Monday, May 11, 2009

To All Who Come To This Happy Place...WELCOME!

...err, unless you're Jewish, or African-American, or from India, or a woman with a desire to do anything but clean up after and serve at the foot of a man. But as long as you're not any of those things, then yeah, welcome everyone! Welcome!

'To all who come to this happy place...Welcome!'

Famous words known to all Disney freaks- like myself- spoken by Disney himself in July of 1955 on the day Disneyland opened for the first time.

Now look: I'm a Disney nut and the obsession has been (happily!) getting 'worse' since I've had kids (we go to the park every month or so), since I've been devouring the behind the scenes books I get at the theme parks, and since I've discovered a number of like minded Disney nuts in real life and on the internet.

And in my growing fandom, I've been searching for info about Walt Disney. What made the man tick? What did his family think about him? How did he respond to his success?

There are lots of books out there, but frankly the biographies are too damn long for me to read (900+ pages for the one that folks say is the best). So I did what most lazy folks do: I went to Youtube and tried to find a movie version of what I wanted so I could digest it fast and over a lunch break. :)

And in my search, I came across this documentary:

If you've watched it (and there are 5 other parts beyond what I've embedded above), you can tell: The story of Walt Disney as the kindly, creative 'Uncle Walt' ain't true. And what is true ain't pretty.

And some of the most incriminating stuff comes right from Walt's mouth. A lot of the other bad stuff comes from folks who worked with Walt and were relaying things he was reported to have said to them.

And so IF this doc is to be believed, I'm really turned off to the man who was Walt Disney at this point.

And what I wonder is: is it fair that this information should affect the way people feel about the current Diseny brand? Or even the classic Disney stuff that Walt had a direct hand in creating? Or was Disney just a man of his time and it's unfair to hold him to today's standards of what it means to be a likable, kind person?

These days, it's impossible for me to associate the new Disney with the real Disney and for that I am grateful. The new Disney seems very much about diversity and teamwork and imagination and hope for the whole world, all races and types. The old Disney? If the doc is real, not so much. If the doc is real, I imagine Walt is rolling over in his cryo chamber over the casting of an African-American Disney Princess in The Princess and the Frog.

Also, if the documentary and all the research I've done on the parks and the older Disney flicks show anything, it's that the vast majority of stuff we all love about Disney (Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Dumbo, etc...hell even Mickey Mouse!) was created or lead or turned into the great magic we love by many other folks along with and/or instead of 'Uncle Walt'. And so with that knowledge, it keeps me from turning my back on the whole thing.

But I ain't gonna lie: if that documentary is true, the individual Walt Disney seems like someone whom I would not care to meet and whose work I would not care to support with my cash.

Granted, documentaries have a point of view and perhaps this one is not all true. But it's hard to argue with actual footage of Disney turning colleagues over to the government during the McCarthy witch hunts (and it's even worse if his views on Jews, African-Americans, women,etc. pan out). But I did read somewhere that towards the end of his life Disney tried to change or actually did change his assholian ways (altho I've seen no evidence of that). So who knows.

Either way, it's pretty shitty stuff to discover (again, assuming even a touch of it is true). And it makes me:

a- wonder which of today's celebrated people that we hold up as being the epitome of a specific virtue or a set of admired virtues is really full of shit? For example: are Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg REALLY nice guys?!?
b- perhaps it's naive to assume that people- and especially creative people who see the world a bit different than most- would and should be holier that the rest of us and less susceptible to the negative human traits that the rest of us must deal with. But in that case, these celebs should not present a totally fake image of who they are and fool the public. I think that is the worst part about my whole Disney discovery...a sense of disappointment and betrayal.

Later ya'll