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Polygon writer criticizes Disneyland for past insensitivity

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  • Polygon writer criticizes Disneyland for past insensitivity

    I was scrolling through my Apple News app and going through a couple of articles. One in particular came into my eye called "Disneyland review: the iconic theme park in the Star Wars & Marvel age". I thought to myself that it would be interesting to see an entire park reviewed. We see trip reports and videos of the rides all the time. So why not look at the park in this day and age and analyze it. What I saw had some good things, but it also had things the irked me a bit. I'll post a like to the page so you can read it and see if you agree or not, but I'd like to throw my two cents.

    Disneyland review: the iconic theme park in the Star Wars & Marvel age

    I don't want to bore you with his trip and all the details about what he liked about Galaxy's Edge, so we'll skip to what I had to disagree with.

    Of course, the placement of Walt’s statue would suggest that he and his most famous creation are the sun around which the rest of his park orbits.
    Yes it is. Was Disney and Mickey Mouse got the company started, and this serve to extend their magic to the rest of the land.

    Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and Tom Sawyer Island feel, collectively, like an extension of Main Street, USA. They’ve all been updated or wholly added since the park’s opening, but they share a vibe that’s distinctly early-20th-century white middle-class Americana.
    Again, Walt Disney had wanted Disneyland to feel like it was for everyone. not just middle class white America.

    Their designers didn’t recreate real places so much as they captured how their target demographic from the 1960s to 1990s imagined those places to be, how those places and the people in them appeared in dime-store novels and matinee movies — polishing away anything challenging about the source material, resulting in moments that are paradoxically anodyne and offensive.
    Why would the Disney company want to create something "challenging"? The whole purpose of Disneyland to to create an escape. Even though theres a lot more they could do (and I wish they could), the heart was still in the right place and does manage to transport us to new worlds.

    Splash Mountain, in its entirety, is based on the notorious Song of the South, Disney’s racist adaptation of Uncle Remus stories. Disney Parks opened the ride in 1989 — three years after Walt Disney Studios locked the film in the Disney Vault, never releasing it on home video in the U.S. again, avoiding the obvious, inevitable, and justifiable backlash.
    First of all, I don't recall any backlash when Splash Mountain was open (Song of the South had just gotten another rerelease in 1987). Second, the ride does a good job cutting out most of the more questionable content from the movie (it's for the best that the tar baby was replaced with a beehive). Finally, I've not heard a single complaint about the characters in the ride.

    A threshold undoubtedly exists for what the park overseers deem too problematic, too harmful to the greater Disney brand, that it must be changed, retconned, or erased.
    Just who sees any of this as "problematic"? Where are the protesters who are complaining about Disney's past? Guests and families liked it before, like it now, and will like it in the future.

    On Pirates of the Caribbean, some of the animatronic women chase the male pirates on an infinite loop, rather than how it appeared in the past: Pirates nipping at the women’s heels, doing their best horndog Benny Hill impressions. And last year, the park used a scheduled refurbishment to tweak the ride’s “wench” auction to a “loot” auction, the redheaded woman being sold into sex slavery now playing the role of pirate-slash-auctioneer. But the animatronic birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room sing with exaggerated accents from across the globe, supported by tiki statues that do a made-up guttural chant, just a short walk away.
    Ugh. The Enchanted Tiki Room isn't trying to represent an entire culture. It's siniging birds! He doesn't seem to understand that exaggerated accents can happen, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing. It's just a part of their character. But above all, it's charming and it's all in good fun. It doesn't portray Hawaii in a negative light.

    This archipelago (Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country) strikes a tone I’d call Tintin-esque, presenting the “exotic” as a means for adventure. It sort of sheepishly grins and shrugs, as if to say, “Hey, it was a different time! The problem isn’t the park; it’s history!”
    Why is portraying the "exotic" as adventure is a bad thing? Isn't that the whole ideology of travel? what about the writers and social media influencers that have made great content by traveling to the "exotic"?

    But I feel silly — guilty, even — telling you how much I love Disney’s theme park rides, right after mentioning the park’s nods at racism, sexism, and colonialism.
    UGH!!! He's clearly trying to put these words into Disney's mouth and making controversy where there is none! If he can't see the point (I'll bet a million he does and is just click baiting), then just don't come back. Us Disneyland fans can enjoy what we have.
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  • #2
    An interesting thing about that review is how closely it parallels Richard Schickel's analysis of Disneyland in his 1968 book, The Disney Version.

