Post-Election OMG

unnamedI did finish the Lego Disney castle awhile ago, but the election (the feverish last couple weeks leading up to it and the time since) has moved my attention elsewhere. I’ve spent–literally–every night since Halloween playing Lego: Batman on my Xbox. Well, specifically #2 and #3. #2 is cool because it gives you an opportunity to explore Gotham, and #3 is interesting because it’s more about the wider DC canon (especially Green Lantern) than it is about Batman. For the record, the first Lego: Batman is my gold standard video game by which I measure all others, even the classic games of my childhood Atari and Nintendo days. Whoever had the brilliant idea of having a the player go through a Batman adventure only to unlock and go through the same adventure from the perspective of the villain is totally brilliant.

There’s a lot of conversation that needs to happen about this election. Not so much the “Why the fuck did this happen” conversation but more the “what can we do to make things better?” This election, whether you supported Trump or Hillary, was an exercise in the American Shadow, the nightmarish underbelly of the American Dream. It’s not just our constitution and civil liberties in jeopardy–but the entire fabric of the American myth.

When I was writing my dissertation, I was stuck on the chapter about New Orleans Square. I knew I was going to write about pirates, ghosts, and shadow, but I couldn’t quite figure out why or how. I think I spent more time on this chapter than I did on the rest of the dissertation.

One day, it struck me. I was watching the Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland collection about space and the atom, and the answer hit me in the face as though it had been staring at me the whole time. The Cold War. I had the history of the colonies, the frontier, and the foundations of American utopianism, but I didn’t have the why Disneyland now answer. The Cold War. The heart of the modern American Dream dates back to the mass consumerism of the Great Depression, but the stress, the shadow, the Doubt…that stems from the Cold War.

I was raised as a privileged person. Part of that privilege was the belief that the Cold War was a thing of the past. Yet, somehow, I knew it wasn’t. I intuited that we’d replaced Communism with Terrorism and that we weren’t done with the Shadow. Which is why the chapter was called: The Shadow of Doubt.

Going through this election was a super-impossible challenge. The results of it still have me reeling. It’s difficult to know what needs to be done next, but I suspect the answer lies in the fact that we need to start rewriting the myth. Define the American Dream on the utopian principles that inspired the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) rather than on our ability to have stuff. Our privilege.

It’s not an easy proposition, and I know that. So that’s why I’m playing Batman.

Meanwhile, check out my book, available on Amazon.com.

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I wrote a book!

I’m a little late to my own party (such is the life of an adjunct teaching new curriculum during the summer), but remember that dissertation thingy I wrote? I made it into a book and it’s available for your purchasing pleasure!

walts utopiaHere are a few links where you can find it:

McFarland Books – This is the publisher

Amazon.com – This is one of my favorite online booksellers because of their convenience

Barnes and Noble – Because why not?

No public events are currently scheduled, but I’ll make sure I post something should they appear. I don’t necessarily have the resources to travel far and wide, but I’m open to any suggestions and invitations.

Here’s the blurb from the back:

The “Happiest Place on Earth” opened in 1955 during a trying time in American life–the Cold War. Disneyland was envisioned as a utopian resort where families could play together and escape the tension of the “real world.” Since its construction, the park has continually been updated to reflect changing American culture.

The park’s themed features are based on familiar Disney stories and American history and folklore. They reflect the hopes of a society trying to understand itself in the wake of World War II. This book takes a fresh look at the park, analyzing its cultural narrative by looking beyond consumerism and corporate marketing to how Disney helped America cope during the Cold War and beyond.

I did want to take a moment to comment on the writing process, since that’s what this blog has been mostly about for some time, right? I admire those people who can seemingly *just write a book.* With the academic research process being what it is, I’m amazed at people who seem to publish a new book every year or two. I started my dissertation in Fall 2010, and it only became book-worthy at the end of 2014, and that was with the benefit of taking a couple summers off from teaching. More interestingly, the final push to turn the dissertation into a book involved adding some new content. At the time I was writing this new content, most of my books were in storage, so I had to swim those waters with unfamiliar tools. But somehow I did it, and I gave my dissertation-child to the world.

