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  • 2/22: Disney's Worlds

    Kevin writes about the worlds created by Disneyland attractions, plus he offers a quick WDW update. Talk about it here in this thread...
    "Politics is the profession whereby the inevitable is made to seem a great human achievement" - Quentin Crisp

  • #2
    Snore

    What in the world was that? Thanks for driving home the fact that Disney parks are based on reality or fantasy. I didn't get that point. Sheeez.

    T
    "Decisions are easy, if you know what your values are" - Roy Disney

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    • #3
      Good article as always (and no, I'm not one of those people who randomly compliment everything left, right and centre). I agree on this especially:
      "To escape into an 'obvious' fantasy is to deny reality, almost in an unhealthy way. To escape into history and a reality-from-somewhere-else, by contrast, feels more to me like playacting. Or simply play."

      One question though. If the classic Disneyland is indeed geared at a white male American, where does that leave Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland? Wouldn't it be catering to the wrong party to have things like Main Street in the parks outside the US? (meanwhile, Disneyland Paris has a Main Street loaded with about five times as much nostalgia as its American counterparts, probably just to irk the French, haha)

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      • #4
        What is so unhealthy about escaping into fantasy, so long as it is a temporary escape that we eventually return from? Should the berm around the park be removed so that we don't fully escape, temporarily losing touch with the reality of the outside world? How many animated Disney movies would have been made if there was such great concern about escapism? not so many ....... no Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Lion King, etc.

        And why is the Primeval World the only element of being in the past? Main Street, Jungle Cruise, Frontierland, Indy, and most of Fantasyland evoke what I consider to be the past ..... 70 + years into the past ........
        "She's taking everything. She's taking the house, she's taking the kid, she's taking the dog. IT'S NOT EVEN HER DOG. IT'S MY DOG! SHE'S TAKING . . . MY DOG!"
        - Ron Livingston, "Band of Brothers"

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        • #5
          Thanx for another great column, Kevin!
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Giant Panda
            What is so unhealthy about escaping into fantasy, so long as it is a temporary escape that we eventually return from? Should the berm around the park be removed so that we don't fully escape, temporarily losing touch with the reality of the outside world? How many animated Disney movies would have been made if there was such great concern about escapism? not so many ....... no Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Lion King, etc.

            And why is the Primeval World the only element of being in the past? Main Street, Jungle Cruise, Frontierland, Indy, and most of Fantasyland evoke what I consider to be the past ..... 70 + years into the past ........
            The berm is a great thing. It enables the REAL outside world to stay outside. Thus, Disneyland is able to SIMULATE reality. The way I was using the term "fantasy" was to imply something that doesn't simulate reality, but simulates a fantasy world - it's not meant to be taken as a simulation of reality.

            Cinderella, Aladdin, etc: those are movies. Movies engender escapism using a different formula than theme parks, if you ask me. Parks do it well when they hook into reality. Movies can do it well that way, but don't have to. Some get away with a turn AWAY from reality.

            If I had a way to place the Primeval world into geography, I would have done so. I was mostly concerned with geography (and thus culture) and only resorted to Past, Future, and Fantasy when I realized not everything fit into geography and culture. That is how I lucked into the realization that reality-based entertainment had morphed into fantasy-based.
            Kevin Yee
            MiceAge Columnist

            I am the author of several Disney books:
            Jason's Disneyland Almanac - a daily history of Disneyland
            Walt Disney World Hidden History - tributes, homages, and ride remnants at WDW
            Your Day at the Magic Kingdom
            Mouse Trap
            Tokyo Disney Made Easy
            101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland
            Magic Quizdom (The Disneyland Trivia Book)

            “The press [should be] a watchdog. Not an attack dog. Not a lapdog. A watchdog. Now, a watchdog can't be right all the time. He doesn't bark only when he sees or smells something that's dangerous. A good watchdog barks at things that are suspicious.” – Dan Rather

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            • #7
              Dictionary anyone

              Wow, the language in the article amazes me. A great, articulate, and intelligent article, however there were times when I almost wanted to run to the nearest dictionary thinking, Where did he come up with that?
              Best interview answer: My biggest weakness is my honesty...I can never remember my lies!

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              • #8
                I think that when you catagorize exotic immersion geographically it can breed more questions than answers. You get stuck in wether Indy the ride was South America or ficticious Asia (the latter is true).

