I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with two points from you piece last week, “How Conservatives Can Take Back (Some of) Hollywood for Oscar Time.” First, let’s take a look at where you place the goal posts for conservatives to aim:
But as you run your personal boycott of Hollywood, remember this. Almost everyone else you know — be it family, friends, business associates and, most especially, your children — is not. They are consuming Hollywood entertainment in mammoth gulps. And politics, as the late Andrew Breitbart said repeatedly (and he was far from the only one), is downstream of culture.
You give up Hollywood and you give up the country. Game over. And as we all know, it’s almost over already. Want that? Well, if you do, you can skip the rest of this article.
So… for those of you that are left… now more than ever is the time for conservatives and libertarians to take back at least some of the entertainment industry. Someone recently told me that Hollywood is like one of those football blowouts with a score of 90 for the liberals and 10 for the conservatives. We have to try to make it at least 70-30 (still a blowout, but there’s a glimmer of hope).
70-30? Come on. Settling for a pittance of the country’s entertainment industry is akin to aiming for a passing grade. Conservatives should proclaim bolder objectives with their efforts to enter the entertainment industry: to become billionaires and dominate the entire field through redefining it.
I’ve been studying and blogging on Walt Disney with Chris Queen here at PJ Lifestyle for over a year now to try and understand the secrets of his success. What did Disney do to make his name synonymous with a new art form? He innovated — a principle you as the co-founder of PJM know well. For Disney, his path — which is worth recounting visually since we can easily thanks to YouTube — made the first big splash with synched sound cartoons in 1928:
Then Flowers and Trees, the first technicolor cartoon in 1932:
Then Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film in 1937:
And after World War II then leaping to television and theme parks simultaneously, using one to support the other, with the DisneyLand TV show in 1954:
Nowadays Disney’s TV and theme park divisions make much more money than the studio films. (BTW, from David P. Goldman, commenting on my Facebook: “Factoid: The market value of Disney Corp is larger than that of the whole Ukrainian stock exchange. So much for Marxists vs. Disney.”)
Conservatives should be looking to the future and to new mediums of entertainment. Humans are not going to amuse themselves by sitting around staring at screens forever. I still believe in the Breitbartian idea that the battle for the culture is more important than the fight over political ideology. Where I’ve changed is in realizing that there’s actually a force more important and powerful to affect and control. Culture is driven by technology. Movable type came before the Gutenberg Bible. Edison’s film camera came before Hollywood. The techniques of animation had to be discovered by Disney and his animators through years of experimenting with Silly Symphony and Mickey Mouse shorts before Snow White could be achieved.
So yeah, politics is downstream of culture. But technology has the power to carve the shape of the river itself.
And conservatives are even more behind when it comes to applying technology to winning elections. J. Christian Adams in the symposium last week spells out how now targeting the broad, mainstream culture isn’t even necessary for winning elections when it’s cheaper to churn out the base rather than work to persuade the undecideds:
Modern elections are all about energy. Energy wins. Period.
The left has developed an election data tool called Catalist. The GOP has no functioning counterpart. This database allows leftist groups, the DNC, and the Obama campaign to activate the far left base in ways that were never before possible.
How do they do it? They collect massive amounts of data about everybody. What you read, what car you drive, what you said in a poll, everything. A consortium of leftist users pump data in, and a consortium of left-wing customers extract data.
The data about Democrat voters allow institutions to flip a switch and ensure a massive base vote.
So what does this have to do with Ted Cruz?
Democrats have realized that modern elections are won or lost by mobilizing the base, period. Remember the treasured independent middle? Bah. Romney won them overwhelmingly but still lost the election.
The left swamped Romney using Catalist. Romney’s counterpart base mobilizer, “Orca,” crashed and burned on election day – literally. While Romney was spending one dollar to win one vote in the middle, Obama (using Catalist data) was spending a dime to get one vote in the base.
So the Romney campaign was doubly damned. They were outgunned technologically. But what were they shot with from all angles? Unrelenting images of Mitt the heartless corporate businessman, a symbol of the decadent 1%, lapped up by cultures and generations raised on the image of the evil executive. As I wrote about in the summer of 2012, “Why This Election Year America Is Carmela Soprano,” today people no longer know how to recognize Good and Evil in their leaders or entertainment. When Americans celebrate crooks at the movies they’ll surely vote them into office too.
