Sunday, November 26, 2017

Inside Walt Disney's Secret Christmas List Files

By Keith Mahne

Walt Disney once called Christmas "that Disney time of year." It was no marketing ploy, either. Walt loved the Yuletide season. It's reflected in the entertainment he created over the decades, including charming holiday scenes shown in such movies as Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Happiest Millionaire—which contains a heartwarming scene of Disney Legend Fred MacMurray and Greer Garson singing "It Won't Be Long 'Til Christmas." In the spirit of that great song and the holiday season that is now upon us, let's take a look inside Walt Disney's secret Christmas list files...

While we read about Walt's Secret Christmas list files, let's take a listen to that heartwarming song from  The Happiest Millionaire called "It Won't Be Long 'Til Christmas"...

(For your listening pleasure, be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player located above prior to starting the song below if you are on a desktop computer.)

You can listen to this track all December long by selecting track number C13 in the Christmas Edition of the Disney Avenue Music Player located above under the Disney Avenue banner.

Walt's binder from 1960 called "Christmas Lists & Misc"

Found within the Walt Disney Archives is a binder from 1960 called "Christmas Lists & Misc." and two wooden cases—one labeled "Walt's Christmas List Local," the other "Walt's Christmas List Out of Town"—from the mid-1960s.

Two wooden cases—one labeled "Walt's Christmas List Local," the other "Walt's Christmas List Out of Town"

Seeing these amazing artifacts from another time is to be magically transported back to the 1960s, a time when Walt was at the epicenter of a creative factory that was pumping out theme park attractions, movies, television shows, and more at a staggering rate. The fact that he would take what little free time he had to create these detailed and utterly charming lists just goes to show you why Walt Disney was such a one-of-a-kind man.

In the binder from 1960, it's fun to see on Walt's list A-list stars such as legendary singer Rosemary Clooney (her nephew, George—you may have heard of him—would be born the following year), Bing Crosby, and Buddy Ebsen.

But even more revealing are some of the other names on Walt's list: children's hospitals from all around the country, for example, and Eunice Combs, a Studio janitor.

Walt listed gifts to be given to her two daughters, Cheryl, age 16, and Carolyn, age 17.

In the index card boxes from the mid-1960s, we see the gifts Walt picked out for Ford executive Lee Iacocca's children (Iacocca helped Walt with the Ford sponsorship of the Magic Skyway at the 1964–65 World's Fair), Julie Andrews and her husband, Tony Walton (their daughter, Emma Kate, received Winnie the Pooh plush and more in both 1964 and 1965), Dick Van Dyke's children, daughter Diane Disney Miller's family, and many more...

I hope you enjoyed seeing this gallery of images from the Walt Disney Archives of Walt's Christmas lists. Looking for a warm Walt Disney tradition for your home? Walt always carried a can of Chili with him and to this day the Walt Disney Studios commissary always has a fresh pot of it on hand. And now you can, too! Below you will find Walt’s own recipe for this wintertime family favorite...



2 lbs. coarse ground beef
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1⁄2 cup oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 tsp. chili powder (depending on taste)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 large can solid pack tomatoes
2 lbs. dry pink beans

For Extra Zest

Add a punch of the following spices:
1 little yellow Mexican chili pepper
Coriander seeds
Chili seeds
Cumin seeds
Fennel seeds
Dry ginger


Soak beans overnight in cold water. Drain, add water to cover (2 inches over beans), and simmer with onions until tender (about 4 hours). Meanwhile, prepare sauce by browning meat and minced garlic in oil. Add remaining ingredients, and simmer for 1 hour. When beans are tender, add sauce to beans and simmer for 1⁄2 hour. Serves 6 to 8.

After your chili is done, wrap yourself up under your favorite blanket, slot in your favorite Disney movie and relax with the perfect comfort food—Walt style!



Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading through this. Nicely done. Thank you! M. Cross, Tennessee

  2. Love learning more about how amazing Walt was when no one was looking = integrity!