In the words of Walt Disney, "If you can dream it, you can do it." This is the foundation he based his magical empire on. With an imagination and the funds from an insurance policy, he took his dream and made the Disney name one of the most well known names worldwide. Disney, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other popular characters are as much of our culture in the entertainment industry as McDonalds and Burger King are for the restaurant industry. The presence of the Disney Corporation has affected our culture both locally and abroad. Ideas are a major contributing factor in the identification of a culture.
Walt Disney had a vision. It was a vision of adults and children alike sharing the joys of innocence and the excitement of the future. In his dedication speech for Disneyland in 1955, Walt said (Adam, 2003), "To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past... and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.
Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world." To this day, these beliefs are still evident within the Disney theme parks. As a person walks through the magical gates, they become transformed into a child who will run up and give Mickey Mouse a hug or throw their hands in the air during the plunge on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Parents and grandparents introduce children to Disney World or Disneyland in an effort to pass on the memories of their youth. Phrases like "I remember when I came here" or "I used to love this when I was a kid" roll off the tongues of adults as they relive the memories of their youth. The traditions created by these experiences are an integral part of our culture.
The presence of the Walt Disney Corp. has affected the culture of many overseas countries. For many years now, tourists have flocked to the United States to experience the enchantment of the Disney parks. They are able to relay these experiences to friends and family back in their homeland. Many take souvenirs of overstuffed characters or printed T-shirts as mementos of their vacation. They share dozens of pictures taken as a way to preserve the memories.
For so many years, the cultures and traditions of Disney were relayed only by those fortunate to travel. Recently, Disney has expanded into Paris with Disneyland Resort Paris (formerly known as Euro Disney) and Tokyo Disney. These expansions opened the world of Disney for many people who were unable to afford to travel to the United States. For many countries, especially in the developing world, the ever-growing presence of the US culture is a blessing. One Chinese couple describes the opening of the newest Disney Park, Hong Kong Disneyland, opening in 2005, as "being brilliant." This excited couple has dreamed of a Disney vacation but never thought they'd be able to afford it. Now they will be able to live the dream with a short train ride.
(Weber, 2002). A lot of people feel the Disney presence in such countries as a sign of progress, a symbol of wealth and freedom, and happier, less volatile times. The dreams and magic of Disney are now within their reach. Disney has affected the media culture as well. In November of 1928, Disney debuted Mickey Mouse and his animated significant other, Minnie Mouse, and changed the world of animation forever. Instantly, the audience fell in love with the pair.
Mickey Mouse was so popular that over one million children joined the original Mickey Mouse club between 1929 and 1932 (A Little About Mickey). After World War II, America looked to Disney for an outlet. Movies like Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty, took them to a world of make believe, enchantment, dreams and peace. Disney movies from the past couple of decades have been created to entertain adult audiences as well. Subtle humor hidden within the movies keeps adult's attention while the children are able to enjoy characters that enhance imagination and creativity.
For many years, families have been enjoying weekend matinees and lazy afternoons watching reruns of their favorite videos creating traditions and memories. But, not all is happy on the streets of Disney. There are certain focus groups that have targeted Disney as having negative impacts on our culture today. Kathy Maio (1998) a feminist journalist, feels Disney depicts their female characters in a demeaning, sexist way. For example, she writes, "Snow White is young, pretty, virginal, sweet-natured and obedient.
She doesn't mind housework because she is sure that a rich young man will soon come and take her away. This is typical of Disney's movies. Young women are naturally happy home-makers; they wait until a man comes along to give them life." Maio makes reference the movie about Ariel, the pretty little mermaid and the answer to all her dreams is to get her man. Ariel will do anything to make the prince fall in love with her. She even gives up her voice so that she can have legs. Maio feels the message this movie gives is for young girls to keep quiet and beautiful and they too will get a man.
There are even problems when the heroine of the story is a female, as in Mulan. Maio writes that Mulan's commanding officer is a male and in the end, he and Mulan get married thus giving the impression that men still have power over females and the best thing that can ever happen to them is to marry the hero and live happily ever after. Some view the expansion of the theme parks into other countries as a threat to cultural traditions and the countries sense of identity. Weber (2002) states, "For decades now, intellectuals in Europe have lamented the Americanization of their societies. Euro Disney, now known as Disneyland Paris, was once famously denounced by the French theater director Ariane Mnouchkine as a 'cultural Chernobyl.' In the developing world, cultural imperialism has long been seen as the handmaiden of political domination, another way for strong countries to take advantage of the weak.
Even champions of globalization increasingly fret that it may damage or destroy the diversity that makes the human race so fascinating, leaving nothing but homogenized, least-common-denominator forms of creativity. In the wake of September 11, there is a new urgency to these concerns. The fury of the terrorists - and of the alarming number of people around the world who viewed the attacks as a deserved comeuppance for an arrogant, out-of-control superpower - is sparked in part by a sense that America is imposing its lifestyle on countries that don't want it. And one needn't condone mass murder to believe that a new world order that leaves every place on the globe looking like a California strip mall will make us all poorer." L This powerful statement is felt by many who oppose the expansion of Disney across the borders of the United States seas. The affects that Disney has had on our culture are obvious. Disney represents certain ideas: fun, family, personal freedom, optimism about life and about the future, and confidence that good will triumph over evil.
Over the years, as Disney has expanded, the culture that it promotes has changed but the same basic principles stand true. Walt Disney wanted to inspire people to imagine and dream.