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Reporter's Notebook
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Observations and Analysis of Disney in the News

News Commentary from August 28 - September 3

Disney Thinks About the Guests - Fans Outraged

Alex Stroup

Earlier this week, The Los Angles Times published an article that chronicled the PC-ification of Disneyland.

I wouldn't have considered this much of a story outside of the more rabid element of Disneyland fans. After all, none of the updates discussed could be considered major changes in any way. However, I was brought up short walking back to work on Tuesday, when I saw a version of this article gracing the front page of the San Francisco Examiner.

Now, while that story is likely just another panel in the exhibit on how the Examiner has gone downhill since its sale last year it does show just how extensive the interest in Disneyland is (don't even get me started on the death cries of one of America's historic newspapers).

What strikes me as the weirdest though is that these changes are reported with a tone a tone of disapproval, as if somehow Disney is caving in to some unseemly pressure. Personally, it seems to me that one of the best reasons Disney could have for changing individual show elements is a desire to improve the experience. It isn't like they decided to remove the hippo shooting bit from Jungle Cruise because Michael Eisner decided that caps are too expensive.

Instead it was recognized that a show element was offensive to a certain portion of the audience and that it could be corrected without diminishing the show for the rest of the audience. Now, honestly, is your enjoyment of the Jungle Cruise really going to decrease simply because the skipper doesn't shoot at a hippopotamus? Personally, I think it is time to completely "re-imagine" (a popular word in the entertainment industry lately) the Jungle Cruise and give it some new jokes and lose some of the tasteless parts (I've always been uncomfortable with the presentation of the natives).

Similarly, I don't think anybody has refused to ride Pirates of the Caribbean simply because a pirate is now chasing a woman with a plate of food, rather than just chasing a woman. Or how about the Starcade? Has the lack of "gun games" prevented you from dropping a few quarters?

Regardless, the case that Disney is "PC-ifying" the park is weak in the extreme. Savage natives still grace the Jungle Cruise, a woman is still being auctioned in Pirates, Dixie is still played by the band. Cinderella still supports the patriarchal status quo that a woman is only defined through her man. Splash Mountain is a ride based on a movie considered to racist to feasibly distribute within the United States. There's a wooden cigar Indian in two locations. If Disney were really concerned with making the park protest proof, there are certainly bigger fish to fry (sorry PETA) than those cited in the story.

To me the scariest part of the Times story is this paragraph:

A mixed message? Maybe, but as Gomez said of the Shooting Exposition, "Based on guest feedback, it is one of the most popular places in Frontierland. We have to strike a balance."

If it is true that the Shooting Exposition is one of the favorite's of guests, then is it any wonder that Eisner and Company imagined that DCA would keep people happy?

Notebook Readers Respond

Princess Mononoke promotional art © Miramax / Disney
Princess Mononoke promotional art Miramax / Disney

We don't normally print reader mail here, but we received a couple of passionate comments on last week's piece on Hayao Miyazaki and Disney's handling of his movies.

We appreciate their sharing their thoughts with us, and wanted to print their comments as soon as possible (though edited for length):

Disney has done a wonderful job of sitting on Mr. Miyazaki's works. Many of his films (the wonderful Totoro, and the aforementioned Kiki and Laputa) are truly films for all ages. All ages. They are wondrous to children, great date films for teens, and fascinating and rewarding productions for adults and seniors.

Ever since Disney inked this deal, Streamline Pictures (who handled Laputa well and unfortunately served up a severely edited Warriors of the Wind (originally titled Nausicaa), and 20th Century Fox (who distributed Totoro for Troma of all people!), were locked out of their roadshow and video distribution. Streamline was particularly active on the film festival, art house, and convention circuit.

Princess Mononoke is possibly the most challenging of Miyazaki's works for American audiences, as it plays heavily on Japanese folklore more so than the other films in his portfolio.

And despite whatever Disney has to say about it, it never opened wide, never got a marketing push, played only in colleges and art houses, and usually played to packed rooms wherever it -did- surface. I attended a student screening at the Cinemateque in Cleveland (a theater in an art school), where it was standing- room- only.

But Disney never gave it a push. Kiki had the same release, small theatres over the span of a year. Laputa via Disney may never see the light of day (which is no crime; Streamline did a fine job of dubbing).

The true crime in all of this is this: there are other works by Miyazaki covered in the Disney arrangement, like Porco Rosso (The Crimson Pig) that will -never- be available in this country.

It's my strong opinion that Disney bought the rights to these fine films specifically to suppress them from American audiences, not to promote Miyazaki's works in this country. Because if we had the opportunity to see great animated adventure with well-drawn characters and truly funny humor (without characters breaking into song every 5 minutes), why would we go to see fare like Altantis?

- Jeff M.

Thanks for the update on one of the most creative film makers of our time. My daughter (8 years old) and I both love his movies. I have been looking forward to Disney releasing more of his movies on DVD and seeing Spirited Away in theaters, but apparently it is not going to happen.

I remember the rave reviews that Princess Mononoke got when it first came out, but the movie NEVER made it to my area (Inland Empire/Southern California) so it suffered from the inability to make money because it did not get distributed properly. If they spent half the money promoting and distributing Spirited Away that they did on Pearl Harbor, they might actually have a hit on their hands!!! Honestly, if Pokemon or whatever can generate a profit with cheap/bad animation and little or no story, a Miyazaki film with his beautiful animation and great stories ought to make a killing.

Of course, you have to promote it and do a general release. Your average Joe, with 2.5 kids will not drive to a trendy theater 1.5+ hours away from their home to take their kids to a movie. Put it in the local cinemaplex and like many other parents, if the kids like it, you go and see it two or three times, at least!!!

Isn't Skrek proof of that theory being made reality?!?! Generating repeat business, which is how, I believe, Titanic also became such a hit and Pearl Harbor didn't, is what makes you money. Good movies get most everybody in once, great movies bring you back multiple times, and Disney of all people should know how multipliers work on their profits, don't you think???

Or perhaps they view the American movie goers the same way they view the American tourist. Americans got DCA, and Japan got Tokyo DisneySeas. Moral of the story? If you are an American you will get garbage from Disney because they think you are too blind, stupid, ignorant, grateful, pathetic (choose your favorite(s) and insert here) to see the difference. However, if you are in Japan, you will get the great theme parks and movies because you are (fill in the blank).

Perhaps MousePlanet can team up to find out what word(s) go into the blank and we can finally figure out why Disney feels that the American public, in all their many hats as tourists and consumers, is of so little or no value to them as a corporation.

Thanks again for the update and keep up the good work!!!

- Laura R.


One of the lesser-known features of MousePlanet is our News headlines in our MousePad discussion forum, where we try to direct you to any important news stories about the entire Disney company.

One thing we can't provide in that resource is an idea as to how those stories, generally about very specific portions of the company, may fit into the larger Disney picture. Towards that end, the Reporter's Notebook provides brief comments on those recent stories that are of interest.

We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all submissions to the Reporter's Notebook become property of this Web site. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site.

Send your questions, comments, and news tips here.


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