05/13/2013 03:31 pm ET

Paul McCarthy, The Demented Imagineer

NY Times

"Now, I see this as pantsless," the artist Paul McCarthy announced one winter morning to a group of male actors standing at the edge of a massive soundstage in a warehouse east of downtown Los Angeles, flanked by a plumbing supply and an auto impound yard. Normally, McCarthy looks like a hipster carpenter, broad and bandylegged, with gnarled fingers and wiry white hair poking out around his baseball cap. But this morning he was nearly unrecognizable in a tuxedo and gray toupee, a regal prosthetic nose glued over a neatly trimmed mustache.

The transformation was startling not only because McCarthy, 67, had succeeded in making himself look quite a bit like Walt Disney, but also because his version of Walt smacked -- obviously but also hilariously -- of Hitler. He shook my hand, and I asked how he was.