At first, the contrast was laughable: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, accompanied by a bevy of bunnies, visiting Walt Disney World.
But Thursday afternoon, it was one American icon paying homage to another — Walt Disney.
The 78-year-old Hefner and his entourage — in Florida for Playboy’s famed Super Bowl party the night before Sunday’s game — said he and Disney have a lot in common. Both were Midwesterners who began their careers as cartoonists before founding their companies.
“I think he would have every reason to be proud,” Hefner said. “I think he’s had a very positive impact on the world. Disney and Mickey Mouse both had a tremendous influence on me when I was starting.”
And both men have left their mark on the world.
“It’s fascinating to see the impact of the global nature of the Disney phenomenon,” Hefner said. “It’s remarkable how universal the Playboy bunny is now — anywhere in the world.”
Hefner, accompanied by four blonde girlfriends, said he had another purpose for his visit to the park. It was a belated birthday gift to one of his companions, Holly Madison, who sported a small Mickey doll on her hip.
“All the girls are Disney fans,” Hefner said. “But Holly is obsessed.”
As for the world’s most famous bachelor, it’s all about staying young.
“What has never left me, quite frankly, is the boy himself,” Hefner said. “It is the connection to childhood. There are two ’Happiest Places on Earth:’ One is Disney, and the other is the Playboy Mansion.”