So, here it is, dear public. The culmination of everything this blog has been about for the last 5 years. I have a few Next Projects in mind, all Disney myth related. I even have them outlined. Stay tuned, all two of you who still follow this blog. More to come!

Themed Spaces and AstroWorld

I’m in the early phase of an awesome post-doc research opportunity that I’m calling my Epic German Adventure. The project is researching theme parks (I’m leaning strongly toward a Disney focus–imagine that), postmodernism, temporality, and aesthetics. And it’s funded for three years. So basically, I have a three year subsidy to continue my dissertation research and write “The Second Book.” A totally groovy opportunity.

My colleagues–my new Deutsche Besties–have turned me onto a scholar named Scott Lukas. They speak of him with awe; I wish I’d known of him when I was writing my dissertation. He seems like Kind of a Big Deal. I’ll meet him this September, and maybe join the Scott Lukas fan club.  What makes his work stand out is that he, a cultural anthropologist, writes about theme parks and themed spaces with an ethnographer’s eye (a refreshing validation to my own perspective). When he was studying at Rice University, he had a gig working at Six Flags AstroWorld as a trainer.

So I figured I should find out what this guy is all about. I took a nice little field trip up to the University of Massachusetts library (a building that reminds me of Louis Sachar’s book, Sideways Stories of Wayside School) and picked up a copy of The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self. This is an edited volume that looks at themed spaces of varying sorts around the world. I’m going to confess that I haven’t read the whole volume yet. This is one of those aggravating books in which I find myself underlining every other paragraph and wanting to make lots of commentary in the margins, except that this is a library book, so I have to conduct these thought exercises in my notebook. I shouldn’t complain, though. Too many books don’t invite conversation, and I am very glad to be able to interact with this book at all.

Anyway, as one might imagine, I’m very Disney-centric when it comes to the kind of theming I’m looking for in a theme park. Six Flags parks, as a rule, tend to fall short of my very high expectations. So when Lukas writes fondly about AstroWorld, I question what AstroWorld he’s writing about. See, his tenure as a trainer overlapped with part of my angsty teenage years, growing up in Suburban Houston, and spending a very limited amount of my summer vacation at AstroWorld. Back then, ticket prices weren’t heinous, and I drank enough Dr. Pepper or Coca-Cola to guarantee cheaper ticket prices. My limited time at AstroWorld comes from a limited amount of interest and a vehement loathing of Houston summers.

For one thing, I don’t remember the themed boundaries that he describes. Sure, I remember that there were areas where there was more of one thing or another, but not a clear container to the theming. Perhaps one reason for this is that there were too many “lands” for the space available. It’s totally possible to pull off seven themed lands in a single park, but it takes skill to not make them so small as to be inconsequential or so overwhelming that the guest has a bad time. Disneyland in Anaheim has eight lands in a little more space. The big difference is that Disney doesn’t pack it’s theme park with a bunch of roller coasters, so many that it’s difficult to escape the screams and coaster rattles.

AstroWorld mid 1990s
AstroWorld mid 1990s

You can observe from the AstroWorld map that the coasters defined the berm of the park. They were the lure. They were what you could see as you rounded the bend on 610, competing for skyline with the Astrodome in what was called the AstroDomain.

Really Old Photo of the AstroDomain
Really Old Photo of the AstroDomain

The problem with defining the berm with roller coasters is that a) they don’t close the theme park off from the rest of the world, but more importantly b) already from the outset they establish a tone for the park as one of fast-paced movement. Disney’s berm is built up almost like a fortress wall that is designed to keep the outside world out of the park, because the outside world is full of enough of its own issues–let the park be a place of fun.

Plus, most of the roller coasters, though they looked cool, completely freaked me out. The Texas Cyclone was my favorite:

And though the Ultra Twister looked cool, I could never convince myself to go on it:

Excalibur was my first coaster ever:

But I never could convince anyone to go on XLR8 with me:

With these coasters, you’ll notice that you can see more than just the park. Because of their position on the berm, you can see Houston. It breaks the theme. No, I’m going to rephrase that–it breaks the sacredness of the space. It’s the ability to completely encapsulate me that I expect from a theme park, and it’s the fact that Six Flags fails in this detail that keeps me from regularly visiting those parks. That and this year Six Flags has developed some record-breaking doozies of death-defying rides that my inner roller-coward just wants to stay home.