How to counter this? What sorts of stories can get people to understand that evil actually often appears harmless or even noble to try and deceive you? With films of military tough guys fighting wars in lands most Americans can’t even locate on a map? I have another idea and Sunday night’s Best Picture winner victory speech inspired me.
Over the weekend, Disney Parks announced a ticket price increase for Walt Disney World, effective this week. From the Orlando Sentinel:
Disney’s Magic Kingdom guests will have to fork over a few extra dollars for single-day park admission.
The tickets will cost $99 for adults and children 10 and up.
This $4 price hike keeps Magic Kingdom the most expensive Disney park.
A one-day ticket for Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will go from $90 to $94.
“Our pricing reflects the high quality and breadth of experiences we offer and our ongoing commitment to investing in our parks,” Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius said Saturday. “We offer a variety of ticket options that provide a great value, and find that most guests select multi-day tickets that offer additional savings.”
This increase was the second in less than a year. The company did not announce a hike in prices for Disneyland on Saturday, but insiders expect an increase in the not too distant future.
Many of the Disney fans I’ve spoken with bristled at the higher prices, but it’s worth noting that purchasing multi-day ticket packages can ease the blow a little – and the no expiration option, though expensive, allows guests to save tickets for years at a time.
Over at Theme Park Insider, Robert Niles put the price hike in perspective:
As long as more people keep going to the parks each year, theme parks will keep increasing their prices. Disney World’s attendance is up, so it’s just supply-and-demand for Disney to raise its prices. If you think Disney World’s gotten too expensive, don’t bother complaining. Disney’s looking at attendance numbers when setting prices, not people moaning online.
The fact of the matter is that dyed-in-the-wool Disney fans and other guests who really want to visit Walt Disney World will suck it up and pay the higher ticket prices. Even with the increased admission, Disney World still provides a tremendous value.
Last summer a friend of mine shared with me an article in which writer Jon Negroni explained his insane ideas regarding the connections between the films in the Pixar canon. I analyzed it and shared it here at PJ Lifestyle.
Well, it just so happens that Negroni is back – this time he has discovered the true identity of Andy’s mom in the Toy Story films. And this theory just might make some sense.
Negroni’s idea centers around Andy’s cowboy hat, which looks an awful lot like Woody’s hat, with one exception:
Notice anything weird about the hat? It looks nothing like the hat worn by his favorite toy, Woody. Why wouldn’t Andy wear a hat that was brown?
He makes the observation that we’ve seen the hat in one other place: Toy Story 2. Cowgirl Jessie wears an almost identical hat. The only difference? A white band above the brim. Jessie’s previous owner, Emily, had a similar, child-sized hat.
Emily, Jessie’s previous owner, wears that hat throughout the “When She Loved Me” sequence in Toy Story 2. The sequence clearly takes place in the 60s and 70s, as evidenced by the decoration and qualities of Emily’s things.
Negroni notes that, though Andy’s hat lacks the white band, there is a faded area on the hat exactly where a similar band could have been.
Are you tracking with me here? The perceptive Negroni notes another fascinating link between the first two films. Emily, Jessie’s first owner, looks an awful lot like a younger version of – you guessed it – Andy’s mom!
PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle offers his initial picks, in preparation for a longer, more in-depth list post eventually. Photographed amidst some of the books on history, religion, ideology, culture, and technology on his reading list:
No one in the entertainment industry bears the brunt of ire like Disney. For decades, Walt Disney the man and the company he founded have taken hits from critics, reporters, and historians. On far too many occasions Disney has come up against agents of disinformation trying to tarnish its founder, and the company at large finds itself the target of media hatred. From the antics of its former child stars – as if the studio could be responsible for their personal behavior – to the recent attempts to deface Walt Disney that seem to come from out of nowhere, members of the media try to attach any scandal they can to Disney, manufacturing a type of guilt by association.
Two recent stories in the UK’s Daily Mail signal this trend. In one article, a trio of would be child molesters work for Walt Disney World, while in the other, a Disney voice actor displays his anti-Israel hatred for the world to see. Disney has no direct involvement in either case, yet the authors of both pieces go out of their way to make the Disney connection in the headlines and in opening paragraphs.
