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Setting the bar high - OC Register- 7/17/15

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  • Setting the bar high - OC Register- 7/17/15

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    In Disney's story of Sleeping Beauty, a fairy godmother casts a spell that determines the princess's destiny at birth.

    In similar fashion, Walt Disney christened Disneyland 50 years ago with words that became a blessing and a curse: "Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world."

    Those words set a standard that Disney creators have tried to live up to since 1955. With each breakthrough comes an expectation for more: more detail, more lifelike, more innovation.

    "Plus it," Walt Disney used to say when he thought something could be better.

    That impetus propelled the storytelling techniques that made Disneyland a new entertainment form. Today it challenges those entrusted with keeping the Disney dream alive.

    How that dream will look 50 years from now becomes a reflection of the minds and spirits working at the Walt Disney Co.

    Critics say the imagination process is broken, corrupted by Disney's corporate fixation on profit. Others believe Disney's classic appeal will live through generations as long as the company pays attention to its public.

    One challenge will be maintaining family values at the theme parks. That becomes increasingly difficult as the company adds adult-oriented brands such as ESPN and Touchstone Pictures, said Janet Wasko, a University of Oregon professor who has written two books on Disney.

    Disney is caught between two value systems, said David Boje, a New Mexico State University management professor who studies the company. One is rooted in tales of good and evil, an escape from a complex world. The other lives in today's diverse society that craves more than black-and-white explanations.

    "They have a heckuva challenge," Boje said. "For the theme parks to stay relevant, they need to bring these Midwestern values of the 1950s into the 21st century. The public might continue to find it nostalgic, but not that interesting."

    The conflict appears in Disney's new leap into the virtual world, a popular playground for 8- to 14-year-olds
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