Harlan Ellison Goes to Work for Disney Studios. Seriously.

Yesterday I was trying to make some sense out of the title of Harlan Ellison’s 1975 science fiction story Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38 54′ N Longitude 77 00’ 13″ W. Fascinating title, even though it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the story. The Islets of Langerhans are a part of the pancreas. The geographical coordinates refer to a location near Union Station in Washington, D.C. Well, ok. Then, in my research I came across this question:

Was Ellison really fired on his first day as a writer at Disney for suggesting that the studio make a porn movie?

Funny! Oh, but wait – the real answer is YES. According to the web site islands.net:

“The complete version of the story can be found in Stalking the Nightmare. The short version, from the Urban Legends Reference Pages: A few hours after arriving for his first day of work at Disney Studios, Ellison and several fellow writers headed off to the studio commissary for lunch. Once there, Ellison jokingly suggested they “do a Disney porn flick” and proceeded to act out the parts while imitating the voices of several animated Disney characters. Unbeknownst to him, Roy Disney and the other studio heads were sitting adjacent to his table. Ellison claims that he returned to his office to find a pink slip on his desk and the name on his parking space whited out.”

I shared this with Lon, who wrote me back:

That’s funny. I really have to wonder how Disney might have been significantly different if Ellison was a staff writer there…

  • The Little Mermaid would have been really poignant, but would spend most of the sequel explaining how much better she was than the other cartoons.
  • His version of the singing teapot in Beauty and the Beast was so sexually aggressive that it had to be re-written. He refused to have his name in the credits.
  • After his drug-dealing/prostitution scene in Darkwing Duck was written out of the script, he accused the producers of having the “intellectual capacity of an artichoke.”
  • In the 1990s, Ellison publicly assaulted Steven Spielberg over an argument about the Animaniacs at the Reuben awards, but the two have since signed a non-aggression pact, and are rumored to be working on a project together.
  • He created an original series about a group of sexually deviant rodents in a street gang, which won several awards, but before production “sexually deviant” was changed to “courageous” and “street gang” was changed to “oak tree”. When Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers was released, he protested by using his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird to alert the public that he felt his creative contribution to the project had been “mangled beyond repair.”

I’m still laughing.

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