Disney fired the Arabic voice of Donald Duck after he published an anti-Israel tweet:
Disney has dropped the voice of Donald Duck in the Middle East after he said Israel should be demolished.
Wael Mansour no longer works for the global corporation – whose founder Walt Disney was famously accused of being racist and anti-semitic – after he tweeted: ‘I truly wish #Israel is demolished, I hate Zionism, I have so much hate inside me with every single child they murder or land they seize’.
He insisted his message was ‘anti-Zionist‘, claiming Israelis were ‘just a bunch of Polish / Ethiopian immigrants roughly 70 years old‘.
Note the dig at Walt in the second paragraph there – more on that later. Mansour sent the initial tweet in August of 2013, and he announced his firing earlier this month, also via Twitter.
He told his 5,000 Twitter followers: ‘Disney decided I am no longer the official voice of Donald Duck in it’s middle-east dubbed cartoons because of an anti Zionism tweet. Proud!’
His total has since rocketed to 30,000 followers.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in November of 2011. It is being republished as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Wait… What’s a 2011 list doing in a 2013 compilation the sensible person asks? My excuse: this article is one of PJ Lifestyle’s biggest hits, in 2013 drawing more readers than many new lists published that year. It’s one of Chris Queen’s first pieces that demonstrated he’d do a fantastic job on the Disney beat for PJ Lifestyle. I’ve given it a a face-lift with some new images for the age of Instagram… Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months.
I’m a major Disney fan — I grew up on Disney, and it has been a key influence throughout my life. From films to music to television series there’s always been some type of Disney entertainment playing in the background. I can’t think of a period in my life without Disney.
Growing up in a family that’s nutty for Disney, Walt Disney World has always been our favorite vacation destination. My parents honeymooned there and they first took me as an infant. By my count, I’ve been to Walt Disney World 25 times, though others in my family think I may have been more times. Since my nieces were born, we’ve tried to make our pilgrimages at least once a year.
I love planning our trips to Walt Disney World almost as much as I love going there. Planning helps us build anticipation and makes our trips that much sweeter. There’s no greater excitement than the expectancy that comes with a Walt Disney World trip.
My whole family have become experts for our friends and acquaintances when it comes to Walt Disney World. People constantly ask us for tips and trip-planning advice. In fact, my sister and I have talked about opening a travel agency specializing in Disney trips.
So without further ado, here’s a list of ten essential Walt Disney World experiences. If you’ve never been or if you haven’t been in a long time, hopefully these tips will help you plan and know what to expect. If you’ve been many times like me, maybe this list can inspire some good-natured debate about what’s best at Walt Disney World.
Next: Heaven for the Disney collector…
As someone who has traveled to Walt Disney World more times than I can count, I’ve seen attractions come and go. Disney closes and changes attractions for many different reasons – some rides become outdated, while others diminish in popularity or become too difficult or expensive to maintain. Other attractions go to make way for new ideas.
The Disney Dining site (a terrific site fill of great tips and fun list posts) recently produced their list of ten Walt Disney World attractions they wish were still around. While I agree with the spirit of their list, I didn’t agree with the placement of some of the attractions on the list, so I gave in to the temptation to create my own list.
Many of these selections stem from sheer nostalgic value, but I really do miss these rides. If you think of other attractions that you think should be on this list, feel free to share in the comments section below.
5. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1971-1994)
The submarine ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea captured my imagination as a kid. In typical Disney fashion, the attraction was set up to immerse guests in believing they were in the depths of the ocean even though they were only a few feet underwater. Disney closed the submarine ride in 1994, but they didn’t fill in the lagoon for a few years. Part of New Fantasyland sits in that space now, so I suppose it’s a worthwhile tradeoff all these years later.
I have three nieces – ages eight, six, and four. Just like with the rest of our family, Disney plays a huge part in the girls’ lives. The girls love the Disney Princesses, and they want to emulate them. They dress like their favorite princesses, draw pictures of them, and pretend to be them. And I’m totally OK with it.
