Althouse | category: Disney



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Some fans tried to mount a 'Save Splash Mountain' campaign, even urging opponents of the switch to enlist the help of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)."

"Others acknowledged they would miss a classic but were looking forward to a new chapter for the ride. Still others argued that it was past time for the original to go, given its source material."

Splash Mountain was based on "Song of the South," the "1946 film set in post-Civil War Georgia that has been under fire since its release" and that Disney CEO Bob Iger has said is "just not appropriate in today’s world." Is he right? Who can say? Who has seen this movie? 

I've only ever seen the "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" sequence. 

The singer is James Baskett (Wikipedia), who "appeared with Louis Armstrong on Broadway in the 1929 black musical revue Hot Chocolates and in several all-black New York films, including Harlem is Heaven (1932)."
["Song of the South"] was one of the first Hollywood portrayals of a black actor as a non-comic character in a leading role in a film meant for general audiences.
Baskett was prohibited from attending the film's premiere in Atlanta, Georgia, because Atlanta was racially segregated by law.

Although Baskett was occasionally criticized for accepting such a "demeaning" role (most of his acting credits were that of African-American stereotypes), his acting was almost universally praised, and columnist Hedda Hopper, along with Walt Disney, was one of the many journalists and personalities who declared that he should receive an Academy Award for his work. 
On March 20, 1948, Baskett received an Academy Honorary Award for his performance as Uncle Remus. He was the first African-American male actor to win an Academy Award.

I don't think hiding the film is the best solution. Straightforward confrontation with the bad should go along with honoring the good and understanding the past. Disney protects its own interests and deserves little credit for acting in accordance with the prevailing elite opinion.

What is the good? I don't know! I haven't seen the film. But obviously Baskett himself was good, the song was good, and the animation was good. 

And, my God, Baskett was only 42 years old in that clip. He died 2 years later, less than 4 months after they gave him that Oscar. Why should his work be buried? Maybe there's a great answer, but it's hard to discuss when we can't see the movie. Disney lets us see "Dumbo," despite the crow characters, one of whom, Fats Crow, was voiced by Baskett.

Anyway, Splash Mountain finally embarrassed Disney enough that it's turning the flume ride into "Tiana’s Bayou Adventure," based on "The Princess and the Frog," which had a black princess character.  

"For a home lacking interior walls, at least structural ones, the dome feels surprisingly cozy; where the plaster-finished gypsum room dividers don’t extend all the way..."

"... to the curved ceiling, panes of soundproof glass have been added for privacy. From the kitchen, the heart of the structure, a hallway leads past a space-themed arcade game into a bright living room with cork flooring. Another hall, lined with a fully stocked candy bar, leads to a self-contained screening room accessible through a folding garage-type door. There are two guest bedrooms — both with a view of 'Toxic Mickey' (2017), a bronze fountain sculpture by the American artist Bill Barminski that depicts a man chest-deep in a punctured oil drum, wearing a gas mask in the shape of Walt Disney’s beloved mouse."

If you should be so lucky as to receive an overnight invitation from Mr. Downey and his lovely wife, you'll have a beautiful room with a view of this:

"Disney has never endorsed Gay Days... Nor has it tried to rein it in. There isn’t much the company could do anyway."

"For red shirt days, attendees buy tickets like anyone else. The planning is handled by private companies like One Magical Weekend, Gay Days Inc., and the lesbian-focused Girls in Wonderland.... Would the anti-L.G.B.T.Q. vitriol that has surrounded Disney in recent months spill over to Gay Days?...  On Saturday morning... Gay Days participants streamed into Disney World. Many of them wore red shirts with the words 'SAY GAY' on the back....  [Disney's] Parks & Resorts division celebrates Pride month with a barrage of rainbow merchandise in its shops, including a button featuring Mickey Mouse and a rainbow along with the slogan 'Belong, Believe, Be Proud.' There were also rainbow-themed desserts... [and] Pride-themed photo backdrops.... There were no protesters. There were no cautionary signs. The only tension I saw came from a gay man who was cranky that a Disney manager had told him that his shirt could be viewed as inappropriate. It featured Pluto in leather gear and the phrase 'I like it wruff.'"

From "After a Political Storm, Gay Days Return to Disney/An L.G.B.T.Q. tradition at Disney World took on new significance this year, when Disney was ensnared in a heated cultural debate" (NYT).

"Why would anyone assume they could get onstage at Disney for their own personal reasons? The article makes it sound so sad, their dreams were dashed."

"But... if my dream were to propose in front of a Broadway crowd, I should just get a new dream (and certainly wouldn't expect apologies and free tickets!)" 

That's the top-rated comment at "Disney Apologizes After Employee Thwarts Marriage Proposal/A man had been planning for months to pop the question at Disneyland Paris, but the employee instead snatched the ring and ushered the couple off a stage" (NYT). 

Second-highest: "I don't understand why people feel the need to have public proposals in the first place." 

Third: "OMG grow up. this whole thing is ridiculous. fire the employee? discipline the employee? dont go up on a stage at disney with its uber security measures without getting permission from a proper authority WAY in advance."

