In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock unleashed his cinematic tour de force, “Psycho,” upon the world, a horror masterpiece that has since become an enduring standard-bearer for the genre. However, one notable figure in Hollywood was notably unimpressed, and it comes as little surprise that it was none other than Walt Disney.
The years spanning from 1958 to 1963 marked a zenith in Alfred Hitchcock’s illustrious career, during which he consecutively directed four of the most lauded films of all time. These cinematic gems included “Vertigo” (1958), “North by Northwest” (1959), “Psycho” (1960), and “The Birds” (1963). After the release of “Psycho,” while Hitchcock was savoring a well-deserved break, his collaborator on “North by Northwest,” Ernest Lehman, approached him with an intriguing proposal involving a movie centered around a blind protagonist.
As detailed in John Russell Tyler’s book “Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock,” the concept revolved around “a man blind from birth who is given sight by way of an eye transplant, only to discover that the donor, ostensibly a victim of an accident, was in fact murdered and has imprinted onto him a visual memory of the killer.”
In 1955, Disneyland had made its grand debut in Anaheim, California, pioneering the concept of a theme park and rapidly becoming a cultural phenomenon. Therefore, Lehman envisioned seamlessly integrating Disneyland into the narrative. He mused, “Perhaps while visiting Disneyland, the protagonist (let’s, for argument’s sake, call him Jimmy Stewart) finds himself ‘recognizing’ someone he could never have seen before, triggered by a staged gunfight. Perhaps the entire film could be set in Disneyland. Hitchcock in Disneyland!”
“Hitch and Lehman embarked on developing the idea, mirroring their collaboration on ‘North by Northwest,’ and initially, everything progressed smoothly. However, then an announcement surfaced in the industry publications about the project. Walt Disney caught wind of it and promptly declared that under no circumstances would Hitchcock, the creator of that shocking film ‘Psycho,’ be granted permission to shoot a single frame of footage in Disneyland.”
Ironically, in the present day, Disneyland’s primary rival park, Universal Studios, features a studio tour that includes a stop at the infamous Bates Motel, allowing visitors to witness Norman in the act of concealing a conspicuously-shaped bundle in the trunk of his car.