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. And when he passed away due to lung cancer in 1966, the world truly lost one of the greats.
However, Disney made an impact in another (little-known) way, as well. 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 last message 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’s.
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. Fascinated by Walt Disney? Check out this exclusive 1960s behind-the-scenes tour of Disneyland one reporter took with him.
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.