The Disney princesses have come under fire a lot lately, usually from feminist sources. One Canadian photographer composed a series of photos depicting the princesses in a cynical, despairing light, while another encourages moms to “set aside the…Disney Princesses” and dress their daughters as “inspirational” women (like Coco Chanel?).
Unlike these critics, I think the Disney Princesses are great role models for the moral values they teach, and I’m not alone. I recently stumbled on an article Mark Tapson wrote over at Acculturated back in October. In it, he took the words right out of my mouth:
Militant feminism has conditioned parents to reel in horror from the notion that their girls should aspire to be nothing more than fairy-tale damsels in distress, hoping for knights in shining armor to whisk them away from their Cinderella-like drudgery and live happily ever after in ball gowns at the royal castle. But this attitude stems from an unfortunate misperception about the Disney princesses, one that parents would do well to reconsider.
This isn’t the 1950s; American girls now grow up under the assumption that they can be whatever they aspire to. They don’t lack for role models in any profession one can name.
Amidst the vortex of impressions known as social media, some things fail to receive the attention they deserve. When I first saw the above picture of airport security confiscating a toy gun from a cowboy doll, I dismissed it as too absurd to be real. Turns out, as reported by National Review Online, it really happened:
Another gun-wielding toy has had its weapon seized by airport security. After a cowboy sock monkey Rooster Monkburn had his tiny harmless weapon seized last year, a Woody doll underwent similar probe at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Healthrow traveler John Hazen posted a picture of his son’s figurine to the social-media website Reddit on Tuesday showing a security official removing the doll’s gun. “At Heathrow, security just confiscated his ‘weapon,’ keep the world safe boys,” Hazen wrote on the site. The doll does not usually come armed with gun — it was an accessory the family added.
How could anyone be so stupid you ask? In a word, government.
Surely, people make dumb decisions in the market. However, the market quickly checks and balances dumb decisions by subjecting them to the individual judgment of competitors, consumers, and stakeholders – all free to associate or disassociate at will. Government, by contrast, deals in force. It mandates compliance instead of judgment. Ergo, when you tell a security officer to confiscate all guns, he’s going to confiscate ALL guns. Common sense be damned.
Let us imagine a world where government was constrained to its proper role of protecting individual rights. In such a world, functions like airport security would be private, as would airports, air traffic control, and the entire aviation sector. Competitors in that environment would remain incentivized to prevent terrorist attacks and other disasters which would adversely affect their business. It turns out having your customers die in your care does little for your brand.
Sensible security precautions would develop, tempered by the demands of consumers who would vote with their dollars on the best overall solution. No doubt, the security realized in a free market would require some assumption of risk on the part of consumers. But the flip side would be getting your kid’s cowboy doll on-board without triggering a federal case. Market judgment outperforms government edict in the development of best practices every time.
Leave it to Disney to find the coolest way to promote one of its Oscar-nominated films. The studio recently hosted an exclusive evening at a Bel Air jazz club in which the cast of the animated megahit Frozen performed songs from the movie while the composer of the film’s score conducted a small contingent of musicians.
“Apparently Disney didn’t realize they have a concert (hall) named after them so we’re here at this Bat Mitzvah venue,” joked Josh Gad as he kicked off an evening in which the cast of Disney’s Oscar-nominated “Frozen” performed songs from the animated hit live inside Bel Air’s’ Vibrato Grill on Sunday night.
The tribute to the songs and score from the film, which has passed the $900 million mark at the global box office, included Glad performing “In Summer,” while Menzel ended the evening with the Oscar-nominated “Let It Go.”
Kristen Bell, in particular impressed the small gathering with her live performance of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” during which she also sang the younger versions of her character Anna from the film, sung by others on the film’s soundtrack.
Bell was elated on stage to have been able to work on “Frozen” and become a Disney princess, a dream of hers since she was five years old.
Attending the event were “Frozen” co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, the film’s songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar president Ed Catmull, and thesps Darren Criss, Jane Lynch and Ariel Winter.
With Frozen raking in major box office and garnering two Academy Award nominations (Best Animated Feature and Best Song for “Let It Go”), the studio billed the evening as a “love letter” to those who worked on the production. One could also see it as a test run for a forthcoming stage production, which is in the works. The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous, as Hollywood is in the height of Oscar campaigning season. Did the tactic turn the heads of Academy voters? We’ll have to see.