As a kid, I was afraid of roller coasters, and never really had the opportunity to get over it. I think it has more to do with people telling me I’d lose my glasses if I didn’t secure them before going on the coaster, and the very real problem of not being able to see any of the sights without my glasses. One of the reasons I like Disney coasters like Space Mountain or Big Thunder Railroad is that I know my glasses will stay on without granny librarian strings to hold them in place. I can see the coaster’s narrative this way, enhancing my experience. Perhaps this is why I trust Disney so much, and not so much the other guys.

To me, the track of the coaster is a narrative, and our ride vehicle is our opportunity to read it. So I’m actually excited about the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World, and I’ll close with that video. I’m not sure why other theme parks struggle with coaster narrative so much. This one fuses a coaster narrative with my favorite attraction format, the “dark ride.”

Why Mr. Banks Needed Saving

*This post contains minor spoilers about the film, Saving Mr. Banks, but I question if they count as spoilers since the historical events in the film are well-documented in many Walt Disney biographies or Disney histories.*
*and there are some spoilers about Mary Poppins, but I would like to pretend that everyone has seen that film in this day and age.*

My friend in her review of Oz Great and Powerful observed that Disney has been rewriting its origin myths lately. Indeed, they invested gobs into a redo of Disneyland California Adventure to theme the park to the Los Angeles of Walt’s arrival. When I initially saw the trailers for Saving Mr. Banks, I saw her observation in action to a new level. Here is the first bio-pic of Walt Disney, highlighting a very specific time and turning point in Disney History–the production meetings with P.L. Travers to secure the rights to Mary Poppins.

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Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney films. Heck, it may possibly be one of my favorite films of All Time. I found solace in Mary’s guidance when my mother was first hospitalized for her COPD. I still to this day think of the Denver capitol building when I hear “Feed the Birds.” Whenever I feel a little blue, Mary Poppins is one of my cheer-up films. I have such intimacy with the film that I refuse to see it on stage…So I can understand why Mrs. Travers would hesitate to allow Disney to make the film.

Here’s the trailer:

I have always been aware that Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks’ to help put a family back together, which also involves helping Mr. Banks appreciate his family, not just his well-ordered life. Mrs. Banks is a secret suffragette, dividing her time between her husband, children, and her cause. Sometimes she can get overwhelmed, as when she comes home from the meeting and doesn’t initially hear Katie Nanna’s resignation, but she quickly comes around. The children just want to be loved.

There are two distinct storylines, beautifully interwoven in Saving Mr. Banks: Travers’ memories of her childhood at a particularly difficult time and her visit to Disney to negotiate how the film will be made. The underlying theme of the film appears to address the classic Freudian Daddy Issue. The film portrays Travers Goff, Mrs. Travers’ father, as kind and loving, but drunk and falling apart. The young Travers loves her father completely, even defying her mother to get him booze. We see Mrs. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) in the middle of the film meltdown during a production meeting because she feels they are making Mr. Banks into this cruel father who doesn’t even mend the kite (inspiring the “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” sequence, borrowed also from the Sherman Brothers’ relationship with their father). Walt (Tom Hanks) convinces her to give him the rights when he flies to London and explains his own father relationship and that Mary Poppins is actually about saving Mr. Banks.

Who is Mr. Banks but that hyperrational piece of all of us who just needs some play in his life? Regardless of the claim that Walt wanted the rights because of a promise to his daughters, the movie of Mary Poppins reminds us to just stop and play, or fly a kite or just love to laugh. Much of Disney reflects the need for play, ever more so following the opening of Disneyland. Play is the spoonful of medicine, and with the total themed experience of the park, we’re allowed to shut out the outside world and be in the land of Dream. That we can do it consciously and physically is what makes it so potent, provided we are willing to release ourselves to it, captured beautifully in Travers’ (Emma Thompson) hesitation to go to the park, much less ride the carousel.

