W — Warehouse of Walt Disney
Walt was convinced about the multiverse.
“You might feel that there is just one globe, but the truth is there are many globes”, he would tell his daughter , “slippery-jittery-wobbly-bobbly bubbles, packed in a big, gigantic glass jar..” He would make a big hand gesture as if the multiverse jar is in his daughter’s bedroom. “And those of us who live in one bubble constantly jostle with creatures in other bubbles, brushing our elbows, sometimes whispering, sometimes yelling at one another”.
His daughter would listen intently and then yell a loud “Helloooo!!!” towards the ceiling. “Shhhh” — he would say and after a moment surreptitiously whisper a soft, faint, Helloooo.
“Can you hear them ?”, he would ask and she would nod and burst out giggling.
Walt loved travelling from one bubble to another, passing through their transparent thin walls and discovering strange societies of curious creatures. He would spend days with them, eat with them, stay in their houses and make them his friends. Most of these creatures were young — singing and speaking in kiddish-cloddish voices- telling tales of love and valour.
“Every world is different from our world, but is also very same.”, Walt would observe. “All these folks are different from me, but are also me.” — he would add.
He painstakingly drew those creatures, gave them every gesture, every twitch and then would spend months finding a perfect voice for them. And these creatures would then come to life, become real in our world too.
Huge crowds waited in anticipation, queuing up at the entrance of theatres to see them. In the dark hall, swarms of people would devour stories of these colorful talkie creations, clapping and cheering. Kids would buy their lookalike stuffed toys, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse would be sold in every corner toy store. And Walt would beam with pride, like a proud parent. “Thank you for your love. My little friends are very happy,” — he would say.
But the more he created, the more demanding the crowds began. Sometimes they would not love what they saw and would boo at the stories. On such nights, after his shows, Walt would be found standing at the “Exit Point”, with his hat in his hand, the blinking red light shining on his face. And people would come out shaking their heads in disappointment.
Once Walt had written the story of Flowery- a young countryside handkerchief, lovingly hand-embroidered by her grandmother. Flowery dreamt of going to the big city and working in the fashion world and had many fun adventures. But her shows didn’t do well.
“This is only for the girls, my boys got bored!” — yelled a man shepherding his five farmer boys. Walt nodded quietly, hat in his hand.
There were many such stories : story of Tom and Timmy, two Giraffes who lived in the Longer Islands, a multileveled city almost touching the clouds, stories of Sim Sim , a shy school boy with a troublesome pet monster in his lunchbox or the story of Sat & Pat of Apolloland.
And though many of his other stories and characters had dedicated theme parks for them, Walt used to feel pained for these characters whose designs were dumped in the bin. Their posters would be torn away much sooner and these movie reels would be sent down to the dark office basement to be buried forever. Walt would worry about them, more so as he got older.
One night, in his dreams, all his forgotten creatures came together. They had some bad news for him.
Flowery from the HankyLand was lost forever. Walt woke up startled, worried, drove to the office basement, still in his pajamas and realised that the nightmare was true. The tape of Flowery was indeed recorded over. The younger office folks who had taken over said that they had a space problem and they couldn’t keep these characters in the main office anymore. The new CEO asked him to take the reels of these rejected creatures with him as they had no use for them.
Later, that day, after much thought, Walt came up with an idea. A secret one.
In the outskirts of the Disneyland Park, there was an unused lot that was his private property. There he ordered constructions of four large walls to make a big Warehouse, a private one. And in the Warehouse, he installed thin glass panels as screens.
Each screen was dedicated to one of these less loved characters. If anyone would walk close to a screen, it would light up, and characters would come to life and would introduce themselves and speak about their strange worlds and adventures animatedly with a child-like eager delight.
Walt treated the warehouse like his own private garden and painstakingly worked on making it perfect. On quieter days, Walt would visit these characters and talk to them for hours. Sometimes he would listen to their problems and add a new cloth design, a new feature, a small twitch or a new color to make them happy. He was getting older, and his hands had begun to shake. His additions were not perfect, but the characters would always feel very elated — “Thanks for the new bowtie Walt!”, “Thanks for making my pink dress Mr Walt.”, “Thanks for the new ball to bounce with Sir!” — they would say. Walt would beam back at them.
“There is something about their innocence, the fact that they are uncorrupted by fame and money, that reminds me of a version of me,” he had told his wife one night.
Walt kept nurturing these creatures, and spending many evenings with them. In later years he would visit them on Christmas or New Year’s eve. When fans and company folks would come to meet him, he would be found missing and only his wife would know where he was. She would not disturb him and let him be. ” He might be talking to Tom and Timmy or maybe trying to redraw Flowery with his shaky hands,” she would tell the extended family.
“We think we are just one person, but inside each of us, many transparent versions of us overlap with one another,” he once told her. ”Just like the bright and big DisneyWorld is a version of me, so is this quiet colourful Warehouse that no one knows of. Both noisy, alienating fame and gentle, peaceful anonymity jostle inside me, to be me.”
“And I know who is winning,” she would say.
The warehouse was operational for many years after Walt’s death. On some nights, the screens would light up on their own and the characters would talk to each other wondering if Walt has forgotten them, only to together arrive at the thought that one day he will show up to meet them.
One day, Walt’s wife visited them and informed them of his death and they held a wake for him, speaking about wonderful little things he did and the poor jokes he cracked. His wife felt a strange comfort in their company. Mickey and Minnie mouse had forgotten Walt, the new designers made them bigger, brighter, colourful. But on these characters she could still feel Walt’s fingerprints. She touched them, those rough glass panels and felt she was feeling the coarse hands of her husband again.
She quietly started sobbing.
Few decades later, when the wife stopped coming, the creatures realised maybe she had passed away too, so they held a wake for her.
“She has joined Walt”.
“How lucky? “
“Are we orphans now?”
“No..no we are Walt now.”
And so the creatures quietly lived and they behaved well until one day, a few years later, due to an oversight by Walt’s lawyers, the funding for the maintenance of the warehouse stopped. The old caretaker was pulled in to manage the growing crowds in the main Disneyland.
And after a week of no show, the generator of the warehouse gradually started draining out of power and each character realised that they would be gone too.
But before they left, they all lit up their screen, one by one.
Each of them took their moment, shone brightly — “Goodbye to the world. It was a wonderful life indeed. ” “Ciao!” “Toodles!” “We are joining our Walt” “Woohoo” and gradually as the generator drained out of power, they started fading away, becoming fainter and fainter till all that was left was an array of silent glass panels…
If you ever visit Disneyland, 40 miles to its north, you will find an old warehouse. Inside it you will find these glass panels with shrubs growing around them. Some would be chipped, cracked, some fallen.
But in there if you go and shout a loud “Hellooooo!”, maybe some of the creatures will listen to you. And if you are very quiet and still, after a while, you will hear back a gentle, soft, shy— Hellooo.