                When you look at Walt's motivation for the creation of the lands it becomes clearer. One of the biggest reasons that you have so much North America in the park is Walt's underlying desire for the audience not to forget the sacrifices made by their ancestors. Main Street is a reminder of the rapidly vanishing small towns across the country and served as a living example grandparents can share with their younger kin. Frontierland, as much as it was about Davy Crockett, was also a reminder of the sacrifices made by early pioneers (burning cabin, Columbia)in establishing the country. Knott's Berry Farm and Greenfield Village were inspirations and in being so carried the same motivation. Just re read DL's dedication plaque ("hard facts that created America", etc.) and you'll see it.

                Fantasyland by no coincidence, is European based as most Fairy Tales Disney made into movies are European. Small World is international and now Storybookland embraces more Disney of world origin.

                Basically immersing someone in a place or time that is relevant either by a story , aspiration (the world the way you wish it was), or by nostalgia, usually works. Disney of course romanticizes this. Exotic can be the same place you grew up in but during the time period you cherish most.

                Synonomous with exotic are..
                Alien, alluring, avant-garde, bizarre, colorful, curious, different, enticing, external, extraneous, extraordinary, extrinsic, far out, fascinating, foreign, glamorous, imported, introduced, kinky, naturalized, not native, outlandish, outside, peculiar, peregrine, romantic, strange, striking, unfamiliar, unusual, way out, weird

                This can be applied in many ways, but I guess my point is that Disneyland was not planned as a deep science and most likely not created in any consistent way to be dissected to a result that supports any real argument. There were simple and usually whimsical motivations (Walt goes to Switzerland for vacation, we get a Matterhorn, World's Fair breeds leftovers,etc.) that got us where we are today. The real issue i see happening is the cartoonization of the park that repaints those motivations of cultural preservation. Less Americana and more Disneyana. So there you have it.
                "As usual he's taken over the coolest spot in the house"- Father re: Orville 1963

                [FONT=Arial Narrow]

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                • #9
                  I just wanted to say that I was a little shocked to see the letter regarding Cinderellabration. I've never seen it live, but I've seen plenty of video and it's nothing short of entrancing. I haven't heard anyone who has seen it live do anything but rave about how marvelous it is. The premise is rather simple, but it seems to be a real crowd pleaser. I am a bit wary of what WDW is going to do it...I don't think it would work nearly as well during the daytime.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by pussnboots
                    One question though. If the classic Disneyland is indeed geared at a white male American, where does that leave Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland? Wouldn't it be catering to the wrong party to have things like Main Street in the parks outside the US? (meanwhile, Disneyland Paris has a Main Street loaded with about five times as much nostalgia as its American counterparts, probably just to irk the French, haha)

                    Evidentally there was much discussion internally as to wether DLP's Main Street was relevant to the audience at all as it wasn't really nostalgic. Shifting the time period to the 1920's Jazz Age was studied as well to make the connection stronger. Eisner decided on the formula Main Street for what he called "cost reasons". So the designers took the tack to cater to the European taste of museum level depth and the detail and richness was there to make it kind of a cultural edutainment expereince with exhibits on the Statue of Liberty etc. More Americana and less political. When i saw it, it seemed more culturally exotic and "living museum' like (San Francisco theme in the bakery, etc.) for a European than nostalgic.
                    "As usual he's taken over the coolest spot in the house"- Father re: Orville 1963

                    [FONT=Arial Narrow]

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                    • #11
                      Great article, and as insightful as always. However, I would beg to niggle over one teeny tiny point. In the article, Kevin states that Disneyland was originally built to be something interesting and exotic for your typical white bread of European descent. I'm not arguing that this was the target audience, but I think that if they were really trying to make something interesting and exotic for that demographic they would have Adventureland covering half the park. It would be the polar opposite of what Disneyland IS - Walt would have given us a park and attractions of areas that are far different from historical Americana.

                      Walt himself must have been around my age in the 1920's. Therefore, it could be safely assumed that most of Disneyland would be nostalgic rather than truly exotic - the environs of a hundred years ago would seem exotic and alien to our modern mindset, but not to the folks who constructed the park in the first place.

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                      • #12
                        Yes, you're right. Main Street in Paris is very museum-like. The arcades are probably the best example of this, two corridors lined with artwork, glass displays and a small exhibit on the Statue of Liberty: sounds like they tried to instill some culture into us... I love it though.