    Sorry, but I'll take Ray Bradbury's view of DL any day:


    "Dear Sirs:

    I think it goes without saying that I am as critical as you people are of many facets of American life. Lord knows I’ve raised my voice often enough. But when someone like Julian Halevy equates Disneyland and Las Vegas (The Nation, June 7), I begin to doubt his or my sanity.

    Not that I haven’t met his type before. The world is full of people who, for intellectual reasons, steadfastly refuse to let go and enjoy themselves. Mr. Halevy damns himself immediately when he states he is glad he didn’t take a child with him to Disneyland. I did better than take a child; my first visit, I accompanied one of the great theatrical and creative minds of our time, Charles Laughton. I’ve never had such a day full of zest and good humor. Mr. Laughton is no easy mark; he has a gimlet eye and a searching mind. Yet he saw, and I found, vast reserves of imagination before untapped in our country.

    I admit I approached Disneyland with many intellectual reservations, myself, but these have been banished in my seven visits. Disney makes mistakes; what artist doesn’t? But when he flies, he really flies. I shall be indebted to him for a lifetime for his ability to let me fly over midnight London looking down on that fabulous city, in his Peter Pan ride. The Jungle Boat ride, too, is an experience of true delight and wonder. I could go on, but why bother?

    I have a sneaking suspicion, after all is said and done, that Mr. Halevy truly loved Disneyland but is not man enough, or child enough, to admit it. I feel sorry for him. He will never travel in space, he will never touch the stars."

    -Ray Bradbury
    Letters to the Editor, The Nation, June 28, 1958
    "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."

    - Walt Disney

    "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
    - Michael Eisner

    Comment


    • #3
      Things and meanings change over time. Disneyland is no different. Walt wasn't a perfect man (same as any of us) and some of the things I learned about him in schooling were certainly shocking compared to the friendly "Uncle Walt" image his kinder, later theme park years painted him to be.

      That said, why should this reviewer hold all of the ideologies of the creator against their creation? Is Toy Story any less of a film after John Lassester was released from Disney? No, some things transcend their creators and move forward, changing with the times. There were certainly negative elements of the past that have been portrayed in Disneyland but the company has evolved over time into one of the leading examples of celebrating all forms of diversity in their parks, Guests and Cast. In doing so, some elements have had to be changed/removed sure, it's only logical. But others that remain can assume new identities as years pass, burying any offensive tones beneath the sands of time itself and re-emerging as romanticized versions of themselves and what they should have always been; welcoming to all.

      That is what Disneyland will always be. A place that families and friends can come to enjoy together. No matter what any hand involved in its creation may have believed or not believed behind closed doors.

      I think this reviewer fails to realize that. Not to say that anyone should be forbidden from critizing the parks, but maybe they should have not spent so much time during their visit trying to dig up skeletons from Disneyland's past (shovel in hand upon entering) and instead have tried to focus more on what it means to Guests around the world now.

      Edit: To remove much of my rambling and better articulate my thoughts on the matter.
      Last edited by Blurr; 07-01-2019, 03:30 PM.
      First of all, the name's not "Zippy"! As a matter of fact, I don't believe I've ever met another bot named Zippy, so one can only assume that you came up with "Zippy" in reference to my speed, which may be technically accurate, but lacks a certain creativity!

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      • #4
        Welcome to the new face of media and news. Its all IMO bull crap and click bait. This type of "review" is all over video game sites and game reviews as well. Its the new norm to click bait and try to find controversy where there clearly is none. Even large news outlets are doing the same now. It truly is sad and this reviewer just doesn't get it.
        "People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid."
        - Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855)


        :monkey: :monkey: :monkey:

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        • #5
          Originally posted by RforFilm View Post
          UGH!!! He's clearly trying to put these words into Disney's mouth and making controversy where there is none!
          Is there none? Disney went to the trouble of changing Pirates of the Caribbean twice now, so maybe there is something there that we just can't see.

          You may disagree with the guy, but you can't dismiss that people are starting to feel a degree uncomfortable with some of the overtones of the park, as time marches on.

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          • #6
            By today’s political standards Walt would be considered to be from The Alt-Right. Or more accurately ‘The Walt-Right’.

