In honor of Father’s Day, we’d like to celebrate by remembering some of the most endearing
Disney dads in entertainment history. From Mr. Incredible to Mufasa, these protective papas are caring, wise, and have warmed our hearts with tons of love – think King Triton (“The Little Mermaid“), Maurice (“Beauty and the Beast“), Marlin (“Finding Nemo“), Zeus (“Hercules“), Goofy (Max’s dad) and even Donald Duck. Though many might claim Donald is only an uncle, he never bats a feather about going the distance for his three nephews. Such dedication is proof that you don’t have to be a biological father to be a great dad.
But our top pop is the man from Marceline who started it all, Walt Disney. The animator-turned-entrepreneurial icon projected a paternal persona to all who knew him and was affectionately nicknamed “Uncle Walt” by employees. An adoring father and grandfather in real life, Walt’s dream of building Disneyland stemmed from wanting a special place to spend “Daddy’s Day” (weekly outings) with daughters Diane and Sharon. His amazing vision changed the way millions of dads (and moms) bond with their kids – and families everywhere are forever grateful.
So what was Walt like as a father? Diane Disney Miller recalls the simplicity-loving Midwesterner who said, “A man should never neglect his family for business.” “When we were small, Dad would pick me and my sister up every Sunday after Sunday school and we’d go to the merry-go-round in Griffith Park or the zoo. As we got older, we’d all ride out of DuBrock’s stables in Los Angeles, which is where Dad sometimes housed his polo ponies … he was crazy about horses. Years later, we rode out from Matson’s, a wonderful stable across the river.”
According to Diane, “We went to Smoke Tree Ranch for family vacations. It was very relaxed and low-key … Dad loved the desert air and the whole cowboy theme. He wasn’t elitist – just a casual guy who liked being around people.” This explains why one of Walt’s favorite meals was chili, an easy-to-throw-together comfort food made popular in the southwest.
Walt especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. “Mother and Dad always babysat for us. He’d take the kids to the Park a lot and then they’d spend the night. When we’d go to Palm Springs, Dad would often sit outside reading scripts while they played, rode bikes, or built forts nearby … he really loved having them around.” The doting grandpa with a passion for trains even paved a free-form bicycle path all around his second desert home to resemble railroad tracks – and to this day, it’s still a point of interest at Smoke Tree Ranch.
Inspired by Walt’s many gifts to the world, we’re reciprocating with a Father’s Day surprise of our own – the famous Disneyland chili recipe that won Walt’s praise. On the menu seasonally at the Plaza Inn, River Belle Terrace, and other restaurants at the Park, this spicy stew is sure to satisfy even the most discriminating daddy’s palate. Bon appétit!
Walt Disney’s Own Chili and Beans
2 pounds pinto beans, dry
2 medium onions, sliced
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Wash and sort beans and soak overnight in cold water.
2. Drain beans and place in a 2-quart saucepan. Add fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Add sliced onion and simmer (covered) for 2 hours until tender.
3. Heat oil in a large pan and sauté garlic. Add beef and celery and cook until lightly browned. Add chili powder, paprika, and thyme. Mix in chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
4. When beans are tender, combine with meat, stirring gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cooks’ Note: For a spicier chili, add 1/8 teaspoon each coriander, turmeric, chili seeds, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and ground ginger. You can also add dried hot pepper to taste.
Yields: 4 servings