Walt Disney opening up his theme park
||Would Walt be
happy with today's Walt Disney Company?
reViewing continues with the readers!
Kevin was away on vacation so I got to slant the responses in my favor
this time around. Thanks to everybody who wrote a letter, we really appreciate the
positive response we have received!
Reader reViews for 8/17/00:
I think the statement that we're placing a
1966 man into the year 2000 pretty much sums up my opinion on
answering the question. If Walt were
still alive today, he would have lived through the past 36 years, and quite frankly, I do not think he
would be upset by either Miramax or
Touchstone -- they pull in cash to do the sorts of
things Walt would want to do. The one thing I think Walt would
be shocked, appalled, and angered about is the
penny pinching going on with park
maintenance. I think he'd be fine at one level or
another with everything else at the Walt Disney Company.
The only disagreement I have with your article is the quip
about Walt's idea for EPCOT:
"The ironic part being that EPCOT as he imagined it
would never have succeeded"
EPCOT as originally envisioned never would have succeeded
with Disney management post Walt, but if
Walt had remained alive and healthy to pour
his energy and skills at selling, coordinating resources (both
external and internal to Disney), adapting and
driving the project forward we would
have seen a highly successful EPCOT that looked much more
like Walt's original idea than the pathetic pseudo World's
Fair mess that we find in Orlando today.
EPCOT may never have reached the size or
economic importance that Walt originally envisioned, but it wouldn't have been reduced to an extended
series of theme parks, and a loosely
attached community with multiple golf courses built exclusively
for spoiled retired yuppies.
Yes, yes, I know this extended series of theme parks is
very profitable, but I think Walt would
have pulled off something equally as profitable and
something more socially significant than a big playground.
This edition of "Dueling Reviews" has been my
favorite thus far.
Thanks for the kind letter Leonard. You say several good things but I
just have to express my doubts that Walt's original EPCOT design could
have succeeded. EPCOT under his plan would have housed many, if not all
of the WDW employees in an ideal modern community open to the park guests.
Do you think WDW wants the public to see what their employees do after
hours? (If you aren't sure, you might check out some of Kevin's Cast
Place columns.) Do you think that the employees would want to be on
Even ignoring this element I think one thing we have learned
from Tomorrowland and EPCOT as it exists today is that modern doesn't wear
well. It is obsolete almost before it is built. If Walt had lived and EPCOT
had been built in the '70s could it have possibly been flexible enough
to avoid being completely hokie by 1980?
|I suppose I should clock in my
point of view again. Man, I love your guys' column! Anyway,
one could play the what-if game for hours and come to no real conclusion (hey isn't that what the show
Sliders was for?), but for arguments sake,
let's say that Walt was alive. I whole heartedly agree with
Kevin that Walt would've changed with
the times. He would've tried to expand plenty of times
over, for the bigger and greater good of Disney. And frankly,
I don't think he'd give a rat's behind
about something like Miramax, which doesn't have the
Disney name anywhere near it.
Alex mentioned Touchstone, which
has really gone down the toilet lately.
Well, we have to also remember that Touchstone gave
us Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, one of the greatest
films ever created. I think the good Mr.
Disney would be floored if he saw that flick, with his and other people's characters walking around L.A.
in animation's golden years. Hey, he
might even get a little annoyed that *he* wasn't in the
picture at all. ;)
One last point to make - if Walt *hadn't*
died, I'm not sure we'd have gotten some
of the most wonderful films of our time. Okay, maybe this is a
little morbid, but isn't it kind of good
that he wasn't in the picture for a while? He was
slowly moving away from animation and the such. The Disney
theatrical shorts died under Walt's
reign, and he was about ready to huck his feature animated
films into the can too. We would never have gotten
masterpieces like Beauty and the
Beast, or The Lion King. Food for thought.
But that's not really the point.
I've done a little too much ranting thus far, so I'll go
ahead and clock in my review - Walt would like Disney today.
He wouldn't approve of everything (we'd
still have the world's largest parking lot in Anaheim.),
but I think he would like where we've gotten this far. Later.
- John T.
Thanks John. First of all, I always thought that the purpose
Sliders was to provide everybody with a weekly chance to gaze
at Sabrina Lloyd. You raised an issue that was touched on in many of the
letters we received: would Walt have stayed hip if he had lived. The
consensus seems to be agreement with Kevin (why do you guys always take
his side!) in thinking Walt would have changed with the times and been
fine with some of the movies being produced Touchstone and even Miramax.
I just don't buy it; at the time of his death, Walt's taste in movies was
already showing signs of being behind the times and I don't see any
reason to expect he would have changed to keep up with the seventies, let
alone the nineties.
|Hi Kevin and Alex,
I love your dual reviews and couldn't pass this one up
without asking the question: Does Sean Griffin mention gay
director John Waters in the book at all?