The business about the origin story? Mary Poppins ushered in a new era for the Disney studio, allowing it to grow and expand in a way it hadn’t done since the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It gave the studio the money to continue developing films and to be able to devote itself to the World’s Fair attractions, expanding Disneyland, and dreaming about the Florida Project. In other words, Mary Poppins made possible the only Disney I and many others know–the Legacy that was able to survive Walt’s death.

Sure, there were some liberties taken in this film (Saving Mr. Banks), some of which may even include the storyline of Travers’ childhood (I know nothing about her). But the film does stay true to the spirit of Poppins and to the spirit of Disney. Travers (Emma Thompson) remarks to Walt, “You mean, Disney didn’t make man in his own image?” Well, no, but those of us who willingly go for the Disney dream share the same attributes: we love to laugh, we happily will fly a kite, and we know how to invest our tuppance.

Random Thought: Does Disneyland have a bomb shelter?

Disneyland opened in 1955, on the early end of the Cold War, but still during the period of Nuclear Fear. So I got to thinking, does Disneyland have a fallout shelter and where would it be? 20131216-105823.jpg

A quick Google didn’t yield any definitive answers. Disneyland wasn’t built with the super tunnel system that Walt Disney World has (which apparently will protect you during a nuclear attack). Also WDW may have a bona fide shelter under the Main Street Train Station.

This speaks, I think, to the illusion that Disneyland is not only the happiest place on earth, but also the safest. As we walk through the entry tunnels, we are greeted with a sign that reads, “Here you leave the world of today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” This hyperrealistic constructed world claims to take us out of time, away from real world worries. There are reported cases (see any of David Koenig’s books) of people getting so caught up in the illusion that they do something reckless, and thanks to Disney’s PR and law teams, any injury is quickly covered up. Koenig also writes about violent acts at Disneyland, easily occurring because people lower their guard at Disneyland. It’s a safe place.

So why not extend this illusion to nuclear attack? No one wants to go to Disneyland and think about nuclear bombs. In Tomorrowland, there used to be attractions celebrating nuclear energy used to make life easier, not destructive.

I’ve decided that the safest place at Disneyland, in the event of nuclear attack, is the Haunted Mansion. The stretching room is actually an elevator that takes you underground and the hallway to the Doom Buggies takes you outside the berm. Perfect place. And the Grim Grinning Ghosts are good company. Why not Pirates of the Caribbean? It’s also underground. Simple answer. The water, that recognizably smelly water, will become radiated. If there’s a secret room down there (the room where Walt’s body isn’t), maybe that’s the safest, but it doesn’t have the capacity.

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Song of the South

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the gone-but-not-forgotten Disney film, The Song of the South. There are a couple reasons for this:

One–I was watching some of the collections in the Walt Disney Treasures series a while back, and some of the special features open with a disclaimer from Leonard Maltin about how the cartoons were made in a different cultural environment. Rather than bury the cartoons, Maltin encourages viewers to use them as gateways to conversation about changes in American culture.

Two–I’ve been reading Jim Korkis’s book, Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? and Other Forbidden Disney Stories.

I’ll be among the first to admit that I tend to see the world through Disney-colored glasses (if I can coin a phrase), but I struggle to see why this film should be so marred in controversy, and in light of some of the other “questionable” cartoons collected in the Walt Disney Treasures, I don’t see why the film can’t be distributed for educational purposes at the very least.

It’s a beautiful film, and one that is recognized for its technical achievements. It was the Disney studio’s first major foray into live action production, and it was the first film that seemlessly blends together technicolor film and animation, paving the way for Mary Poppins and other films.

Its inherent flaw is that The Song of the South doesn’t make clear what time period it is portraying, which leads people to assume that it’s about happy slaves, which isn’t historically accurate. The film is actually set during the Reconstruction and the African Americans who work on the plantation (perhaps a bit of an anachronism) are all free. It is difficult to faithfully capture the heart of Harris’ stories without taking a few CYA measure to make sure the film will be well-received. Korkis suggests (and I have to agree with him) that this major flaw is the result of Walt not taking into consideration that people will take a live-action film as a real, bonafide, authentic portrayal of the time period and neglected to take appropriate measures.

