Walt Disney and the mass suicide of the lemmings
If you say Disney you think of animated feature films such as Snow White, the stories of Mickey and Donald, the films and documentaries that have delighted young and old all over the world since 1932.
But not everything has always been rosy like “uncle” Walt Disney (whose work, however, we admire openly, ed), wanted to represent, or as he would seem, admiring the hundreds of stamps dedicated to him and his creations from post offices all over the world.
Those dirty little secrets of Uncle Walt
Even the “house of mouse” has had its dirty little secrets and we're not talking about the fact that Walt himself (defined by the biographer Marc Eliot “the Hollywood's Dark Prince”) after the war he was an informer on behalf of the head of the FBI, the controversial J. Edgar Hoover.
We don't even want to tell you about the urban legends that circulate about some of his abandoned attractions or even on Walt himself (like the one who wants him hibernated in Disneyland in a sarcophagus at -223 degrees from 1966, the official year of his death, under the attraction of the Pirates, the Sleeping Beauty Castle or the state of Disney and Mickey Mouse).
A much-discussed documentary
What we want to talk to you about is “White Wilderness”, a film shot in 1958 and winner the following year of an Oscar and a Golden Bear for best documentary. Directed by James Algar, the film showed the conditions of animal and plant life in the countries belonging to the Arctic Circle, coming to prove the theory that during the migrations the Lemmings commit suicide en masse.
Too bad that the theory had no scientific basis. Simply Carl Barks, perhaps the most famous designer of the “ducks”, in 1955 had made a story, “The Lemming with the Locket”, in which the ducks followed a lemming to Scandinavia only to discover that for an unknown reason millions of these small rodents dive into the sea from a cliff.
The scientific basis? A Carl Barks story
To prove what the Disney technicians really couldn't prove, they made an authentic “fake”. They bought hundreds of lemmings in Manitoba and literally threw them into the water from the cliffs of the Bow River, a river that flows near Calgary (and not in the Arctic Circle as is believed in the movie).
Not only that: the filmed lemmings belonged to a species that does not migrate, let alone commit mass suicides. However, the case was discovered many decades after Walt's death through the documentary “Cruel Camera” broadcast on Canadian television Cbc Television during the show “The Fifth Estate”.
Despite being in the legal era, the killing of hundreds of poor animals in order to make a “masterpiece” of falsehood appears cruel to our eyes and even then testified to very questionable ethics. The one that doesn't matter the truth, but the story you tell. Which is perhaps fine for fairy tales and legends, less so when you want to make scientific popularization.