Fact Check

'Kill Goofy': Walt Disney's Death and the Rumor of a Note Left on His Desk

Walt Disney is no stranger to the world of rumors.

Published Dec 27, 2023

After more than a year of study and exploration of the television field, on April 1, 1954, Walt Disney signed an exclusive long term agreement with the American Broadcasting Company calling for the Walt Disney Studios to annually produce a minimum of 26 hour long TV programs. (Bettmann / Contributor) (Bettmann/Contributor)
Image Via Bettmann/Contributor
Claim:
A note left on Walt Disney's desk just prior to his death in 1966 read, "Kill Goofy."

On Dec. 24, 2023, a TikTok user posted a video with screenshots of users' comments from Reddit, including one that displayed the rumor, "When Walt Disney died, he left a note on his desk saying 'Kill Goofy' and nobody knows why."

A rumor said that Walt Disney left a note on his desk before his death that said to kill Goofy.The first of several supposed "disturbing life facts" that were displayed in the video. (@ravvaslides/TikTok)

Within three days, the video had received more than 6.2 million views.

Walt Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966, in Los Angeles, California. He was 65 years old. (No, he wasn't frozen after his death.) Meanwhile, the screenshot of the Reddit comment that was included in the TikTok video was originally posted in April 2021.

The time span between 1966 and 2021 was more than five decades. If this rumor were true, we'd presumably find some other record of the supposed "Kill Goofy" note, what with all of the books, newspaper stories, interviews and blog articles written through the years about the founder of The Walt Disney Company.

However, in a search of the vast archival databases of Google Books, Newspapers.com and Google (prior to April 2021), we found absolutely no record or reporting about Walt Disney having written a note that included the words, "Kill Goofy."

In other words, the Reddit user who posted the comment in April 2021 may have made up the rumor — we reached out to the account for comment. It was also possible that the user had confused a real note that had been left on Disney's desk with another matter about how Disney (the man) had purportedly "hated" Goofy's cartoons. We'll explain.

One Real Note on Disney's Desk

Several real notes truly were left on Disney's desk just before his passing. However, these weren't carefully written, detailed letters containing his final wishes. They were simply just notes that he had written down, just as any person with a desk might simply jot down notes to ensure that their passing thoughts were not forgotten.

The notes on Disney's desk were catalogued in 1970 by a company archivist, Dave Smith. Smith died in 2019.

From TheWaltDisneyCompany.com:

Dave [Smith] was hired in 1970 by Walt’s brother—and The Walt Disney Company co-founder—Roy O. Disney, and his first responsibility was cataloguing every item inside Walt’s office suite, which had been left untouched after Walt’s passing four years prior. Thanks to Dave’s meticulously detailed notes and records, the Archives was able to restore the suite in 2015, and today Disney employees are able to visit and draw inspiration from this remarkable space.

According to Reader's Digest, one of the notes that Smith found in Disney's office was titled, "TV Projects in Production: Ready for Production or Possible for Escalation and Story," and included the notes, "Ron Miller, 'Way Down Cellar,' Kirt Russell and 'CIA'—Mobley."

"Kirt Russell" apparently referenced actor Kurt Russell, who was the subject of another rumor that claimed Disney's last spoken words were "Kurt Russell." However, this was false, as MousePlanet.com reported.

In the story from MousePlanet.com, the blog also linked to an apparently barely watched YouTube video posted in 2009. Much of the footage was originally recorded in 1995 and showed Smith himself providing a tour of Disney's restored offices in Anaheim, California.

At the 2:36 mark in the video, Smith reads the note that mentions not "Kill Goofy" but rather the information about the "TV projects," Russell and the others.

A rumor said that Walt Disney left a note on his desk before his death that said to kill Goofy.This is a screenshot of the "TV projects" note from the 1995 video. Its quality is poor due to the format of the footage. (Courtesy: friendofvic/YouTube)

Did Disney 'Hate' Goofy's Cartoons?