Iger has said that Disney won’t ever rerelease the film in the US. Perhaps his future replacement will reconsider, given that, again according to Korkis, there’s an online petition that already has “tens of thousands of signatures.” Clearly, there is an interest.

So let me just come out and say it, having seen the film–it’s not a racist film. There is no harm being portrayed about any group of people in the entire film. If we can get over the politics and down to the heart of the film, it’s one of the most integrated films of the era. A lot can be learned about relationships from a close read of the film. Korkis poses the argument that part of the reason for the controversy comes in response to the first draft of the film’s screenplay–one that was actually racist–and not from a single viewing of the final product (the film did receive mixed reviews, probably because the seed of distaste had already been planted–I question the objectivity of these reviews).

The controversy of the film is also indicative of the era of the film’s release. Perhaps it’s time to consider rethinking the controversy in the interest of furthering interest in Disney history? After all, in the Disneyfied versions of stories, kids are going to remember Splash Mountain before they remember The Song of the South or any of Harris’s original stories.

 

Disneyland as Sacred Landscape

This month’s Myth Café prompt is to consider a sacred landscape either around us or that we have visited. The catch to the prompt is that it is supposed to be a natural landscape. Because if it were just any old landscape, then I could write about Disneyland and call it a day. I’ve been sitting on this question now for a few weeks, and realize that I need to tackle this prompt before the end of the month. So, here it is: Disneyland as Sacred Landscape.

The first question to the validity of this claim lies in the word “sacred,” which evokes a particular connotation in scholars depending on how they relate to sacred traditions. My inner post-modernist holds the opinion that there are some definitions (okay, many definitions) of terms that have gotten outmoded in the modern American world. “Sacred” is one of them. The traditional definition is specific: that to be “sacred” something has to have a divine/religious connotation, and that nothing outside of this connotation can be ascribed with “sacred” meaning. But there are some situations that manifest and are ascribed as “sacred” by the person holding the experience. This understanding of “sacred” is not a generic blanket term for all experiences, but is housed entirely in the individual experience.

Going a step further, there are certain experiences of the numinous that some people claim to have from non-religious modes of the “sacred.” This does not diminish the experience as something mis-guided, etc. Rather, it begs a redefinition of terms to acknowledge the individual experience.

Disneyland is one such place that evokes a sense of the sacred” in some people. You can see it in their eyes and in the reverence they hold for the place, drinking up all of its offerings, not just running from shop to attraction to shop to lunch (i.e., consuming the park). Sure, they are sometimes hard to find in a typical Disneyland visit, when everyone in the immediate vicinity is tired, hot, thirsty, and looking overall grumpy. It’s easy to claim that no one is happy in Disneyland, because so many children are crying and so many adults are yelling at each other or their kids. But for every 10 unhappy families, you can find a couple or two (perhaps they have kids) who are drinking the environment of Disneyland as though they were drinking from the Cup of Life. A churro becomes a sacrament. The fireworks becomes a display of the gods.

But there is nothing natural about Disneyland. In fact, almost the entire landscape is unnatural – either constructed or imported from regions beyond Southern California. I attempt to allude to the unnaturalness of Disneyland in this essay, while also arguing that it is through this unnaturalness that the experience is to be had:

Tamara Andrews suggests a new perspective of  nature mythology that is especially apropos to a discussion of psyche and nature as they play out at Disneyland: “Most people are familiar with the phenomenon of the mirage, an illusion that appears where images are displaced or distorted under specific atmospheric conditions. The mind’s eye takes over. Perhaps such vision is what is necessary to understand nature mythology from a modern perspective” (xiii). The Disney park is not itself an illusion, but that design of the park at play with the senses is. Through the efforts of the Imagineers, Disney’s design engineers, it sometimes appears as though magic really does happen, that birds can talk and sing, or that a little fairy dust can make one fly to Never Land. It is, thus, necessary to read Disneyland as a fairy tale, with all of its psychological implications, not just as an abomination of nature, as critics are wont to proclaim. Disneyland may embody capitalism, but the park is a playground for the imagination. It allows people to interact with the stories and characters they love, and thus embody the closest thing to a mythological canon American has to offer, á la fairy tales and the Western frontier.

