“This all changed one year, 1993 or 1994, when an animator – whose name I will omit, since I’m sure he wants no part of this post […] – showed up in the first fursuit; a fully realized Pepe Le Pew costume.”
I’ll name names; it was Shawn Keller. He was a Disney animator who had animated Ursula’s two hench-eels in The Little Mermaid, among other things. But Pepe Le Pew wasn’t his first costume. He had made an excellent Kimba the White Lion costume in the 1980s. At the 1990 San Diego Comic-Con, he appeared as Charlie B. Barkin, the German Shepherd from Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go To Heaven in a costume so much like the animated cartoon character that it looked at first like a professional promotional costume – until you looked at the groin and saw that it was anatomically explicit.
But Keller’s Pepe Le Pew costume at the 1993 or 1994 ConFurence was hardly the first fursuit. The term “fursuit” was first used at the 1993 ConFurence by Robert C. King; they were already common by that time. Note that I call them “costumes”, not “fursuits”. There are no hard & fast definitions, but in most furry fans’ vocabularies, a “costume” is a depiction of a particular, well-known character (usually copyrighted), while a “fursuit” is an original furry character, usually created by the wearer. Keller’s Pepe Le Pew suit may well have been fabricated with the help of Disney park costumers (unofficially, surely, since it was Disney personnel making a costume of a Warner Bros. character). But as a costume of a specific copyrighted character, it had almost no influence on fans’ original-character fursuits – although it was inspirational in showing fans what could be accomplished in costume-making.
So was Disney a specific and major influence in the creation of furry fandom? I don’t think so – speaking as one who was there.