The Mysterious Note Walt Disney Left Behind Before He Died

Updated: Jun. 25, 2024

When he died, Walt Disney left a multi-million-dollar franchise. But one small note changed everything.

There’s no question that Walt Disney’s life changed the world. As the mastermind behind Mickey Mouse and the entire Disney enterprise, his life’s work has inspired children and adults alike for decades. If Disney’s 100th anniversary wasn’t proof enough of how beloved all things Disney have become, these Disney quotes from your favorite movies will be. But beyond his famous Walt Disney quotes, rumor has it that the Mickey Mouse creator left something else behind when he died. Did Walt Disney really write a secret note before dying? And what did it say? We have the scoop on the last message from the man behind the happiest place on earth.

How did Walt Disney die?

Walt Disney was a heavy smoker throughout his life and was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away on Dec. 15, 1966, due to complications from surgery he had a month earlier to treat the cancer. Although there is a crazy conspiracy theory that Walt Disney had his body cryonically frozen, this rumor is false. Disney’s remains were cremated and interred, according to his final wishes. If you find all this fascinating, read up on these other amazing Disneyland facts!

Did Walt Disney write a note before he died?

However, other rumors about Walt Disney have proven to be true. Legend has it that he wrote one last message before being hospitalized prior to his death, says Disney historian Jim Korkis. Titled “TV Projects in Production: Ready for Production or Possible for Escalation and Story,” the note listed four names: Ron Miller, 2 Way Down Cellar, Kurt Russell and CIA—Mobley.

Still, the note’s true meaning remained a mystery for decades. What did Disney’s famous last words to the world intend to convey?

According to former Disney archivist Dave Smith, who found the note, Disney was listing possible future projects for his franchise. And one name stood out: Kurt Russell.

Disney had expressed his awe of the 15-year-old’s talent before, praising him on television and personally ensuring that the boy received a studio contract. In October 1966, just months before his death, Disney even predicted “a great acting future” for Russell. But ultimately, it was Disney’s last words that ended up launching Russell’s career as an actor.

Russell confirmed this suspicion in a 2013 episode of The View. “I assume, as [does] everybody else, that he was talking about some movie that he was thinking about having me in. … I don’t know what to make of it other than that,” Russell said.

The young actor would go on to star in dozens of Disney films, including The One and Only and Original Family Band. So in the end, we have Disney to thank for one of the most memorable (and hunkiest!) talents on-screen. Of course, Disney fanatics may already be familiar with this story, but you may not know the Disney movie that came out the year you were born.