Subversive Art #1:
Disneyland Memorial Orgy
(by Wally Wood)
One of the great flourishes in satiric art, illustrator Wally Wood's poster, Disneyland Memorial Orgy, was in fact a work conceived and commissioned by veteran radical Paul Krassner for his venerable underground newspaper The Realist. In those days, The Realist was operating as something of a New Yorker for the barricades, with an emphasis on cultural satire (their contributors in this period included the likes of Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce), and Wood's twilighted vision of a chaotic memorial bacchanal for Uncle Walt within the shadow of the Magic Kingdom, which was published anonymously in The Realist's May, 1967 issue, remains an essential part of that paper's legacy; a strangely powerful work of cultural subversion, rendered as artfully as it was gleefully.
In a later account, Krassner detailed his initial thinking behind the work:
"After Walt Disney died, I somehow expected Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the gang to attend his funeral, with Goofy delivering the eulogy and the Seven Dwarves serving as pallbearers. Disney's death occurred a few months after Time magazine's famous 'Is God Dead?' cover, and I realized that Disney had served as God to that whole stable of imaginary beings who were now mourning in a state of suspended animation.
"Disney had been their creator, and had repressed their baser instincts, but now with his departure, they could finally shed their cumulative inhibitions and participate together in an unspeakable Roman binge, to signify the crumbling of an empire.
"I contacted Wally Wood, who had illustrated my first article for Mad, and he unleashed their collective libido, demystifying an entire genre in the process. I told Wally my idea, without being specific. In a few months, he presented me with the artwork, unsigned. I paid him $100. The Disneyland Memorial Orgy was a Realist center spread that became our most infamous poster."
Oddly enough, the Powers-That-Were at Disney elected not to sue. Perhaps they were still reeling and recovering from their founder's passing within the last year, or perhaps they simply didn't want to give Krassner and his paper the publicity which would have certainly follwed such an action; whatever the case, they let the image stand unchallenged. That is, until an inspired bootlegger a few years after the fact began creating and marketing Black Light posters utilizng Wood's masterwork. Only then did Disney seek redress in the courts for what they characterized as wanton theft and a cruel debasement of their cherished animated iconography. In a dramatically limp denoument, the parties eventually reached an out of court settlement.
Wally Wood appears to have gotten away with his part in the burlesque scot-free, and these days Paul Krassner's selling reproductions of the poster on his website (The Realist folded a few years ago after a long and honorable run on the so-called underground publishing wheel). It is our hope here at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . . that a new generation of subversives will find such succor as there is to be had in images like this and will go on to feed the tributary of cultural dissent by producing their own.