You can see the video here — at Reddit, where the headline is "POS destroyed my best friends moment. He asked for permission beforehand." But did he have permission? The NYT says:

Before climbing up to the stage, he said, he whispered into an employee’s ear, asking her for permission. Disney did not immediately answer questions about whether that was the case, or whether the employee who shunted them off the stage had faced disciplinary action.

There are too many apologies these days. I feel sorry for employees who follow and enforce rules and then get undercut by management that's afraid of criticism, even unjustified criticism.

The heads of Drudge have got me wondering — which one is the real boy?

Note the headless angel, the creepy succession of men, and — topping it all off — the little puppet boy. Beyond heads — hands: I like the mirrored hand gestures, the angel and Joe Biden and then Tom Cotton and Pinocchio. All the human entities frown. We can't know the expression on the angel statues head and Pinocchio is slack-jawed and woozy. 

Anyway, what's up with Disney sending the live-action remake of "Pinocchio" straight to video? It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks. That's conspicuously intended to be huge. It must stink like a bad cigar.

ADDED: I see that there is a second live-action version of Pinocchio coming out this year.

Disney's Pinocchio is a remake and update of the 1940 film.... Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio goes back to the original source material to create something new... In Collodi's serialized novel, a master carpenter is alarmed when he cuts into a piece of wood and finds it crying out in pain. He gives the wood to aged puppeteer Geppetto, who carves it into Pinocchio. Though Pinocchio misbehaves in the Disney version, he is more petulant in the original.... The original features many more digressions and complications.... 

The [Disney] film's teaser trailer features the soul-stirring music and imagery of the original and little else... Del Toro's movie is a different beast entirely.... The novel's talking cricket has been heavily featured in the teaser -- he is played by Ewan McGregor (the film's biggest name)....

You can see both trailers and lots more discussion of the details at the link. The del Toro "Pinocchio" is also straight to video, to Netflix. 

In an interview on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast... del Toro spoke about Pinocchio, noting that he plans to subvert the story's conservative morality and examine the notion of the good little boy in order to reach different conclusions than the story's prior incarnations. Pinocchio's journey from puppet to real boy may reflect the journey from group-thinking participator in systems of oppression to individual thinker. Having described his masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth as an ode to disobedience, it's unlikely that del Toro will settle on ideas like the necessity of doing what one is told and respecting one's elders. These are bad lessons to swallow while living in a fascist state, even if they were heartwarming in the context of a Disney film.

Well, that's interesting!

"Nordic larpers... 'are emotional junkies.... Most of us larp because we can feel it and smell it with our bodies.' 'Nordic larps—they’re not for everybody'...."

"Some of them 'can be intense experiences, and that is probably not what we want to offer to our mainstream audience.'"

That's just an isolated snippet from "LARPing Goes to Disney World/On a 'Star Wars' spaceship, the company has taken live-action role-play to a lavish extreme. Guests spend days eating, scheming, and assembling lightsabres in character" by Neima Jahromi (The New Yorker).

LARP = live-action role play. 

We're told that in the "Nordic larp scene," they prefer "games with deep emotional involvement and few rules." Nordic designers of LARPs were inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, but they rejected the idea of using actuarial tables to determine who wins and loses a fight. That "didn’t really fit the culture here.... Nordics are way more collaborative than adversarial." 

I'm not at all familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, but it was funny to read that it's based on insurance underwriting. 

Anyway, the article is mostly about a big Disney/"Star Wars" production. I had trouble understanding this. My point of reference was a Renaissance Faire, not that I'd ever attended one, but I've seen that phenomenon discussed and mocked for decades, most recently in episode 5 of "Love on the Spectrum U.S." Isn't this LARPing like going to a Renaissance Faire?

I've been on immersive Disney World rides like "Pirates of the Caribbean," where they load you into a fake boat and pull you though various scenes, but you're still a passive member of an audience. I did that only in the context of amusing my children. I can't imagine wanting further immersion with the pressure of being part of the show. But I will put some effort into trying to understand what other people are finding rewarding. 

And does this mean I'm a standoffish observer in life, missing out on the fun? I'm standoffish about manufactured things that you're supposed to get caught up in. If there's one thing that makes me feel like a separate individual, it's being in the midst of people who are having an emotional group transformation.

"Yesteryear’s 'ball-point pen' became the 'ballpoint,' 'wild-flowers' evolved into 'wildflowers,' and 'teen-age” found acceptance as 'teenage' in most outlets..."

"In modern times, the hyphen has sown controversy. [Pardis Mahdavi, author of 'Hyphen'] tells the story of how Teddy Roosevelt, in his outrage at losing the Presidency to Woodrow Wilson, in 1912, appealed to Americans’ xenophobia. He was an 'anti-hyphenate.' Mahdavi writes, 'Referring to the hyphen between the name of an ethnicity and the word "American," hyphenism and hyphenated Americanism was seen as a potentially fracturing and divisive force in an America on the brink of war.' Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and Chinese-Americans were all suspect. In 1915, Teddy Roosevelt made some remarks that formed 'a turning point in how the hyphen became demonized both orthographically and politically.' He said, 'The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic.' (Victims of anti-hyphenism might be gratified to know that during the pandemic the equestrian statue of Teddy Roosevelt was removed from in front of the Museum of Natural History.)"