John Waters is an admitted Disney fan and acknowledges its
influence on his work.
For example, in "Desperate
Living," his 1977 film, actress
Mink Stole gets all gussied up as The Wicked Queen from
Snow White while she's making a rabies potion. (I
haven't seen the film, but he says it's
a very definite homage in the documentary In Bad Taste:
the Films of John Waters. They showed a still from the
movie and she really does look a lot
like the Wicked Queen!)
Also in the director's commentary
track on Serial Mom John Waters comments about
having two garbage men characters acting
like the mice in Cinderella in the way they help
Kathleen Turner's character out. And he calls one particular shot being his " Spin and Marty shot."
(Where Kathleen Turner's character's son and his girlfriend
are looking in a window at one of her murder scenes.)
And of course, we all know that Ursula from The Little
Mermaid is based on Divine, a frequent star in Waters'
movies. The way you two describe the
book, it doesn't sound like Sean Griffin mentions this, though
I know it would be impossible to mention every example of
where gay and Disney culture crosses.
Three other examples I can think of are mentions in the
lesbian comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" by
Alison Bechdel; "Honestly
Ethel", a gay comic strip by John D. Anderson; and of
course everyone remembers Mr. Roper constantly calling Jack a "tinkerbelle" on Three's
As I said before it's impossible to cite every
example, but Ferdinand the Bull, Peter Pan, Jet, Mickey Mouse,
and an Aladdin trailer do not a basis for a
theory make. I think Alex is right, when serious delving into
gay, lesbian, and bi entertainment and literature
gets accomplished, that's when we're going to see a really
great and more authoritative book.
Thanks again for taking the
time to read this and if you have any
comments I look forward to hearing from you. Keep up the good
Thanks Kassie, it is good to know that someone is
reading the book reViews. You make some very good points that only
help to burnish the point that Griffin was trying to make. That only
makes it so much sadder that Griffin didn't make these points himself.
You are correct in suspecting that not a single example of yours is
mentioned in the book. As both Kevin and I mentioned Griffin is so
focused on presenting what he thinks were the readings of Disney
by the gay community that he mostly forgot to go out and check.
I was really interested in your useless discussion about
what Walt would think about his company
almost 40 years after his death. I am one of
those people who participates in hero worship when it comes to
Walt Disney, and the more that I learn,
both good and bad, makes me admire him
more and more. As to the issue at hand, there are some things
that I do not think would ever change
about Walt. To name a few:
If Walt were here, they would not be selling
bottled beer at Epcot. While I know that
Walt enjoyed his Cutty Sark and soda most evening,
he also knew that there was a time and a place. I know how I get when I am drunk, and I am sure he knew how
he got. And I think at everybody will
admit that they don't want their three year old daughter standing in line next to drunk Joe Smith.
If Walt were here, show would still be everything. They
recently fired the Main Street Marching
Band in WDW. Paint is peeling in both US parks.
Have you visited the Enchanted Tiki Room lately? There are feathers missing from the birds, and there are
also many show effects that are just no
longer working. Walt made money so he could spend money
-- what is Michael Eisner's salary these days?
If Walt were here, the company would not be making the
direct to video sequels they are
currently producing. Here is a great Walt story:
With the success of the Three Little Pigs, audiences started
asking for more pig cartoons. Walt gave them a
sequel to this 1933 smash hit. Do you
know the name of it without looking it up? Most people
don't. When the new pig cartoon went nowhere, Walt vowed to never to anything like that again. To quote:
"You can't top pigs with pigs."
The Little Mermaid is a masterpiece, but I bet we will never
remember The Little Mermaid II: Return to the
Sea. Don't get me wrong, Walt made some
pretty awful pieces of work in this time, and not everything
was a masterpiece, but he did learn THAT valuable lesson.
Ah well, you get my point. You are right, we can't put a
man from 1966 in 2000 and expect his
values to be the same. I am sure that things
would have changed over time, but we'll never know. We do, however, know that there was something besides
money in Walt's mind, and that helped to
make all the difference.
Thanks for your comments,
I agree, Michael, that Walt wouldn't be too happy with the
maintenance level within the park (which does seem to have taken a turn
for the worse in recent months).
I have to disagree, though, with your
comments regarding sequels. I think that Disney has been very careful
in trying to avoid diluting its film franchises. That is why they were
released direct- to- video, to capitalize on a demand without producing
something that would be compared unfavorably to the original. I know that
the Lion King sequels would be derided by critics, but my
niece certainly loved them.
