The Wonderfully Strange Connection Between Walt Disney and France’s Famous Dairy Town

updated May 16, 2019
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Today Disney is that magical place most people associate with Dole whip, carrot cake churros, and Florida sunshine. A small farming community in France is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think Disney, right? So you might be surprised to find out that Disney — Walt Disney, that is — actually has a strange connection to Isigny sur Mer, a small town in Normandy, France. And coincidentally, this town is known for its sweets.

Isigny sur Mer is famous worldwide for its dairy farms. The town became renown when the Dupont family, which built dairy factories there in 19th century, established the Dupont d’Isigny confectionary company and began producing its signature d’Isigny caramels. If you want good dairy, you go to Normandy: The cows there are known for producing the richest, creamiest butter and cheese.

Okay, now on to where Walt Disney comes in: As you might have noticed “d’Isigny” sounds remarkably close to Disney. To understand the connection you need a short history lesson: In 1066, William the Conqueror awarded the title “Lords of Isigny” to the French father-and-son duo Robert and Hugues Suhard, as a thank you for helping him conquer England (as his own title suggests). They became Robert and Hugues d’Isigny, and settled in England, where d’Isigny naturally became the anglicized Disney. A branch of the family eventually moved away to Ireland — Walt Disney’s ancestors.

Walt Disney forged his birth certificate in order to serve as a paramedic during World War I, but he was shipped to France in 1918, the year the war ended. He returned home a year later, but he never forgot France. Much of his work was inspired by French artists and fairy tales, most notably Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Some of the first Mickey Mouse cartoons were even published in a French paper in the 1930s.

So there you have it: Disney is American as it gets, but next time you’re riding a roller coaster or wearing your Mickey Mouse ears, say a silent “thank you” to the French.