The school principal who jumped and took his life at Disneyland after leaving a suicide note online was the son of a well-known Disney theme park music director — and he did so on the day the park’s Christmas tree was lit.
51-year-old Christopher Christensen, who worked at The Fountain Valley School District, committed suicide on Saturday. He was the son of James “Jim” Christensen, the longtime Disney theme park director who died at the age of 84 in 2020. Jim was fondly remembered as ‘a musical legend in the universe of Walt Disney World.’
According to Theme Park Insider, the elder Christensen was the music director for Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade, for which he co-composed the orchestration and also created arrangements for the “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks. Jim Christensen was also the music director and conductor of the Disney All-American College Orchestra at Epcot’s American Gardens Theatre from 1984 to 1992, according to the outlet.
The music director and his hand-picked young musicians collaborated with renowned artists and celebrities each summer, wrote Peter Wilson, the former string section commander for “The President’s Own” US Marine Chamber Orchestra, the outlet said.
Chris shared a photo of his father during a family Thanksgiving feast on November 30, 2019. In the caption, he stated that it was his father’s first day home since 8/15 and that he ate Thanksgiving dinner at the head of ‘HIS’ table. According to his obituary, the elder Christensen was famous throughout the United States and Canada for ‘the Christensen sound’ in “over 250 published works.”
The statement said that he was invited to become the music director at Disneyland, and had accepted the position in anticipation of the opening of Disneyland in Paris, Disney World, and Disneyland in China.
The family moved to California in 1968 and stayed in a hotel near Disneyland. They then bought a house in Villa Park. Living near three schools in Villa Park seemed like a good choice, “as a fourth son, Chris, was born in 1971,” the obituary says, referring to that son who later took the plunge at the theme park to end his life. The younger Christensen, the principal of Huntington Beach elementary schools for 22 years, committed suicide on Saturday.
The park remained open until midnight Saturday for the annual Candlelight Ceremony, which attracts hundreds of musicians as well as Disney executives, according to Theme Park Insider. His death occurred two days before his scheduled court appearance on child endangerment and battery charges.
According to Anaheim police spokesperson Sgt. Shane Carringer, the incident was a suicide. The coroner’s office will determine the cause of death. After his arrest on Nov. 15, Christensen pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $10,000 bail. He placed the blame on the “flawed” legal system in a lengthy Facebook post.
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