The monorail systems at both American Disney theme parks serve as testimony to Walt Disney’s exciting futuristic vision. Monorails played a central role in the urban utopia of Walt’s Florida Project (and later on at Walt Disney World, of course), but many guests may not know that Disneyland has had its own monorail system since 1959.
Walt had wanted a monorail for the opening day of Disneyland, but his team had a difficult time finding a feasible plan for one. It took a trip to Germany for inspiration to strike.
During a visit to Europe in the Summer of 1957, Disney’s engineering group examined the experimental monorail developed by the Alweg Corporation, near Cologne, Germany. After further investigation, the group reported to Disney that this design appeared to offer the best prospects for economy, stability, and all-around practicality…
Walt asked Alweg to build a monorail for Disneyland, and he tapped Bob Gurr, an Imagineer who had worked on nearly all the other vehicles at the park, to work with the German company. Walt was pleased with the result and greenlit the Disneyland Alweg Monorail System, which opened June 14, 1959.
This “Highway in Sky” featured two trains, each with 3 cabins and the now-iconic bubble top in front. Walt Disney’s hope was not only to provide a scenic journey above Disneyland, but to create a solution for mass transportation needs all around the world.
A Siberian Husky + the soundtrack of Pinocchio:
By now, most people have heard the story of how Walt Disney initially came up with the idea to open a theme park. When he took his daughters on daddy-daughter trips to amusement parks around Los Angeles, he sat on a bench while Diane and Sharon rode rides and lamented the lack of activities for the entire family. The original idea for a small “Mickey Mouse Park” across the street from the Disney Studios has grown to two huge resort destinations in the United States, one in Europe, and two in Asia with a third coming soon.
Aerial photographs show us in a fascinating way how much the American parks have grown over the years. Take Disneyland in Anaheim, California, for instance. The original Disney theme park opened in 1955 on 160 acres near sleepy orange groves and is now 300 acres in the heart of Southern California’s bustling metropolis.
The photo below contrasts Disneyland in 1955 with today. Notice how undeveloped the area around the park was, and compare it to the urban sprawl that even in the late 50s bothered Walt and led him to build Walt Disney World in Florida. You can also see how the parking areas have moved to make room for hotels and additions to the park – including a whole new theme park, Disney’s California Adventure, which we’ll look at next.
Disney initially built Disney’s California Adventure Park on 67 acres at the southern end of the Disneyland property in 2001. The company retooled the park and expanded it six years later. The photo below shows the growth of the park between 2003 and today. While the growth may not look that drastic, you can notice in particular the growth in the southeastern part of the park as well as the major expansion of the Grand Californian Hotel at the center left of both images.
Once upon a time Disney captured my heart. As an artistic little girl, Disney stirred my creative spirit. Sadly, Disney didn’t do that for my children. Then along came Pixar, and picked up the torch–now it’s time to give it back.
Disney has reclaimed my heart with their newest animation Frozen. It’s well on its way into the hearts of an entire generation.
Simply put, Frozen got it right.
Not because it’s nominated for 2 Oscars. In fact, its already scored 18 wins with a running total of 32 nominations. Honestly, that’s nice and I’m thrilled for the creatives behind it. They deserve the recognition. But for us parents, that really doesn’t matter in the least.
Frozen won a place in my family’s Hall of Fame because it does what fairy tales are supposed to do. It reveals real life truths to children through the safety and beauty of a well-crafted story. In Frozen, Disney goes one better by telling it in brilliant animation laced with innocent humor and perfect timing.
Here’s what Rotten Tomatoes will tell you about the film:
Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, “Frozen” is the coolest comedy-adventure ever to hit the big screen. When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction. (c) Disney
Personally, had I read that summary, I most likely wouldn’t have given the film a chance. That description is not the story I saw. While that might be the official summary it looks like it was crafted by someone that only watched movie trailers.
Here’s what I saw.
Just days after Meryl Streep’s brazen attempt to smear the name and legacy of Walt Disney with disinformation, the three time Oscar winner has backup from an unlikely source – Walt’s great niece, Abigail Disney.