The new directions that myth is taking appears to be pointing us toward the importance of the individual experience in conjunction with the collective. Discourse for the last 100 years (at least) has explored these as unique from each other, but really they work in symbiosis. What happens in the collective shapes the individual, who then contributes to the collective. So to write off something that a small percentage of the population holds, perhaps unconsciously, as sacred, is to overlook both the impact of that experience and what is has to suggest about the collective that such an experience could exist. On the collective level, Disneyland bespeaks to America’s consumerist behavior. On the individual level, Disneyland offers an outlet for domestic pilgrimage and ritual, celebrating not a god – one of the few sacred landscapes to do so – not even celebrating a mouse. Disneyland celebrates the American Dream, from Manifest Destiny to Innoventions. The American Dream, I suggest, is America’s religion. It’s the only common belief held by all of her citizens. Perhaps this Dream has gotten tarnished in the last few years, but only because the reality of our situation is falling very short of the Dream.

Going in a different direction, Disneyland once had an attraction that projected images of America in a 360-degree theater. It disappeared long before I first visited Disneyland, but this film was used in the 1950s at a World’s Fair to sell America to the rest of the world. The scenes used were landscape scenes from the Rockies, Mount Rushmore, and others. The emphasis was on the land not the people. Through this film (and it’s children and grandchildren, such as Soarin’), Disney reinforced a long-standing American mytheme that connects our identity with the land of the country or our region. Broadcast at Disneyland, this Circarama film was the ultimate meta-myth of American sacred tradition.

Towards a New Mythology

When the sun has set over Disneyland, Anaheim, California, and the lights are turned down, one can see the expectation for something about to happen on the face of every person looking at Sleeping Beauty’s castle as the nightly, seasonal fireworks begin. The day has been long. Everyone is tired, children and adults alike. Many are grumpy because of the various annoyances and complications that are involved in securing the best possible vantage point for watching the show. Music plays, gunpowder explodes, and people are quickly caught in the spectacle of the twenty-minute show. Near the end, an old, yet somehow familiar, voice welcomes us, reminding us that Disneyland belongs to us and that this is where dreams and memories come alive.[1] Many children have never seen the old television shows and may not recognize the voice as belonging to Walt Disney, but they nonetheless recognize the shift in awe and respect when he speaks. It is as though God is talking, and those bursts of colors are divine, angelic figures. By the end of the show, the mythic experience that Disneyland has to offer is punctuated, secured, and cemented on the memory.

For the American, raised in a century founded upon the rugged individualism of pilgrims, Disneyland is one of the most genuine of mythic spaces. When we imported our myths from Europe, our founding parents emphasized the simplicity of life, the need for hard work, rooting ritual to the family living room. Local church congregations served more as a place for social gathering. The notion of the church as the ritualistic place was left in Europe. As the country grew, local myths and spaces cropped up, but not a single, unifying locale, brought together all things American until Disneyland.

For the younger generations of the modern USA, many of whom are now having their own children, this is the mythos we[2] have to work with. We do not question the validity of “God” or question the archetype, but, rather, question where the ecstatic feeling can be found. For some of us, that feeling is the most potent in popular culture, which is often discounted as “profane” art; however, these images are more potent and resonate more loudly to our imaginations in large part because they are the most familiar images of our childhoods. With everything else being constantly debunked, these are the only images that remain constant, which offers security, and a good place for projection the notion of religiosity, bring with it the God archetype.

