Nobody may ever fully know the way Walt Disney's mind truly worked, how his wheels turned, and how far his imagination went. But by reading some of his recorded quotations, one can find out a lot about his dreams, ambitions, creativity, hopes, and intentions for his works.“The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another’s company;a place for teachers and pupils to discover greater ways of understanding and education. Here the older generation can recapture the nostalgia of days gone by, and the younger generation can savor the challenge of the future. Here will be the wonders of Nature and Man for all to see and understand. Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dream and 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. Disneyland will be sometimes a fair, an exhibition, a playground, a community center, a museum of living facts, and a showplace of beauty and magic. It will be filled with accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in. And it will remind us and show us how to make these wonders part of our own lives.”
Walt Disney spoke about the minds of our nation's youth, and was very interested in education and knowledge.
"Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource - the minds of our children."
Walt Disney's interest in our nation's youth and the education of the world was so much that he created Disneyland not only to entertain people, but with the intention of also educating and enlightening his park's guests.
“Disneyland will be the essence of America as we know it, the nostalgia of the past, with exciting glimpses into the future. It will give meaning to the pleasure of the children – and pleasure to the experience of adults. It will focus a new interest upon Southern California through the mediums of television and other exploitation. It will be a place for California to be at home, to bring its guests, to demonstrate its faith in the future. And, mostly as stated at the beginning – it will be a place for the people to find happiness and knowledge.”
Yet, what remains of Walt Disney's Educationland? Over the years, traces of education have been stripped from the park, with replacements that pale in comparison, or fail to educate at all. Tomorrowland was once a vista into the wonders of Tomorrow, educating guests daily on the technologies and opportunities of the future. Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress and the later America Sings were removed from Tomorrowland's Carousel Theater and replaced with Innoventions - a showroom of various gadgets billed as tomorrow's technology. Surely, the concept of Innoventions is on-par with the Carousel Theater's edu-tainment history, but does it measure up?
The former Circarama and Circle Vision 360 films were travelogues taking guests on brief video vacations, allowing them to dream up their own possibilities for the world, and educating them of the diversity of the world's landscapes.“Disneyland will always be building and growing and adding new things… new ways of having fun, of learning things and sharing the many exciting adventures which may be experienced here in the company of family and friends.”
The House of the Future, NASA exhibits, Mission To The Moon/Mars, and Adventure Thru Innerspace were looks into the wonders of the homes of tomorrow, space exploration, and the magic of the molecule. A futuristic Submarine Voyage took guests into the world of liquid space in a "real" submarine, showing them the wonders of the underwater world.
All of these attractions served to educate park guests while continuing to entertain and enchant them.
Similarly, other areas of the park were intended to take guests to other places as well, and to explore and learn about the past, instead of the wonders of the future. Adventureland offered an excursion into the jungles of the world, and the Jungle Cruise was a journey into the magic and knowledge of world jungles, animals, and other cultures.“Disneyland is often called a Magic Kingdom because it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning, together with every variety of recreation and fun designed to appeal to everyone.”
Frontierland taught us about our country's past. An Indian Village on the outskirts of Frontierland allowed us to learn about the cultures that have, for the most part, faded out of prominent existence. The Frontier also allowed us to explore untouched regions of the West via pack mule, mine train, and conestoga wagons.
In many respects Disneyland offered experiences that gave the park a sort of living history museum experience, a "museum of living facts," as Walt Disney said. All the while, the park managed to entertain and delight guests and spark their own imaginations while sprinkling in education at every corner.“Physically, Disneyland would be a small world in itself – it would encompass the essence of the things that were good and true in American life. It would reflect the faith and challenge the future, the entertainment, the interest in intelligently presented facts, the stimulation of the imagination, the standards of health and achievement, and above all, a sense of strength, contentment and well-being.”
Lamp lighters, candy makers, and glassblowers on Main Street gave guests a glimpse of turn-of-the-century small town life, and yet these small touches all worked towards entertaining park guests while educating them.
So how does Walt Disney's goals of education fit into the park now? In a time where roller coasters, Buzz Lightyear, and pirates seem to have taken hold of the magical marriage of entertainment and education?
Can Walt Disney's edu-tainment be reclaimed and re-Imagineered for present day audiences who seem to seek nothing more than fleeting adrenaline rushes and video game-style ride-throughs?
What options can Walt Disney Imagineering explore to bring edutainment back to the parks without becoming preachy or boring? Can an all-electric, or similarly enviro-friendly Autopia be an opportunity for an edu-tainment revival?
How about a new Indian Village and Mine Train expansion into Big Thunder Ranch?
And what about a return of the lamp lighters and authentic turn-of-the-century shops on Main Street?
Or is Walt Disney's dream of educating his guests simply a fantasy of Walt's 1950s?