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Alex Stroup and Kevin Yee
Reader reViews!

--Walt Disney
Walt Disney opening up his theme park
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  Would Walt be happy with today's Walt Disney Company?

Readers React:
The 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! 

- Alex

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.

Leonard B.
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Leonard -  

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 display? 

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? 

- Alex
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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 think 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.
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John -

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. 

- Alex
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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 Company

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 work!

Take care,

Kassie
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Kassie -  

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. 

- Alex
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Greetings!

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,

Michael
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Michael -

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

- Alex
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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
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Rob -

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.

- Alex
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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 corporate entities.

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./

Arnold
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Arnold -

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.

- Alex

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We're always 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.

 
Dual Reviews

Alex and Kevin debate current events and review Disney books.

This 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 enjoy and respond.

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