In order to have a new mythology, we must first have a poet to express it. By the guidelines laid out by Roberts Avens in his book, The New Gnosis: Heidegger, Hillman and Angels, as inspired by Heidegger and Hillman, Walt Disney is such a poet: “A poet, in his capacity of the mediator (messenger) between sky and earth, between Gods and men, is continually bringing things into the open, showing them in their imaginal essence” (55). Further, “images acquire the characteristic of autonomy, self-referentiality, and simultaneity only when they are watched in a detached way…” (Avens 98). The imaginal space constructed by Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers is one full of images of fantasy constructed in an unnatural way. The unnaturalness detaches the images from the everyday experience while simultaneously drawing the Guests’ attentions to them, bringing them into the open, or conscious realm. These images are those of the American cultural unconscious that have become deeply rooted, in part, because of Disney’s films: images of beloved fairy tales, idealized images of the frontier or small town USA, or romanticized images of the future. Disneyland allows us to experience all of those images. When coupled with the thrill aspect of some of the rides, it brings about catharsis, and the anxieties and tensions of a world confused about its own mythologies are released by the drops and twists of roller coasters or in the story rides that insist that there is a better tomorrow on its way.

One counterpoint to the Disney qua new mythos assertion is stated by Avens: “We prefer to busy ourselves in asserting our identity against the world without realizing that this self-assertion, this search for identity, is nothing more glorious than a futile attempt to remain the same from moment to moment…” (19). Disneyland seems to control every aspect of the experience, so our poesis is limited to how we interact in this controlled environment. In truth, there is evidence all over the park where people attempt to assert their identity. One example of such can be seen in the queue for the Indiana Jones attraction. The first half of the queue is situated outside the attraction entrance, which is decorated to look like the jungle surrounding a ruined temple. All along this stretch of the queue, people have carved various messages, mostly their initials, into the trunks of the bamboo trees growing there. For some of these trees, this has resulted in entire patches of missing bark. Clearly, people are attempted to assert their identity and define their independence on the controlled aspect of the environment. Avens suggests that this is done only to remind ourselves that we are the same form moment to moment – but how can we actually be the same in light of a mythic experience?

In a similar counterpoint, Avens describes how archetypal psychology “supplements this insight [that an image is not what one sees but the way in which one sees] by using the criterion of response: metaphorical and imaginative response to images is better than fanciful or literal because the former deepens and complicates the image instead of dissipating or eventually freezing it into an object that can be manipulated by ratio” (25). Disney and Disneyland have literalized images, and that cannot be denied. When hearing a fairy tale, many imagine the story using the same visualization as the Disney film, and are often surprised to find that the stories are not the same. How can literalized images how any mythic power? This generation is one raised on static, literalized images, and those are the ones transmitting the myths. The imagination is discouraged in all educational sectors from running free on the basis that an imaginative person cannot find a well-paying job. All that is made available are the images someone else thought up, but each person is allowed to do with those images – especially through the toy tie-ins – as he or she desires, even if that means rewriting the story. However, this play is restricted to playtime. Avens reminds us that “the mystery of play is akin to that highest and most absorbing play of which Heraclitus speaks, the play of aion, i.e., of the world as the dispensation of Being” (73). The need for Play emerges from a necessity, which forms an “essential component of the imaginal psyche itself” (Avens 79). This necessity, inherent in the images we play with, is tied to their essential nature. They emerge to fill an archetypal void created by suppressing play. But with enough suppression, literalized images are necessary to remind us how to play and dream.

It is an error of archetypal psychology to suggest that the only way to restore this stagnation is to return to old images in order to unlock the Truth of the Divine Being or Dasein.

Humans are unable to fully unlock this divinity, and it can only be understood through human images, or archetypes that point humanity in that direction. There are no rules as to how the archetypes manifest; Hillman suggests that the most potent archetypes in the West are those shaped by the Greek gods and goddesses. But, just like the Christian system both Hillman and Heidegger write against, this is outmoded and out of date. The archetypes need new faces in order to breathe new life – relying on the same faces that are 3000 years old is what lead us to the existential crisis of the twentieth century in the first place, and we would not be discussing the image of the archetypal God if the archetypes still had relevance.