That morning, Abigail, whose grandfather Roy O. Disney was Walt’s older brother and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, posted: “I hadn’t heard a word about this Meryl Streep/Walt Disney flap till this morning. Funny how no one mentioned it to me…. Like I was living in some kind of information bubble and nobody wanted to hurt my feelings or something. But if anyone is going to have mixed feelings about a cultural icon, wouldn’t it be a member of the family??? More than anyone else???
“And if you are going to have mixed feelings about a family member (and we all do) take it from me, you really need to be as honest as possible about those feelings, or else you are going to lead yourself into many a blind alley in life!! … Anti-Semite? Check. Misogynist? OF COURSE!! Racist? C’mon he made a film (Jungle Book) about how you should stay ‘with your own kind’ at the height of the fight over segregation! As if the ‘King of the Jungle’ number wasn’t proof enough!! How much more information do you need? But damn, he was hella good at making films and his work has made billions of people happy. There’s no denying it. So there ya go. Mixed feelings up the wazoo.”
(Let’s face it, nothing lends credibility to your statement quite like the use of hella and wazoo.) But she wasn’t done.
Abigail posted again 10 hours later: “I feel I have to clarify. I LOVED what Meryl Streep said. I know he was a man of his times and I can forgive him, but Saving Mr Banks was a brazen attempt by the company to make a saint out of the man. A devil he was not. Nor an angel. That’s the point and if you read ALL her remarks you’ll know that’s exactly what she was getting at. She said exactly what I said about how in spite of it all, his vision was amazing and he brought joy to so many around the world. So I say Brava Meryl. I don’t believe in bashing for bashing’s sake but whenever we see a misplaced attempt at hagiography we need to speak our minds!”
Back in the summer, I wrote about the rumors that Disney has plans in the works for a Star Wars-themed land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So far, we haven’t seen anything more substantive than those rumors. But since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, fans and theme park experts alike have speculated how the company would fold its new acquisition into the theme parks. Now, rumors have begun to swirl that Disney is planning a rehab of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland influenced by the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII.
The typically reliable MiceChat recently offered up a full update on Disneyland’s traffic numbers during the Christmas season (up!) and the park’s plans for the future. For those who like change, there’s apparently good news. Some of it is definitely coming, but it may not happen as quickly or be as drastic as Star Wars fans may have hoped. On the bright side, however, much of it may involve specific details from Episode VII, as the Disneyland crew recently was given a rundown on the plot and new characters that will be introduced to incorporate into their designs.
Apparently, the Tomorrowland remodel has been split into two phases… The first phase will involve relatively simple cosmetic alterations. The Astro Orbitor, [sic] that giant eyesore little kid’s ride pictured above, will be ripped out, along with the deserted track from People Mover. The buildings will also all be redone to look like a giant space port. Then, down the road, phase two will involve scrapping Autopia and replacing it with a speeder bike ride, putting some kind of spaceship walk through on the People Mover track, installing a new Astro Orbitor [sic] closer to Space Mountain and more, all positioned in the backhalf of Tomorrowland.
For Star Wars fans, this rumor (sorry, regardless of the source, it’s still just hearsay) could generate some excitement, and hopefully it will lead to changes at Walt Disney World as well – whether the changes be to Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom or to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Adding a long popular franchise that just happens to be part of the Disney family into the parks is a wise move for both the creatives and the business people.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the comments at the end of the article, where commenters complained that a Star Wars patina is a bad addition to Tomorrowland, since the films take place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Of course, these folks have lost sight of the fact that Tomorrowland at both American parks isn’t exactly futuristic today. Imagineers have given Tomorrowland in both California and Florida – along with portions of Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea – a charming retro-futuristic vibe, influenced by science fiction from Old Hollywood as well as the works of Jules Verne. Art Deco flourishes abound throughout both lands, and other touches show a decided 20th century sense of style. It’s not strictly futuristic, but it is a distinct feel for these lands.
The bottom line is that Disney knows what it’s doing. The success of the Star Tours attraction and the Star Wars Weekends events demonstrate that Disney’s partnership with Lucasfilm paid off handsomely long before Disney bought the studio. I can’t help but believe that adding a bit of Star Wars influence to Tomorrowland (and a Star Wars Land at Hollywood Studios – please, please, please) can pay off even more.
