It’s very hard to find photographs of Walt Disney smoking, although he was a chain smoker all of his adult life, typically smoking at least three packs a day before succumbing to lung cancer in 1966.
Most of the photographs of Disney holding a cigarette have been airbrushed by the company and the cigarette removed, giving rise to the famous Disney two finger point that all Cast Members are taught.
From behind the scenes of “Saving Mr. Banks”:
The company’s blanket ban on lit cigarettes in its films came into effect in 2007, when Bob Iger, Disney’s chairman and CEO, stated: “We expect that depictions of cigarette smoking in future Disney-branded films will be non-existent.”
Saving Mr. Banks does feature an unlit cigarette: in one scene, Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, is seen stubbing a cigarette out as Mrs. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, enters his office. The cigarette itself is not visible, however, nor is its smoke. Disney is also seen swearing and sipping Scotch Mist, his cocktail of choice.
Born in 1901, Disney took up smoking in 1918 as an ambulance driver in France during the First World War. He took great care never to smoke around children, but was said to suffer from an incessant, hacking cough especially later in life.
His favorite brand of cigarettes was Lucky Strike, and he also smoked a pipe. In 1955, he opened a tobacconist shop on Disneyland’s Main Street, which closed in 1991, though it’s traditional “Cigar Store Indian” still stands on the pavement outside the location.
Sadly, Disney died from complications of lung cancer in December 1966 at the age of 65.
Great article about Walt and his life-long smoking habit: Walt and His Infamous Cough.
The famous Disney Two Finger Point.
We’ve written two books about our time working – and playing – as Disney Cast Members at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
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Have a magical day!