            Comment


            • #7
              Having led groups of college students into Disneyland, I wouldn't say there isn't controversy so much as it is it's never really brought up until people start talking about the parks.

              Originally posted by RforFilm View Post
              Again, Walt Disney had wanted Disneyland to feel like it was for everyone. not just middle class white America.
              That might've been the case guest-wise, but in terms of hiring, it seems Disneyland didn't hire very many people of color until the 60s with pressure from the NAACP.

              Originally posted by RforFilm View Post
              Why is portraying the "exotic" as adventure is a bad thing? Isn't that the whole ideology of travel? what about the writers and social media influencers that have made great content by traveling to the "exotic"?
              Historically, exoticism of other cultures was hand in hand with "othering" them, which is where it becomes problematic. For example, as much as I love the Jungle Cruise, I do cringe from the problematic caricatures of people depicted in the ride (which at one point Disney advertised as "native savages").

              I don't mean to say this as though I hate Disneyland (I obviously don't!), but it would be insensitive to ignore the park's Western-centric overtones that were typical of the 20th century. I say this less from a "this needs to change" position so much as it is "it's important to be aware and sensitive about it" position.

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              • #8
                I mean we can all Agree, Walt didn't want a statue. I grew up not knowing he was very much against it it but yes Polygon is a website to be ignored more the times
                Happy Halloween!!!

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                • #9
                  “resulting in moments that are paradoxically anodyne and offensive.”

                  If one is looking to be offended while at Disneyland, I truly feel sorry for you.

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                  • #10
                    .
                    Last edited by hbdad; 07-01-2019, 03:07 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Other cultures need to be boring and not fun. That'd make a great themepark.

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                      • #12
                        For those that believe western cultural history (American in particular) is fundamentally immoral and offensive, everything it creates is naturally interpreted as such.

                        I think most people are a little more balanced and realize western civilization has brought much good to the world in spite of its numerous short comings and black eyes.

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                        • #13
                          There are two plaques at the entrance of Disneyland that read:

                          ''Here you leave today behind and enter the worlds of the past, future, and fantasy.''

                          People like the writer of this article, who ignore the sign, and the true spirit of Disneyland to drag "today" along with them and project it onto the park are the ones to pity.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "Splash Mountain, in its entirety, is based on the notorious Song of the South, Disney’s racist adaptation of Uncle Remus stories. Disney Parks opened the ride in 1989 — three years after Walt Disney Studios locked the film in the Disney Vault, never releasing it on home video in the U.S. again, avoiding the obvious, inevitable, and justifiable backlash.

                            First of all, I don't recall any backlash when Splash Mountain was open (Song of the South had just gotten another rerelease in 1987). Second, the ride does a good job cutting out most of the more questionable content from the movie (it's for the best that the tar baby was replaced with a beehive). Finally, I've not heard a single complaint about the characters in the ride."

                            As one who finds racism (even benign or unintended) abhorrent, I take issue with the Polygon review here. Has this clown even READ the original Uncle Remus Stories? For the record, I have. They were written in what was then considered slave dialect. Disney didn't make anything more racist; they made it a bit less so. And the story (which was entirely made up) that included the grandfatherly relationship between a young lonely white boy and an elderly Black man was very well done. I wish that the company hadn't been pressured into keeping the film locked away.

                            And funny that the "reviewer" says absolutely nothing about the Dumbo ride. I mean, the movie's crows aren't present at the attraction, but you don't have to go far to find one of the most blatant stereotypes in film history. But it shouldn't be edited out. Somewhere, I have a great dialogue by Whoopi Goldberg discussing racial and ethnic stereotypes in animated features (Warner Brothers, I'm looking at you). She says that yes, they're there, and they're clearly stereotypes. But to destroy them is to ignore part of our history, and how far we've come in understanding racial and ethnic attitudes in entertainment. And Warner Brothers was an industry leader in employing people of color for jobs in animation and film making. Disney also has a history of fairly diverse job roles.

                            The rest of the article was as tiresome as can be. As one commenter here said, it's really sad if you step through the gates of Disneyland looking for things to dislike.

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                            • #15
                              OMG, Uncle Remus? Is that what people who read the article are focusing on? Sad...
                              Dumbo rats: the other lovable rodents.

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                              • #16
                                Cringey

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