Disney did not leave a note on his desk that read, "Kill Goofy." However, did Disney (the man) have some dislike for Goofy's cartoons?

That answer was yes, at least according to Disney biographer Neal Gabler, who wrote the book, "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination." Gabler was interviewed by blogger Timothy Callaway in 2006.

A rumor said that Walt Disney left a note on his desk before his death that said to kill Goofy.A miniature statue of Goofy rests on Walt Disney's desk while Disney stands holding a Mickey Mouse doll. Dated 1949. (Hulton Deutsch/Contributor)

During the interview, Gabler contended that "Walt always hated Goofy" due to the character's lack of "emotional engagement" in cartoons where he was prominently featured:

Tim: One of the things I was surprised to read in your book was that Disney hated the Goofy cartoons. Why was that?

Gabler: He talks constantly about how much he hates them, but never really specifies what he hates about them. He thought they were stupid, I think, at some point. There was no emotional engagement in them. They’re just a bunch of stupid cartoons with gags tied together, which in a way was getting way back to the early days of animation. Walt had striven so hard to get away from that notion of just putting a bunch of gags together that have no kind of larger narrative context and no emotional context. Walt always hated Goofy and he would’ve deep-sixed Goofy a long time ago if the studio didn’t need to make those movies to give ‘make work’ to so many of the animators. Boy, he hated Goofy (laughs).

For further reading, we previously reported on a rumor that said Goofy was not a dog, but rather a cow. Was this true? Find out.

Note: DisneyFanatic.com also reported about the "Kill Goofy" rumor in December 2023 and included information regarding Walt Disney's apparent dislike of Goofy's cartoons.

Sources

Callaway, Timothy. My Interview With Walt Disney Biographer Neal Gabler. Oct. 2006, http://www.themousecastle.com/2010/12/my-interview-with-walt-disney.html.

Cavna, Michael. “Were Walt Disney’s Dying Words Really ‘Kurt Russell’? As Disney’s ‘Guardians’ Opens, the Urban Legend Persists.” Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2017/05/04/were-walt-disneys-dying-words-really-kurt-russell-as-disneys-guardians-opens-the-urban-legend-persists/.

Deitchman, Beth. “Remembering Dave Smith.” The Walt Disney Company, 16 Feb. 2019, https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/remembering-dave-smith/.

Evon, Dan. “Is Disney’s Goofy Character Actually a Cow?” Snopes, 31 Jan. 2019, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/goofy-cow-or-dog/.

friendofvic. “Tour of Walt Disney’s Offices.” YouTube, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs912i9IJuY.

Gabler, Neal. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2007.

Korkis, Jim. “Walt’s Last Words: NOT Kurt Russell.” MousePlanet.com, 7 Sept. 2011, https://www.mouseplanet.com/9734/Walts_Last_Words_NOT_Kurt_Russell.

Kumar, Priyanka. “What Is the Deal With Walt Disney and ‘Kill Goofy’?” DisneyFanatic.com, 24 Dec. 2023, https://www.disneyfanatic.com/what-deal-walt-disney-kill-goofy-pk1/.

Mikkelson, David. “Was Walt Disney Frozen?” Snopes, 19 Oct. 1995, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/suspended-animation/.

Nelson, Brooke. “The Mysterious Note Walt Disney Left Behind Before He Died.” Reader’s Digest, 30 May 2019, https://www.rd.com/article/walt-disneys-last-words/.

@ravvaslides. TikTok, 24 Dec. 2023, https://www.tiktok.com/@ravvaslides/video/7315937124283370798.

Rhoades, Traci. “How Exactly Did Walt Disney Die?” Parade, 23 Apr. 2023, https://parade.com/living/how-did-walt-disney-die.

u/Ppeanoot. “[Serious] Whats the Scariest Fact You Know?” r/AskReddit via Reddit.com, 2 Apr. 2021, https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/mijald/serious_whats_the_scariest_fact_you_know/gt5g3xj/.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.