Claim: An artist commissioned to paint a mural for one of the Walt Disney World resorts furtively added a Nazi soldier to the background of the picture.
Origins: In 1994, Michael Moore's TV Nation featured a segment about a "Great Gatsby"-like mural in the ballroom of Walt Disney World's Grand Floridian resort, painted by an artist who claimed he drew one of the background figures as a Nazi.
Two years before the "TV Nation" segment, the book Sabotage in the American Workplace, in a section about "Art and Design," quoted a mural painter (identified only as "Harvey") who recounted his experience working for a company "that produces custom murals and decorative paintings":
Recently we did a job for the Walt Disney Corporation. They specifically requested the Great Gatsby as the theme, which basically is about rich people in the good old days. The idea was to make the people look happy and create the ideal that people off the streets should strive to get a white suit, Panama hat and a croquet mallet. One of my favorite scenes was a hotel scene where people were seated at tables. In the background there was this balcony where I painted this little SS Stormtrooper. It was my little comment on what was happening in the rest of the world while the Great Gatsbys were whittling away their hours with cocktails. My boss noticed it and said that it looked like a soldier, but I convinced him it was a security guard. He dropped it at that. All of the people that I worked with noticed it was a Nazi right away . . . It's now installed in a hotel. That gave me a lot of satisfaction. It's pretty minor but it did make me feel better.
So, does the mural contain a Nazi figure? If the artist is telling the truth, and he intended to draw a Nazi in the mural, then the mural indeed contains a Nazi figure. It's hard to imagine that anyone not already aware of the artist's gag would notice anything unusual, however — the figure is not depicted as wearing a brown shirt or a swastika armband or any other regalia that identifies it as a Nazi. If this mural indeed includes a joke, it's one you only get by knowing the punchline in advance.
Last updated: 17 September 2007
Sprouse, Martin. Sabotage in the American Workplace.
San Francisco: Pressure Drop Press, 1992. ISBN 0-9627091-3-1 (pp. 30-31).