It's almost impossible to hear the name "Disney" and not automatically think of wholesome, happy families.

Legendary Disney co-founders Walt and Roy Disney have captured the hearts and imaginations of generations, and brought joy to millions of people across the globe.

But sadly, that legacy has been tarnished over the years by a bitter family feud between Walt Disney's descendants which has reportedly all but torn at least one branch of the clan apart.

And it all began with a battle over the Disney millions.

Advertisement

Meet the Disneys

Walt Disney married Lillian Bounds — a Disney company ink artist — in 1925.

They struggled to have children, but eight years later daughter Diane arrived and the family was complete following the adoption of second daughter Sharon in 1936.

The girls had a relatively normal childhood, although their father was said to be a workaholic.

Diane Disney married businessman and professional football player Ronald Miller in 1954, and the couple had seven children — Chris, Joanna, Tamara, Jennifer, Walt, Ron Jr., and Patrick.

Those children were also given a typical childhood, despite the family's wealth.

Meanwhile, Sharon Disney adopted daughter Victoria with her first husband Robert Brown and eventually gave birth to biological twins, Brad and Michelle, with second husband Bill Lund.

It wasn't all happy families for Walt Disney and his descendants. Photo / Getty Images
It wasn't all happy families for Walt Disney and his descendants. Photo / Getty Images

But while Sharon Disney — who died in 1993 — also tried to raise her kids in a down-to-earth fashion, all three would go on to make headlines regarding their penchant for luxury — and high-profile spats over their inheritance.

The feud begins

According to a lengthy investigation by The Hollywood Reporter, Sharon Disney set up trusts for her three children, worth around $US400 million ($616m) in total.

Advertisement

Each adult child was supposed to receive lump-sum payouts every five years, when they turned 35, 40 and 45.

At these ages, they were due to receive 20 per cent of their total trust.

But there was a catch — the payments would first have to be approved by three trustees.

In a statement sent by the trustees to NBC News, the trustees said that clause allowed them to withhold payments if the siblings lacked the "maturity and financial ability to manage and utilise such funds in a prudent and responsible manner."

But according to The Hollywood Reporter, it was a "catastrophic" caveat that would destroy the family.

The publication claimed troubled Victoria Brown lived a "dishevelled existence", was addicted to heroin, and would famously charter planes and "splurge on $5000-a-night suites".

She also once reportedly trashed a room in a Disney cruise ship — but despite everything, she still received $US20m after her 35th birthday.

However, she died a year later in 2002, and her share of the fortune was automatically added to her twin siblings' trusts.

As children, both Brad and Michelle attended a school for youngsters with learning difficulties — Michelle has dyslexia, while Bill Lund has previously claimed his son has Down syndrome and foetal alcohol syndrome, although it has never been proven.

When the twins turned 35 in 2005, the trustees drove a wedge between them by giving Michelle her share but holding back Brad's.

Rift deepens

In 2009, Michelle had a brain aneurysm that left her in a coma. She faced a lengthy recovery, and struggled with a reduced attention span for months afterwards.

During this time, her father and his new wife Sherry tried to transfer her to a clinic 10 minutes away from their home.

The trustees refused, and seemed to suspect Sherry of attempting to wrangle control of her stepchildren and their money.

Meanwhile, Brad, Bill and Sherry Lund apparently believed Michelle was being manipulated by the trustees, with her father telling The Hollywood Reporter she had likely fought against her family due to "Stockholm syndrome".

Disneyworld may be called the
Disneyworld may be called the "happiest place on earth" but the founder's family are locked in a bitter fued. Photo / Getty Images

A slew of lawsuits followed, but in 2010 Michelle received her next instalment as planned despite lingering questions over her mental capacity, while her brother missed out again.

Exactly what happened five years later when the twins turned 45 is unclear, and it is also not known what, if any, legal cases are still underway.

It has been reported that the siblings — now aged 49 — never repaired their relationship.

But as Bill Lund told the UK Telegraph in 2013, when it comes to the whole sorry saga, at least one thing is clear.

If Walt Disney were alive today, he would be "absolutely appalled" by what has become of his "broken" family.