Never doing another sequel because of Three Little
Pigs strikes me as a bit of an overreaction. If that had held we would
not have been able to enjoy Toy Story 2.
|I agree that Walt would
certainly accept more of the changes that have occurred since
his death had he lived through them rather than being resurrected.
I think Walt would be attracted to LucasArts and would do
more that Eisner has done to maintain
that relationship. I would not be surprised if
Walt had bought the Star Wars idea when Lucas offered it to
Disney prior to going through 20th
Century for distribution.
Cirque de Soliel would delight Walt greatly. I look at
Cirque as being very close to what Walt
was trying to do with Fantasia.
I think many of the Touchstone films would be a major
disappointment for Walt. Boomerang, My
Favorite Martian, and others from Touchstone I think would
distress Walt more than most of Miramax because Touchstone is closely associated with Disney.
DCA would not please Walt at all. It seems pointless as a
continuation of Disneyland and frankly
reminds me too much of Pleasure Island from Pinocchio.
It celebrates too much of what Walt disliked about carnivals.
The new Tomorrowland would also be disappointing mainly for it's lack of story and vision (though I think
most of today's science fiction also
reflects a much different view of the future than when Walt was alive).
ESPN, The Ducks and The Angels would not interest Walt a
great deal, but these are Eisner's
personal toys. Not really building the company so much
as decorating Eisner's desk.
I think Walt would like the idea of the cruise line very
much. I think more would be done with
it, but it fits in with the park in Florida.
As DLP and Tokyo both are in the control of interests
outside of Disney I don't think their
success is a reflection on The Disney Company as much
as continuation of Walt's Dream by those countries.
The internal changes I think Walt would feel very upset
about are the TDA building removing
executives away from the park, the removal of Disney
University and the end of mentoring within DL. These are some very important areas that are not very visible
to the public that do a great deal to
improving the product.
Rob, you raise many good point but I am only going to comment on
your final, perceptive comments. Kevin and I stuck pretty much to the
public side of Disney when considering how Walt would feel. Your final
paragraph is very insightful for acknowledging some the systemic features
of the Disney company about which Walt felt strongly.
|To find what Walt wanted or
would have wanted, we need look no further than his
principal creation--that of the character, Mickey Mouse. Walt
/was/ Mickey Mouse--though some may
argue matter of degree, Walt provided Mickey with
his character, his image, and his voice.
Mickey's animated exploits reflect Walt's personality and
struggle--a small but feisty, sometimes
bawdy all-American up-and-comer who challenges the goliaths,
gets in over his head, but ultimately triumphs, winning the
prize and the girl. It's the basic
fairytale American dream, and it is therefore not
surprising that the exploits which followed the Mickey Mouse
shorts were themselves fairytales.
Biographies about Walt, both official and alternative,
reflect Walt's envy and jealousy of the
established film business. Walt, like Mickey, struggled
to climb the vines of the Hollywood studio walls, longing for
his magic seeds--animation--to allow him
to rise to or above the prominence and success
of the established studios, who had rejected and then
exploited him in his early career.
Walt had some success in his lifetime with this pursuit,
but he actually spent the final phase of his life reinventing
the amusement park. Walt is wholly
responsible for the artistic and business revolution which we
today call the "theme park".
Disneyland and its offspring as physical environments
are so compelling and such a pleasant experience that many believe that Walt's lifelong goal was to
"create happiness". It is important
to note that Disneyland was started and crafted as a /business
entity wholly independent of the Disney film
studio/, and this "happiness" business
was (and one could argue is to this day) largely confined to
the original Park.
Walt's abiding dream was to have his name on and control of
THE dominant film studio.
It's ironic but fitting that the leader who succeeded him,
Michael Eisner, has the same name as
Walt's alter-ego mouse, that Michael frequently references
this connection, and like Walt, he hosts the Wonderful World
of Disney every Sunday. In name, Mickey
appears in the form of the Chairman, and
has been successful in making Disney THE dominant studio on
the planet Earth, exceeding in fiscal
size all but a handful of the world's economies and
Walt would be very happy with the current preeminent status
of the company which bears his name. His
dream has come true, and today we are living what
would be for Walt a "happy ending".
/"Creating happiness" for guests, employees, cast
members, stakeholders, and shareholders
has less to do with it./
Thanks for the Arnold. I am going to let it stand on its own
without comment, other than to say that I am glad there is someone
else out there who doesn't view Eisner as Disney evil incarnate.
happy to read your further comments, but our next mail
column will center around the subsequent reView topic,
and not any longer on this one.
Alex and Kevin debate current events and review Disney books.
column is about opinions; unfortunately, we don't know
any important Disney insiders so they are just our
opinions. We are bringing this column to you as two
ordinary Disney fans, much like yourself. We hope you