Meryl Streep has proven once and for all that she should stick to acting and stay away from speechifying.
This week at the awards for the National Board of Review, the organizers tapped Streep to give an award to Emma Thompson for her portrayal of P. L. Travers in the delightful Saving Mr. Banks. Instead of merely lauding Thompson for her masterful performance, Streep chose to aim daggers at the memory of Walt Disney, whom Tom Hanks portrayed in the film. Streep managed to trot out all the old saws of disinformation against Disney:
Disney’s reputation has long been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, but Streep focused most of her attention on Disney’s treatment of women, calling the legendary impresario a “gender bigot” and quoting longtime Disney animator Ward Kimball, who said his boss “didn’t trust women or cats.”
Streep also accused Disney of supporting “an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group,” believed to be a reference to the Motion Picture Alliance, and quoted a letter purportedly written by Disney’s company to an aspiring female animator which read, in part “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.”
Of course the antisemitism charge has been repeated over and over by the Left. In Streep’s case, if she is referring to the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, she is sadly mistaken. That organization consisted of conservatives in Hollywood who were committed to stamping out Communist influence and, well, preserving American ideals.
Of all the food options available at Disney Parks, many guests swear by the Jumbo Turkey Legs. I’ve never had one myself, but according to some guests, the Turkey Legs are a sure bet for a savory treat.
Like other famous Disney Parks snacks – the Dole Whip and the Mickey Ice Cream Bars – the Turkey Legs have spawned a merchandise industry all their own. The Turkey Legs made their debut in the late 1980s and have increased in popularity over the years – so much, in fact, that the New York Times featured the treats in a recent front page article.
Disney parks are about selling memories, and a spokeswoman, Angela Bliss, noted that foods like turkey legs play “an integral part in the storytelling.” For instance, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, they have been sold as “dinosaur bones.”
Disney is also in the business of making money, of course, and a jumbo turkey leg sells for up to $11.79.
Naturally, something that so many guests enjoy is going to generate some controversy. On one side, Disney executives fear that the Jumbo Turkey Legs steer guests away from more healthy snack options. (Because we all spend our vacations seeking out health food.)
Still, some executives at Disney’s corporate offices worry that the craze is starting to obscure their efforts to improve overall food offerings and nudge customers toward healthier items. Of the 12 million children’s meals Disney serves annually, for instance, more than 50 percent now come with milk, juice or water instead of soda. Disney has also sharply reduced salt in its children’s meals.
Each leg is roughly 720 calories with 36 grams of fat, according to a supplier, Yoakum Packing.
On the other hand (or leg, if you prefer), some poultry industry watchdogs and other assorted killjoys have expressed their concern about the sheer size of the Turkey Legs. In a response to the Times piece, Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns wrote:
Why are these Disney theme park turkey legs so big? Turkeys have been artificially bred to grow so large that their legs, big as they are, cannot support their body weight.
The disability of turkeys bred for the meat industry is well documented in the scientific poultry literature.
Clearly Ms. Davis didn’t read the whole article, because if she had, she would have read that the legs come from tom turkeys, which are much larger than the hens we see around our Thanksgiving tables.
Despite the frenzy, it looks like Jumbo Turkey Legs are here to stay at Disney Parks. Any item that sells in the millions (Disney projected that they would sell two million of them in 2013) is bound to withstand controversy.
Saving Mr. Banks is the movie version of how the (apparently awful) P.L. Travers gave Walt Disney and his writers holy hell before she would allow them to turn her Mary Poppins novels into a film. It’s a sentimental re-invention of the true story, but it works. Sweet, good-natured, gentle and uplifting, the movie basically makes the argument that all of life should be rewritten as a Disney musical. There’s some truth to this, and the film gets at it.
As with so many films this year, the performances are unbelievably great. Emma Thompson humanizes Travers — no small thing, given her character. Colin Farrell is touching as her disastrously alcoholic father. And Paul Giamatti is absolutely wonderful in the role of her lovable chauffeur.
