The most famous—and the most infamous—party ever hosted by Walt Disney was the 1938 Snow White Wrap Party at the Norconian Resort in the California Desert, a party thick with booze and brassy music, also weighted down by tense politics. Stories from that party would live on, whispers finding their way into interviews and books—whispers that have fascinated me for years.

In 1937, after the completion of Snow White, Walt celebrated with his staff at the Hyperion lot during the annual Christmas party, but at that time no one—not even Walt—could predict the enormous financial success the film would eventually achieve. By February, every showing was sold out at Radio City Music Hall in New York, with scalpers receiving up to $7.70 for reserved tickets(equivalent to $130 today). Out in California, by the second week of April, Snow White broke the Carthay Circle Theater record for longest engagement of a sound movie, with predictions that the movie would gross a third-of-a-million dollars from the Carthay Circle alone. Beyond theater receipts, the picture generated millions in merchandise sales: “Figments of Disney’s imagination have already sold more than $2,000,000 worth of toys since the first of the year,” the New York Times reported in May. In short, as one animator recalls: “The money really piled up from that movie.”