Well, the title pretty much gives the joke away. An outrageous (but phonologically perfect) pun in a Bizarro cartoon from 9/6/12:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just 1 in this strip — see this Page.)

What the woman and her two kids get to view is Disney on ice —

(the body of the dead-since-1966 Walt) Disney (resting) on (a block of preservative) ice (in a display case)

What she bought tickets to was an entertainment (especially aimed at children) called Disney on Ice

(an entertainment in which characters from the Walt) Disney (Company’s animated cartoons are portrayed by performers skating) on ice

Disney is understood metonymically in both cases. In the first, it refers not to Walt Disney, but to his (dead) body. In the second, it refers not to Walt Disney, but to a company named after him; and then not actually to the company itself, but to fictional characters  in the company’s products, that is, to characters associated with the company — so that here, Disney is (at least) two metonymical steps removed from the man Walt Disney. (There’s then a fairly clear sense in which the first Disney is understood “more literally” than the second.)

There are other possible readings for DISNEY ON ICE. For example, the little family in #1 might have discovered that they’d bought tickets to the screening of a film showing Walt Disney ice skating, or walking gingerly across a frozen lake, or balancing himself on blocks of ice.

Or just a picture of an imprisoned Walt Disney — choosing one of the ‘held in reserve’ senses of adjectival on ice in this lightning inventory from GDoS:

1 (orig. US) on reserve … 2 certain, definite, a foregone conclusion, esp. of a sporting contest … 3 (orig. US) out of the way; in storage … 4 (orig. US) dead … 5 (US Underworld) of stolen goods, waiting to be sold … 6 (US Underworld) in prison, under arrest …  7 (orig US) in hiding, esp. from the police … 8 (orig. US) in secret, on the quiet … 9 (US Underworld) suffering confinement in a punishment cell … 10 in protective custody

But wait, there’s more: DISNEY is a proper name, and any particular proper name is routinely used to refer to an unknown swarm of individuals bearing that name. Even if the little family in #1 had intended to buy a ticket to see Disney’s dead body preserved in ice, they would have been dismayed to discover that the body was not that of the famous Walt Disney, but of his accomplished but less famous brother Roy Disney.

Or, much more startlingly, if it had turned out to be the body of the cat named Disney who famously survived the 1991 wildfire in the Oakland Hills of CA. From the Washington Post, “Home Fur the Holidays”, on 12/25/92 on-line:

OAKLAND, CALIF. — It’s a wonderful (nine) lives this Christmas for a cat named Disney.

After vanishing in the Oakland Hills firestorm 14 months ago, she’s been snatched from a certain fate and sent home for the holidays.

“Every time I look at her, I’m just so glad she’s back,” owner Kristine Davis said yesterday. “She’s so lovable.”

The point here is that the reference of proper names is determined in context, according to the relevance of specific individuals in the discourse.

Background: Walt Disney. From Wikipedia:

(#2) 1946 photo of Walt Disney (photo: Boy Scouts of America)

Walter Elias Disney  December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was an American animator, film producer and entrepreneur. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of cartoons. As a film producer, he holds the record for most Academy Awards earned and nominations by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations.

Background: Disney on Ice. First, ice shows. From Wikipedia:

An ice show is an entertainment production which is primarily performed by ice skaters. Such shows may primarily be skating exhibitions, or may be musical and/or dramatic in nature, using skating as a medium in order to accompany a musical work or to present a story. The term generally excludes skating competitions in (professional) sports. Many companies produce fixed or touring ice shows, which are then performed for the general public in facilities such as multipurpose arenas or skating rinks which can accommodate spectators, or in theatres with a temporary ice surface installed on the stage. Ice shows are also featured as entertainment in amusement parks and on some large cruise ships.

Notable major ice shows [include] Ice Capades and Ice Follies, … historical ice shows that were held from the 1930s to 1980s; Broadway on Ice, … an ice-based revue of Broadway show tunes; [and of course] Disney on Ice

As a child, I was taken to Ice Capades and Ice Follies shows at the Hersheypark Arena (home of the Hershey Bears ice hockey team — note pun on Hershey Bar) in Hershey PA (where the chocolate comes from). I did not myself ice-skate, or roller-skate even, but I appreciated the shows as a live-action approximation to the Busby Berkeley dance spectacles in the movies of the time, which I adored.

Then, from Wikipedia:

(#3) (l-to-r) Donald, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy

Disney on Ice, originally Walt Disney’s World on Ice, is a series of touring ice shows [around the world] produced by Feld Entertainment’s Ice Follies And Holiday on Ice, Inc. under agreement with The Walt Disney Company. Aimed primarily at children, the shows feature figure skaters portraying the roles of Disney characters in performances derived from various Disney films.

… The show is usually hosted by Mickey Mouse assisted at times by Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck. More recently, the series features segments about the Disney Princesses Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Moana (in most shows). A new production is launched almost every year.

I would not willingly attend a Disney on Ice performance; as a child I detested the Mickey Mouse Club; and I have pointedly avoided going to Disneyland in Anaheim, even when I was staying in a hotel more or less across the street from it. By and large, I find the Disney enterprises — after the early animated features and comic books, some of which are masterworks of the genre — repellent. This is a matter of personal taste, of course, and I’m perfectly aware that I’m out of synch with the culture, that Disneyfied cuteness is wildly popular. But then I never claimed to be vox populi.

4 Responses to “DISNEY ON ICE”

  1. MWarhol Says:

    There is also the expression “stinks on ice”, meaning to be awful, repulsive, of exceptionally poor quality, etc., and which may eventually apply to the subject of the cartoon.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Since Dennis Lewis has brought the matter up in Facebook discussion on this posting: from the PBS site, “How a strange rumor of Walt Disney’s death became legend”, by Dr. Howard Markel on 12/117/18:

    For the record, there is no solid evidence to suggest that Disney was frozen. The website Snopes.com has produced a superb point-by-point analysis refuting virtually every aspect of the cryogenics and Walt Disney legend. Perhaps the most convincing conclusion comes from Disney’s daughter Diane, who wrote in 1972, “There is absolutely no truth that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen. I doubt that my father had ever heard of cryonics.”

    In truth, Walt Disney was cremated two days after his death and an urn containing his ashes were interred at the family mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Cemetery of Glendale, California.

    The PBS link:


    The Snopes link:


  3. Robert Coren Says:

    Like you, I would never willingly go to Disneyland or Disney World. In fact, on one occasion in 1967 (lots of background omitted) I opted out of a group trip to Disneyland in order to spend an afternoon with my brother, who had flown down from Berkeley for the occasion.

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