Group: Super ModEARator
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: Jan. 10, 2005, 6:19 pm
In the "Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variations" book edited by Terence Young and Robert Riley -- long extract of the book is found here in PDF format or converted into HTML format by Google, here. Here's a quote from that book, with the section about what Walt said put in bold by me:
[Quoting the book:] From its earliest days, Disneyland quite pointedly presented its displays as the embodiments of sets of values, some universal and others quintessentially American, that is, the distillation of an authentic American character and way of life: “Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America. And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world.” Quite strikingly, this distillation was conceived as existing only in Disneyland, as if it had been lost outside it. Thus the Disney Worlds were not merely separate universes, palisaded off from the outside; they were quite determinedly alternate universes.
A striking assertion of this is said to have come from Walt Disney himself in a conversation with the Reverend Billy Graham. Disappointed when, after a recent visit to Disneyland, Graham merely noted that he had had “a nice fantasy” there. Disney is reported to have responded: “You know the fantasy isn’t here. This is very real. . . . The park is reality. The people are natural here; they’re having a good time; they’re communicating. This is what people really are. The fantasy is -— out there, outside the gates of Disneyland, where people have hatreds and people have prejudices. It’s not really real!”
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Footnote: Findlay, Magic Lands, 70. Findlay does note that this remarkable conversation may be apocryphal. It is unquestionably congruent with other remarks made about “Disney Realism.” Umberto Eco has pursued this idea in Travels in Hyper-Reality (London, 1986). “Disneyland tells us that faked nature corresponds much more to our daydream demands . . . [and] tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can,” 44.25 Zukin, Landscapes of Power, 222.26 Findlay, Magic Lands, 67.
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This assertion that Disneyland has co-opted reality is found not only coming from the mouth of Disney himself; it was a conscious litany and justification during the theme park’s early days. As Sharon Zukin has written, “Disney’s fantasy both restored and invented collective memory. ‘This is what the real Main Street should have been like,’ one of Disneyland’s planners or ‘imagineers’ says. ‘What we create,’ according to another, ‘is a “Disney realism,”sort of Utopian in nature, where we carefully program out all of the negative, unwanted elements, and program in the positive elements.’” Although we do not tend to equate Disneyland with historical theme parks such as Plymouth Plantation and Williamsburg, one cannot help but register the extent to which the“imagineers” approach has been readily applied to them. At Williamsburg, as at Disneyland, moreover, there is an implicit and carefully nurtured assumption that we live in a postlapsarian America and are, as a result, consumed by a nostalgic longing to regain an authentic national culture from which we have grown increasingly distant. This lost but intensely desired culture was grounded in a life of simple patterns in which no labor was alienated and all social relationships were face-to-face: “In being transported to some not very well defined golden age -— perhaps the period 1900–1910 as presented along Main Street U.S.A., or the pioneer era as suggested in Frontierlandand in touring ‘lands’ devoted to fantasy, adventure, and the future, visitors could escape their unnatural present-day cares, ‘drop their defenses,’ and become more like themselves.” It has become a truism of recent writing on tourism that the nostalgia so frequently identified as central to certain of its common experiences reflects a desire to regain an enduring, authentic life to act as an apotropaic buffer against our contingent, chaotic, and somehow inauthentic daily existence. The creators of our modern theme parks appear to be driven at least in part by the belief in the need to provide arenas in which our nostalgic desire for an irretrievably lost world can be palliated. The claim that what one finds in Disneyland is more “real” than the world outside its walls and that a lost authentic culture persists there is certainly a provocative one.
"Michael Eisner is not presented as the embodiment of 'Disney.' It is interesting to ponder, however, the extent to which the embrace of Disneyland in its early days was linked to the avuncular presence of Walt Disney himself. He did give the corporation a personal character."
[End of quoted material.]
Disney Echo modEARator / administratEAR
“Dreams Do Come True Down In New Orleans.”
– Disney's "The Princess and the Frog"