The school principal who jumped to his death at Disneyland after leaving a harrowing suicide note online was the son of a famed Disney theme parks music director — and took the fatal leap the day of the park’s Christmas tree lighting.
Christopher Christensen, 51, who took his life on Sautrday, was the son of James “Jim” Christensen, the longtime director for the Disney theme parks who died in 2020 at the age of 84.
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, Theme Park Insider reported.
Jim Christensen also served as music director and conductor of the Disney All-American College Orchestra from 1984 to 1992 at Epcot’s American Gardens Theatre, the outlet reported.
“He and his hand-picked young musicians collaborated with world-renowned artists and celebrities each summer,” wrote Peter Wilson, the former string section commander for “The President’s Own” US Marine Chamber Orchestra, according to Theme Park Insider.
On Nov. 30, 2019, Chris posted a photo of his father during a family Thanksgiving feast.
“This was my dad’s first day at home since 8/15. He enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner sitting at the head of ‘HIS’ table. So glad we made this happen for him,” he wrote, adding heart emojis.
The elder Christensen “was well known throughout the U.S. and Canada for ‘the Christensen sound’ in over 250 published works,” according to his obituary.
“He was called for an interview to become the music director at Disneyland, a position he accepted in anticipation of the opening of Disney World, Disneyland in Paris and China,” it said.
In 1968, the family moved to California, where they stayed at a hotel across from Disneyland. They later settled in a home in Villa Park.
“Living close to three schools in Villa Park seemed to be a good choice, as a fourth son, Chris, was born in 1971,” the obituary says, referring to the son who would go on to take the lethal plunge at the theme park.
The younger Christensen, who had been the principal of Huntington Beach elementary schools for 22 years, took his own life Saturday.
The park had been open until midnight Saturday for the annual Candlelight Ceremony, which brings together hundreds of musicians, as well as Disney bigwigs, Theme Park Insider reported.
His death was two days before he was to appear in court on child endangerment and battery charges.
Police believe his death was a suicide, Anaheim police spokesperson Sgt. Shane Carringer told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the coroner’s office will determine the cause of death.
Christensen pleaded not guilty to the charges after his Nov. 15 arrest and was released on $10,000 bail. In a lengthy Facebook note, he blamed the “flawed” legal system for upending his life.
His attorney, Ruben Frias, declined to comment to the newspaper on Monday.
Chris, who had been awarded “Principal of the Year” by the Fountain Valley School District, was a musician in his own right and reportedly performed on his cello for concerts and events.
He owned Seaside Strings in Huntington Beach, which provides string ensembles for special events, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Dianna Gray, a violinist who teaches in the Irvine Unified School District, told the paper she knew Chris for 30 years.
“He was one of my favorite people to play with because I loved his musicality. I liked how he led jobs. He was always fun, humorous, he seemed to always find the joy in the work,” Gray told the LA Daily News on Sunday.
“He was a high-level professional and he was a people person,” she said, adding that she didn’t know why Christensen decided to take his own life.
“I only knew Chris in a positive way,” Gray told the paper.
In his final Facebook post, Christensen directly blamed the pending criminal charges for his plunge — and played down troubles in his marriage with his wife, Marlena.
“I hate when people leave this Earth with so many unanswered questions. So, I hope this provides some insight and perspective,” he wrote.
“Marlena and I love and adore each other and our relationship has been amazing … up until recently,” the disconsolate man continued.
“Unfortunately, two weeks ago she and I got into a heated argument at home in front of the girls,” he explained, admitting that “tempers were flared and strong words were exchanged.”
He insisted that he never “hit, slap, or hurt” his wife or touched his daughters.
“Unfortunately, Marlena’s anger got the best of her that night and she called the police, which landed me in jail that night. Yes, me! A man who has never hit or harmed ANYONE in his life!” he added.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.