Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's the world that we share, when we're finally aware...

Originally, I was just going to post one or two sentences about this AP article (via MSNBC) that a computer wrote by searching amusement park message boards and cobbling them together for a slow news day, but instead, I've decided I need to break this down part by part.

First of all, pretty much everyone knows, I am an enormous Disney fan.  Actually, many of my friends and family would probably say I am the "biggest" Disney fan, but those people have not seen what the internet is capable of.  In the grand scheme of Disney fans, I am in the middle at most.  So, I'm writing this out of love and neverending fandom for Disney and its subsidiaries and ancillaries and incorporated entities.  

And not just that, but I love It's A Small World.  It was my favorite ride the first time I rode it at age five.  I own a jewelry/music box (from the same trip) with the logo on it.  The theme of the ride shaped and informed my worldview at the time.  My lifelong dream is to be the cast member that waves at the boats as they pass underneath the control booth.  So, keep all this crazy in mind.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, It's A Small World is not sacred.  (For the purposes of brevity and being an asshole, I will refer to it herein as ISAW).

From the article:

Move over, children of the globe — it's a Disney world after all.

More than 40 years after the "It's A Small World" ride opened to promote world peace and showcase the cultures of the world, Disney is populating one of its most beloved attractions with its own trademark vision of the planet: Aladdin, Nemo, Ariel and more than two dozen cartoon characters plucked from its movies.

Okay, let's start here.  This ride update has been a long time coming, and took over a year for them to complete (including oft-reported and eroneous rumors that they had to update the boats because patrons were fatter--not true!  The boats were bottoming out due to decades of patching holes in the canal with layers of fiberglass).  The decision to add characters came after the enormous popularity of the Tokyo ride, which has always included characters.  So this isn't the first time, AP.

Disney says it supplemented the human dolls with make-believe figures to keep the aging ride appealing to younger generations and give it a new twist. Yet some angry fans see an unabashed marketing ploy that trashes the pacifist message at the heart of the "Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed the World" and ruins one of the few rides that remained unchanged since the days of Walt Disney.

"What message are they actually saying about the world?," said Jerry Beck, an animation historian who runs the blog Cartoon Brew. "That you can go anywhere and there will be a Disney theme park?"

All right, Jerry Beck, let's think about this.  What message has Disney ever had about the world?  Let's not pretend that back in 1964, when this ride originated, or in 1955, when Disneyland opened, that it was some bastion of peace, love, and communal harmony.  Disney has always been about money, marketing, and relentless self-promotion.  If a conservation or pacifist message squeaked by, well then all the better, as long the money train keeps pulling into the station.  I mean, I'm a Disney apologist, for crissakes, but c'mon!

Others are miffed that Disney would inject fantasy worlds into a ride dedicated to cross-cultural understanding. The added figures from a dozen movies include the blue alien Stitch, the mermaid Ariel and characters from the 1992 movie "Aladdin," which angered many Arab-Americans with its portrayal of Middle Eastern culture.

Right... because the original portrayal of the Middle East (circa 1964) was so sensitive and accurate to the culture.

"Disney wants to brand the diversity of the entire world and somehow say that it's Disney derived," said Leo Braudy, a cultural historian at the University of Southern California. "It seems a bit crass to put this brand on something that was meant to be a sort of United Nations for children."

Yes, you're right Mr. I-Have-An-Advanced-Degree-In-Being-A-Jackass, the original intent of the ride was "United Nations for Children."  That's why Disney opened his doors to the children of America and allowed them all to ride it for free.  Oh wait, it never happened, because he was Walt-freakin'-Disney.  

Also, can we slow the eff down for a freakin' minute here?  "Disney wants to brand the diversity of the entire world and somehow say that it's Disney derived"????  Seriously?  This is on, like, the 9/11 conspiracy theory level of Disney paranoia.  No, Disney doesn't want to brand diversity.  They want to charge people to see it and sell them stuffed animal versions of it!

The article continues to describe Disney die-hards (calling them "dis-nerds" -- a term I don't think has ever been used anywhere by anyone), some of whom are members of the most annoying groupe of people on the internet: the Nostalgia Defenders (that's my term; you can use it).  Though it's a rant for another day, I'll give you a taste.  Nostalgia Defenders are those delusional people who think that their childhoods were so precious and special that how dare you critique or remake their beloved movies, commercials, TV shows and whatever else that somehow defines their childhood experience.  Most of these things are crassly consumerist, anyway.  

("Oh no, how dare they reissue the Care Bears for a new generation!  They were so perfect in 1983 and nothing has changed since then!  Blah blah fart, my generation is the best!")*


Anyway, the "Dis-nerds" fit here.  I can understand being disappointed that your favorite ride was torn down, because legitimately, you'll never be able to ride it again, but these people are like "Oh. Em. Gee.  Disney used to offer kids' breakfasts in a mouse-shaped plastic container and now it's paper, Double-U Tee Eff?  The quality has gone way down."  Okay, calm the freak down!

Here's how the article ends:

But some longtime Disney watchers disagree — although they acknowledge they have yet to see the carefully guarded changes themselves.

"Parents ... could take the kids on this ride and it wasn't so much about sales, it was about the images, the graphics, the dolls," said Al Lutz, a veteran Disney watcher who runs "It was a respite from the overwhelming commercial message that Disney can be sometimes."

Okay, you know where you should take your kids when you want "a respite from the overwhelming commercial message that Disney can be sometimes"?  How about, not Disney?  How about the park?

The End.

1 comment:

  1. THAT was awesome! How can this brilliant post go unnoticed by the news orgs? Better get an interview outfit together :-).