Monday, 26 May 2008


One or two of my regular readers were rather shocked when I recently posted some slightly disconcerting Disney images from the web-site, DeviantArt.

Those pictures took me back over forty years to 1967 and the appearance of a cartoon known as 'The Disneyland Memorial Orgy' in the radical, American counter-culture magazine, The Realist.

This was the age of Oz and other underground mags and even if you didn't get to see these controversial publications, stories from them circulated widely - even wildly! - and cartoons were shamelessly copied and touted.

The famous Disney orgy appeared in the May 1967 issue of The Realist and, at the time, was seen not just an an affront to decency, but as an impertinent slap across the corporate face of Disney, since Walt's famous entourage of cartoon characters were depicted engaging in activities that were considerably more Rabelaisian than Disneyesque!

Click to enlarge

The Disney orgy poster, with its - at the time - incredibly high snigger-factor,was the anonymous work of Wallace ('Wally') Wood (left), a brilliantly gifted comic book artist whose work appeared in Mad and other magazines and whose complex life ended in suicide in 1981.

Within weeks of its appearance, copies of the orgy cartoon were on the streets of just about everywhere - including London's Soho, where I purchased my own copy. It had been appalling photocopied: areas of black ink were bleached out grey and it was on two sheets of paper wonkily pasted together. But its irreverence was - or so it seemed in 1967 - dead cool!

The Realist's assault on the world of Disney was triggered by two events: the death in December 1966, of the man who was universally known as 'Father Goose' and 'The Modern Aesop' and, earlier the same year, a controversial cover article that appeared in Time magazine (right) entitled Is God Dead?

"It occurred to me," says The Realist's editor, Paul Krassner, "that Disney was indeed God to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy -- the whole crowd -- he had been their creator and had repressed their baser instincts, but now they could shed all their inhibitions and participate in a magnificent mass binge."

To Americans - to the world - the cartoon was an act of extreme iconoclasm (the dollar signs radiating above Sleeping Beauty's castle were a genuine satirical comment - unlike the sexual shenanigans going on in the foreground) and very quickly the Disney Orgy became the stuff of both folk legend and legal fact.

The original art work was stolen from the printers and has never surfaced and, whilst it was generally rumoured that Wally Wood was responsible for the unsigned artwork, he never confessed to its authorship. Asked about it, in the year of his death, Wood responded: "I'd rather not say anything about that! It was the most pirated drawing in history! Everyone was printing copies of that. I understand some people got busted for selling it. I always thought Disney stuff was pretty sexy... Snow White, etc."

But whilst people were indeed 'busted' for selling copies - most famously Sam Ridge, a publisher of psychedelic posters who produced a colourised, bootleg version - Paul Krassner and The Realist were never taken to court by Disney.

Because, under the copyright laws in the United States, it is permissible for original works (in this case the Disney characters) to be partially copied for "satirical or critical goals" while reproductions made purely for commercial purposes (such as the ripped-off poster version) are outlawed.

Sam Ridge, the poster man - who didn't have Paul Krassner's permission to reproduce the image - was sued by Disney and an out of court settlement was reached. Paul Krassner, who (obviously) hadn't had Disney's permission to allow the Disneyites to get involved in such appalling behaviour - was never pursued for so blatantly taking the Mickey...

What's more he's still selling copies (on high-quality paper, digitally colored, 18"x24"; suitable for framing; mailed in a protective tube) for $35 plus shipping and handling!

The trouble is it doesn't seem as radical or daring as it did forty-one years ago, but then maybe that's just because it cannot hope to have the same subversive impact when it's openly available on with Internet!

Click to enlarge

Images: Wally Wood by Wally Wood; Disney Memorial Orgy © Paul Krassner -- from original ideas by the Walt Disney Studio!


Suzanne said...

I suppose some bits of the poster are a bit gross, but I don't find it offensive.
The thing is, everyone has some bugbear subject about which they don't appreciate jokes when they fly "too close to the bone". I can remember some 20 plus years ago getting very upset about a joke (about abnormal babies) that everyone else found extremely funny, and I still don't find it amusing in the slightest.

Boll Weavil said...

I suppose the idea of such satirical comment, whether it be in drama or art, is to make one look at things in a different way and I have to say that with this cartoon, it has had that effect on me. I find myself looking at the depictions of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White with very different eyes and I cannot help but think how the original Disney masterpieces would have been enhanced by a little gratuitous nudity in the right places and maybe the odd bedroom scene just to liven things up.It does, after all, work for every film made since then.

Brian Sibley said...

SUZANNE - Maybe it's harder to be offended when the subjects of the joke are cartoon characters, which are, already, a kind of a joke...

BOLL - I'll pass on your suggestion to Disney immediately. Of course, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all contain 'bedroom scenes', so it would simply be a case of spicy up the action a bit...

Cafrine said...

Man, I've never even heard of that poster before. I feel so out of loop.

You've enlightened me, Brian.