Posted Decemeber 21, 2018

December 15, 1966:
Walt Disney
by Frank Allnutt

One November day in1966, I went over to a sound stage at the Disney Studio where Walt was making a film that presented his concept for EPCOT at the Florida Project. Walt was recovering from lung cancer surgery, though the nature of his surgery had not been made public at the time. When the camera wasn’t rolling, Walt frequently placed a hand over his chest and grimaced.

He was in considerable pain, and I sensed that he was in a race against time to finish the Florida film before the inevitable.

A few weeks later, on the morning of December 15, 1966. I was at the Studio for an eight o’clock meeting with Card Walker. But Card wasn’t in—he was across the street, visiting Walt, who was back in St. Joseph’s Hospital.

I waiting around until nine o’clock then told Hazel Garner that I had a meeting at WED and wondered if I should cancel and wait for Card, or return to WED and reschedule to see him. She suggested that I return to WED.

I walked out of the Publicity Building and within a few steps saw Card and Donn Tatum walking toward me.Both were Executive Vice Presidents at the time. I stopped and waited for them to walk up to me. As they neared, I saw in their faces that their hearts were heavy. Something was wrong—terribly wrong. They stopped in front of me and neither one said a word. Then Card, a tall man, wrapped his right arm around my shoulders and gave me a fatherly hug. His eyes were reddened with tears.

Back at WED, I walked into Bob Jackson’s office. He looked from his typewriter and asked, “Have you heard?” I nodded and said, “Yeah, I just saw Card and Donn.”

The phone rang off the hook for a couple of hours. Some callers had already heard that Walt died and were phoning us for confirmation. Others hadn’t heard. Most of the news media were calling the Studio. A few television film crews came to WED and Bob and I ushered them around to get some background footage for their evening news programs. Then the phone stopped ringing.

WED closed down for the rest of the day, and Bob went home. Other than security people, I think I was the only person left in the building. I walked through the back room. It was eerie—just me and Mickey, the presidents, some pirates.... The huge room was completely silent and dark except for spotlights on some of the figures. Most were only partially costumed, thus revealing their mechanical parts. They were frozen in awkward positions—in suspended animation, if you will. Their eyes were open but stared blankly at nothing. It was as if their life-source had been removed. And in a sense it had. Not only for them but for all of Disney.






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