                        Also, note how DLP has a gazebo instead of an American flag on Town Square. Imagine all the possible flag burnings if they hadn't done that, haha.

                        Anyway, I agree that even Walt Almighty himself probably didn't have it figured out to this extent, and that renders much of this dissection futile. I mean, as you said, the man went to Switzerland and then decided he wanted his own Matterhorn. Doesn't sound like a particularly calculated man...
                        But Walt aside, it's interesting to shine a light on the kind of tension the Disney parks have between realism-based escapism and fantasy-based escapism, I think. It also once again leaves us looking at DCA from the corners of our eyes...

                        Is it just me or did all this Disney park analysing start when DCA opened?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pussnboots
                          Is it just me or did all this Disney park analysing start when DCA opened?
                          We now have the webtools to discuss it, yes. But DCA has consciously and somewhat proudly ignored many of the basic tenets of "escape". The missing Berm and Anaheim centric visual intrusions reinforce the idea that you are in a parking lot. It only hurts the good things that are in there.

                          I think there is an exotic California out there. I was born in Hollywood and have a great passion for all things LA and Noir. There is a really cool California born of it's spirit and that California "State of mind" is far more outrageous and exciting than anything that is in the park. I'm sure the team had ideas that would have made great attractions. There are areas and attractions now that touch on it and succeed, but overall it's a ground ball not a home run. the space is not compelling at all and the theming is too thin. They did the best they could with what they had, but you can't hand out leaflets at the gate that say that..
                          "As usual he's taken over the coolest spot in the house"- Father re: Orville 1963

                          [FONT=Arial Narrow]

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Nostalgia vs. Exotic

                            Originally posted by Ascendant
                            Walt himself must have been around my age in the 1920's. Therefore, it could be safely assumed that most of Disneyland would be nostalgic rather than truly exotic - the environs of a hundred years ago would seem exotic and alien to our modern mindset, but not to the folks who constructed the park in the first place.
                            A very well written and thought provoking article, Kevin.

                            My first visit to DL was in the '50s when I was 13. Our family was on a vacation from the Northeast where we lived in a small town surrounded by streams and a river. I recall having very little interest in Main Street or the Rivers of America area. The exotic areas were the main attractions for me, especially Adventureland and Fantasyland, which were heavily hyped on the Disneyland tv show in '54.

                            After moving to Anaheim a few years later and visiting the park dozens of times over the years, the nostalgia factor began to kick in. I began really looking at Main Street and the River with appreciation for what I had left behind, and in many cases, doesn't exist any longer in small town America.

                            Now that DL is approaching 50, the park has become almost totally nostalgic for me, TL being the exception. I now have a history connected to it and can't go there without recalling all the memories of time spent with relatives, cast members and friends who are no longer living.
                            "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." Oscar Wilde

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Cousin Orville
                              This can be applied in many ways, but I guess my point is that Disneyland was not planned as a deep science and most likely not created in any consistent way to be dissected to a result that supports any real argument. There were simple and usually whimsical motivations (Walt goes to Switzerland for vacation, we get a Matterhorn, World's Fair breeds leftovers,etc.) that got us where we are today.
                              Literature professors are very quick to point out that the last person you'd want to ask what a book "means" is its author. If a work of art is reduced in meaning only to "what was intended," then you might as well have just a summary written in 2-3 sentences in prose.

                              In other words, the organic growth of Disneyland is all the more reason to analyze it rigorously. To ascribe everything to whimsical motivations is not necessarily wrong, but it does limit our understanding of what might have been unconscious choices in the kinds of rides being built.
                              Kevin Yee
                              MiceAge Columnist

                              I am the author of several Disney books:
                              Jason's Disneyland Almanac - a daily history of Disneyland
                              Walt Disney World Hidden History - tributes, homages, and ride remnants at WDW
                              Your Day at the Magic Kingdom
                              Mouse Trap
                              Tokyo Disney Made Easy
                              101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland
                              Magic Quizdom (The Disneyland Trivia Book)

                              “The press [should be] a watchdog. Not an attack dog. Not a lapdog. A watchdog. Now, a watchdog can't be right all the time. He doesn't bark only when he sees or smells something that's dangerous. A good watchdog barks at things that are suspicious.” – Dan Rather

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