But after watching this and Captain Phillips in short order, I have to say: Tom Hanks may be the greatest actor/movie star of his generation. He takes the role of Walt Disney and goes right to the heart of the American self-made man. Upbeat but hardboiled, generous but also relentless, Hanks’ Disney has a deep understanding of the sources of his own success and he uses that understanding to bring others to success as well. Optimistic without being blind, he can reflect on his pain at the same time he celebrates his achievement. It may be fair to say the Disney Corporation is hagiographizing its founder here — okay. But Hanks does something so deep with the character it becomes a comment on America itself — a comment that is positive without being sentimental or dishonest. It’s a case of an American treasure portraying an American treasure.
I won’t argue that this is a great film, but it’s good heartfelt entertainment with wonderful performances. Nice holiday- or even post-holiday viewing.
Very few Mary Poppins fans would believe that her creator, P.L. Travers, was more anally retentive than Doc Martin. But, as Saving Mr. Banks reveals, Walt Disney took on an uphill battle when he promised his daughters he’d bring one of their favorite fictional characters onto the silver screen.
I walked into Saving Mr. Banks fearful that it would be dripping with the kind of cheery sappiness that grows less and less appealing as one makes the journey from childhood to full-fledged, reality-bound adulthood. Instead, I found myself surrounded by adults whose love for Mary Poppins still remained despite the stress of relentless responsibilities. Indeed, as the theater lights dimmed, one older man bearing a long white beard walked in wearing the longest Santa cap I’d ever seen. Apparently, even St. Nick longs to be a kid again.
The film is as much a biopic of the early life of P.L. Travers (real name: Pamela Goff) as it is a chronicle of the struggle to bring Mary Poppins to life on the screen. The daughter of a brilliant father, Travers Goff, who relied on alcohol to poorly negotiate his imagination with the boring reality of being a bank manager, Travers grew up in the Australian countryside in the early 1900s. The eldest of three daughters, Travers inherited her father’s creative spirit, admired him as a role model, and eventually would carry the guilt of his inevitable demise with her well into her adult life.
Unknowingly, the authors of the screenplay plan to portray Mr. Banks, the patriarch of the Mary Poppins tale, as the bad guy of the picture. It takes Mrs. Travers to explain to the Disney writers that Mary Poppins isn’t there to save the children; she is there to save Mr. Banks. And just when you think the screenplay will dive into sentimentality, with a warm and friendly hug from Mickey Mouse’s dad, it does not. In fact, it does just the opposite. As Disney struggles to relate to Travers, he relates stories of his own tough childhood. In doing so, he explains the freedom imagination can bring to a troubled soul.
Saving Mr. Banks opens nationwide today, and for the first time Disney has allowed an actor to portray Walt Disney. It’s the role of a lifetime, even for an iconic actor like Tom Hanks, and he told an audience at the Los Angeles Times’ Envelope Screening Series how he landed this plum part:
“I had all these people telling me that I was going to get a call from Bob Iger,” Hanks said. “And then one day the phone rang, and they said, ‘Yes, Bob Iger for Tom Hanks.’ And I said, ‘Yes, speaking. Go ahead and put him on.’ [And they said,] ‘One moment, please.’ ” [Hanks then hummed Iger's hold music: "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."]
After exchanging pleasantries, Hanks said, Iger’s pitch went something like this, taking on a mile-a-minute monotone:
“Oh, great. How are you, how are the kids, how’s lovely Rita? Give her my best, will you? … Hey, listen, Tom: If you could help us out here, we’ve got a tough position here. A movie came in based on Walt Disney — we didn’t develop it — and we feel as though we sort of have to make this thing. We can’t just let it go because somebody else would make it, and then what kind of schmucks are we that somebody else makes a Walt Disney movie? And if we just shut it down, then we’re going to come off as the evil version of Walt Disney, and we certainly don’t want that happening. So we’re in kind of a tough position here; we don’t know what really to do about it. It’s a lovely script, we’re all in favor, but if there’s any way at all you could just come in — it’d be nice if somebody famous played somebody famous. You know how that is. So if you’d take a look at it and just let me know if you’re interested in doing it, I’d really appreciate it.”
Hanks didn’t need much more convincing. “And that’s how I came to play Walt Disney,” he said.