Friday, January 23, 2015

Disney and the Age of Acquisition

     I would like to take one post and dedicate it to an opinion I have that is coupled with a fear about the Disney company. As Disney grows and becomes even more of a monolith, it is facing several temptations as a company, and I feel that it is falling victim to many of them. This post is not intended to denounce or show any reduction in my love of Walt Disney World, but just to be a reminder that we all need to hold Disney accountable for what it is doing.
     Let's go back, first of all, to the roots of the parks. At Epcot, an innovative and new idea about practical solutions to world problems arises from a dream of Walt Disney. While this theme park titled "Epcot" is not at all what Walt had planned, the park did stay true to its theme. It was a place where corporations shared new ideas, and Disney was a part of it. It was a Disney original. It was about teamwork. The attractions in early Epcot included two Disney original characters created and imagined by Disney exclusively for use at that specific park: Figment and Dreamfinder. Each land was new and exciting, and the shows and rides showed hope for progress, and were Disney at heart.
     In 1989, the Disney MGM Studios opened so that guests could be part of the movie making process. While this didn't go particularly according to plan, the park did play host to some films with which Disney either cooperated, or created in-house. And at the center of it all was the animation studio that created real Disney movies in front of you.
     In 1998, Disney opened a theme park that had never been done before. It took its experience with designing rides, shows, and exhibits with unparalleled storytelling, and applied it to the world of live animals! Animal rights activists, critics, and much of the world said it was going to be a zoo, and that it would flop because theme park and animal don't go together. However, through Disney's innovation and creativity, as well as their striving for excellence, they created a theme park that has changed the lives of many who have visited.
     And let's not forget the Magic Kingdom. In 1971, Walt's Floridian Disneyland opened and graced the East Coast with its complete immersion and magnificent scale and beauty. No theme park of this magnitude had been built before. Funded by Walt's faith in Mary Poppins, the Magic Kingdom defied expectations and became the Vacation Capital of the World that it was supposed to be.
     All of this, one will notice, began with originality, creativity, risk, excellence, and imagination. These traits, I'm fearing, are slowly being lost in the Disney company. I fear that as a reaction to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter across town, Disney has grasped at outside sources and thrown obscene amounts of money (5.5 Billion for Star Wars) so that it could stay afloat and promote worlds and stories that already exist outside the company. In an effort to expand and make more and more millions each year, they seem to be trending toward simply acquiring stories rather than telling them and writing them. I use as examples their purchases of Star Wars and Marvel in the last few years. I, for the life of me, cannot decide how sci-fi space movies (with the word WAR right in the title!) and huge muscled punching shooting fighting gun-obsessed strong men physically punching each other for two hours on the big screen reflect the ideals of Disney.
     I have memories of Disney telling me to wish upon a star when I was a child. That spirit has never left me. I challenge all of us to pressure Disney to stay true to that spirit of gentle and beautiful wishes coming true, rather than violent (though often awesome) movies being bought and sold under their name so they can make more money off of them.

     Again, these are my opinions, and I hope they don't offend any of you. I LOVE Star Wars, and Marvel has its place. I just don't want them anywhere near my Cinderella Castle at night beneath the fireworks and uplifting music. I want them far away from my someday 4 year-old daughter who will learn just like me that wishes do come true, and not from shooting all the bad guys with guns, or having the biggest muscles.

Thanks for reading my rant!

-William (