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Walt Disney Fans Demand Honesty About His Smoking Habit, Admonish Edited Photos

As Walt Disney’s “Florida Project” came to life in the mid-to-late 1960s, the man behind The Mouse was suffering from terminal lung cancer. Walt Disney World Resort opened nearly five years after his death on October 1, 1971, with Walt’s brother Roy Disney welcoming Guests to the Central Florida Disney Park.

Related: When it comes to smoking areas, Disney Springs is now down by one

Detailed coverage in the years after Walt’s death revealed the depth of his smoking habit, a piece of personal information he desperately tried to hide from the public. He never walked through Disneyland Park with a cigarette, not wanting to exemplify bad behavior to children.
Walt Disney with characters at Disneyland in the 1960s
Credit: Disney

Magic Kingdom boasted a tobacco shop for decades following Walt Disney’s death. Instead of Loungefly Bags and trading pins, a “Disney Adult” of the time could have gathered their own Walt Disney World pipe collection.

Related: Major Fire Hazard Occurs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Banned Cigarette Lit in Flammable Area

Even so, you won’t find pictures of The Walt Disney Company founder smoking at his beloved Theme Park. Almost all photos of Walt on display at Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disney Resort, and Shanghai Disney Resort were edited to remove any cigarette present.

Walt’s Secret Habit

Two photos of Walt Disney. In one, he has a cigarette in hand. In the other, it's been edited out.
Credit: Reddit user u/SirChurch

You’ll have an easier time finding a Hidden Mickey than a photo of Walt smoking inside Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort. Throughout Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT, The Walt Disney Company promotes the legendary animator’s vision and creativity instead of the secret habit that led to his demise.

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Walt’s favorite brand of cigarettes was Lucky Strike; he was rarely spotted without one between his pointer and middle fingers. The many hand-edited photos (this was before Photoshop!) allegedly inspired the famous two-finger Disney point. Disney Cast Members are trained to point with two fingers instead of one to emulate Walt and not insult Guests from different cultures for whom a single pointed finger could be offensive.

four Cast Members pose in a frame that says "We are the magic."
Credit: Disney World Resort

Walt suffered from a persistent hacking, dry cough in his final years. But it wasn’t until just a month before his death on September 15, 1966, that he would be diagnosed with the lung cancer that took his life.

Smoking at Disney

Text over a blue background reading "Beginning May 1, our parks will become smoke-free. Designated smoking areas will be available outside the parks."
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

In the spirit of progress, Disney World and Disneyland cracked down on smoking in the Disney Parks, Downtown Disney, and Disney Springs. Each Disney Park now has a designated smoking area outside the gates, with in-Theme Park smoking and vaping officially banned in 2019.

If planning on smoke breaks, Disney Resort Guests should plan at least a half hour to walk to and from smoking areas outside the Disney Parks.

Should Disney Honor Walt’s Wishes?

Walt Disney reads a book laying down. He has a cigarette in his mouth.
Credit: Disney

Related: TSA bans Star Wars “thermal detonator” Coke bottles from luggage

As Walt Disney Animation Studios celebrates its 100-year anniversary, many Disney Parks fans on Reddit want The Walt Disney Company to be honest about the habit that killed Walt before he could see Cinderella Castle completed. Though the legendary animator wished to keep his smoking a secret, he also argued that Disney Parks would never be completed as our society will always progress.

Despite constant updates and changes, Disney Parks still refuse to remove the edited photos. The Disney company allegedly forbade Tom Hanks from ever portraying Walt with a cigarette in Saving Mr. Banks (2013).

“I think they should have left them in myself and added a disclaimer that Walt died early due to smoking,” said u/TheMadMason. “I think it would be a good psa against smoking and health in general.”

Mickey Mouse at Toontown in Disneyland Resort
Credit: Disney

“It’s actually a good thing to introduce your kids to the concept of drugs and addiction early on; show them the consequences as kids so that they know how it ends,” u/Majestic-Pair9676 agreed. “Because one day, they will be exposed to these things as adults.”

One Disneyland Resort fan revealed that Walt’s smoking habit hadn’t been completely erased. “You can see the original, un-edited version of this photograph at Carthay Circle. Just ask your host to point it out!” u/person_reddit wrote. “You can also see Walt smoking in Saludos Amigos.”

Should Disney be honest about its founder’s smoking habit? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

Please note that the story outlined in this article is based on personal Disney Parks Guest experiences. No two Guest experiences are alike, and this article does not necessarily align with personal views on Disney Park operations.

This post originally appeared on Inside the Magic

Jess Colopy

Jess Colopy is a Disney College Program alum and kid-at-heart. When she’s not furiously typing in a coffee shop, you can find her on the hunt for the newest Stitch pin.

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