruled out.
This anecdote sounds to us like the kind of tale about which one might say, "If it isn't true, it should be," because it's a legend that so neatly encapsulates several stereotypes associated with larger-than-life figure of Walt Disney:
In short, Walt Disney was pretty much an ordinary human being, despite what the legends (true or not) generated by his fame and success might suggest.
Last updated: 6 January 2004
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