From "How to Use (or Not Use) a Hyphen/Plus: a brief digression into why The New Yorker hyphenates 'teen-ager'" by Mary Norris (The New Yorker).

Those are 2 very different issues with the hyphen. One has to do with the evolution of a compound word. It's about helping readers see what they're looking at. There must have been a time when people, looking at "wildflower" might have taken an extra moment to decide the second part is "flower" and not "lower" (what are "wildfs"?) The second issue is whether we're going to use this concept at all. To prefer "American" to "Irish-American" is to cast aside the Irish part. It's more like deciding we'll just call all these things "flowers" and not pay attention to whether they are "wild" or not... speaking of xenophobia!

What makes a flower "wild" anyway? All flowers are rooted somewhere and incapable of emigrating:

"Wildflower" is not an exact term. More precise terms include native species (naturally occurring in the area, see flora), exotic or, better, introduced species (not naturally occurring in the area), of which some are labelled invasive species (that out-compete other plants – whether native or not), imported (introduced to an area whether deliberately or accidentally) and naturalized (introduced to an area, but now considered by the public as native).

It's the human point of view or activity that creates an occasion for the concept of wildness. 

In the Dolly Parton song "Wildflowers," the "wildflower" is able to migrate: "So I uprooted myself from my homeground and left/Took my dreams and I took to the road...."

I thought I remembered a Disney cartoon that had flowers that pull themselves out of their place and dance around. I'm surprised I found it — "Flowers and Trees" — because the flowers are what these days we'd call racist:

"The vanishing of nature is also romanticized: the lonely polar bear on an ice shelf. Romanticism has trickled down through Walt Disney..."

"... and now we have the Disneyfication of landscapes, of human existence, of storytelling, of our relationship with wild nature. The bears are cuddly and you have to hug them and you have to sing to them. That’s the tragedy of Timothy Treadwell, in 'Grizzly Man,' a tragedy of misguided philosophy. When somebody espouses New Age ideas, I always lower my head and charge."

Said Werner Herzog, quoted in "Werner Herzog Has Never Liked Introspection/A conversation with the filmmaker about the place of literature, the toll of war, and the conviction that his writing will outlast his movies" (The New Yorker). I see he has a book coming out soon, called "The Twilight World" that is, in part, the true story Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who fought, from a position on an island in the Philippines, for 3 decades after WWII had ended.

Herzog met Onoda in real life. He was in Japan, and had actually turned down an invitation to meet the Emperor. He didn't want to see the Emperor, because he would have been required to "speak only in formulas and polite, prefabricated dialogue." So who did he want to meet? He said, “Onoda.”

But I had the feeling that the tragedy of settling into a fictitious life may not have been such a tragedy after all. I have the suspicion that he lived a fulfilled life. And, of course, what fascinates me is not only how Onoda settles into a fictitious life but how basically all of us do, within our cultural norms. In his story, the deeper structure of what makes a human being becomes more visible....

I think he was reluctant, after thirty years of waging a solitary war, to acknowledge that there was no war. This is why he insisted that the young man who found him, in 1974, should return to Japan and mobilize a former major of his unit, who would then come back to the island and issue competent military orders for him to desist hostile activities. The end needed to be formalized and ritualized—only then would the war be over. But the astonishing thing is that he still hoped that the major would tell him, “This was all made up, we just wanted to test your perseverance.” He hoped that the end was an illusion....

"if Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy. I will not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state..."

"Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long.... Disney thought they ruled Florida. They even tried to attack me to advance their woke agenda."

Said Ron DeSantis, quoted in "Disney to Lose Special Tax Status in Florida Amid ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Clash/Lawmakers in the state voted to revoke the company’s special designation following a dispute with Gov. Ron DeSantis over a new education law" (NYT). 

Disney employs 38 lobbyists in Florida’s capital. Each election cycle, the company gives generous campaign contributions to Florida candidates on both sides of the political aisle. Its theme park mega-resort near Orlando attracts around 50 million visitors a year, powering a Central Florida tourism economy that annually generates more than $5 billion in local and state tax revenue. The upshot: Disney usually gets whatever it wants in Florida. That era ended on Thursday, when the Florida House voted to revoke Disney World’s designation as a special tax district — a privilege that Disney has held for 55 years, effectively allowing the company to self-govern its 25,000-acre theme park complex.

"For a home lacking interior walls, at least structural ones, the dome feels surprisingly cozy; where the plaster-finished gypsum room dividers don’t extend all the way..."The heads of Drudge have got me wondering — which one is the real boy?"Yesteryear’s 'ball-point pen' became the 'ballpoint,' 'wild-flowers' evolved into 'wildflowers,' and 'teen-age” found acceptance as 'teenage' in most outlets..."

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