Mickey Mouse and friends do not possess religiosity in the traditional sense, but they nonetheless fulfill the need for some sort of figure to be in their place. Archaeologists could dig up artifacts from this culture, thousands of years from now after our documents and records are long gone, and will encounter toys and figurines of Mickey Mouse, or even Barbie or Star Wars toys, and what will they think? The only logical conclusion is that there are objects of divinity and they were probably worshipped as some kind of god. It is for this reason that it is important to embrace new mythologies of all categories, since they are the ones that will be remembered.

Works cited

  • Avens, Roberts. The New Gnosis: Heidegger, Hillman, and Angels. Putnam: Spring Publications, 2003. Print.

[1] This refers to a recording played during the fireworks soundtrack of Walt Disney’s dedication of Disneyland in 1955: “To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. … 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.”

[2] I am being purposefully inclusive.

Psyche, Nature and the Magic Kingdom

There is nothing natural about Disneyland. In fact, I would say that it is one of the most unnatural places in the United States. From the second one drives onto the Resort or steps off the tram, one is inundated with images, music, and a highly controlled environment designed for the purpose of eliciting a good time. Granted, it can be observed that several people, especially parents and their children, look unhappy, but this is more due to exhaustion and sensory overload than actual unhappiness, which is not allowed by design. Disneyland is not simply a popular place for family vacations, but it is the one place, a kind of Mecca, for people to engage with the imaginal worlds of their childhood. In short, it is the hot spot for the projections of the American imagination. Of the five Disney parks, I will concentrate on only the park in Anaheim, California, because it is the one with which I am most familiar. What it is about the park that tickles our collective imagination is a vast topic, but I will explore it with concentration on a few key aspects of the park – those that relate to nature and the ecology of the psyche. In being such an unnatural environment, it becomes the most natural for psyche’s playground.

Tamara Andrews suggests a new perspective of  nature mythology that is especially apropos to a discussion of psyche and nature as they play out at Disneyland: “Most people are familiar with the phenomenon of the mirage, an illusion that appears where images are displaced or distorted under specific atmospheric conditions. The mind’s eye takes over. Perhaps such vision is what is necessary to understand nature mythology from a modern perspective” (xiii). The Disney park is not itself an illusion, but that design of the park at play with the senses is. Through the efforts of the Imagineers, Disney’s design engineers, it sometimes appears as though magic really does happen, that birds can talk and sing, or that a little fairy dust can make one fly to Never Land. It is, thus, necessary to read Disneyland as a fairy tale, with all of its psychological implications, not just as an abomination of nature, as critics are wont to proclaim. Disneyland may embody capitalism, but the park is a playground for the imagination. It allows people to interact with the stories and characters they love, and thus embody the closest thing to a mythological canon American has to offer, á la fairy tales and the Western frontier.

Walt Disney envisioned Disneyland while taking his young children to the park. The legendary story is that he wanted to create a place where the adults could share the activity with the children and have just as much fun. His thoughts on the subject “meandered along many paths before arriving at a park with the types of activities families could share in the location that we know today. His plans started out relatively small, but like all of Walt’s ideas, they grew and grew and grew…” (Imagineers 16). He set out to create an experience; one that he believed would never be finished as long as “there is imagination left in the world” (qtd. in Imagineers 20).

Perhaps one of the most essential aspects of Disneyland is that it allows a person to fully embody and be submerged into fantasy fairy tale such that the stories not only become a three-dimensional reality, but the Guest actually becomes a part of the story. This experience of embodiment is what David Abram claims as a missing element in modern American society (8-10). We have culturally become so removed from nature that our behaviors do not readily support any degree of return. We recognize the body as a well-oiled machine and technology as a means of enhancing that machine. As we become more and more reliant upon technology in the modern era, we value nature less and less. Similarly, fairy tale has been likewise distanced from us. As J.R.R. Tolkien describes it, fairy tale has been “relegated to the ‘nursery’ as shabby or old-fashioned furniture is relegated to the play-room … adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused” (34). In a similar vein, depth psychologists, such as Marie-Louise von Franz, recognize that fairy tale is essential to connect with the collective unconscious, because it is the most fundamental manifestation of unconscious material, even over mythology. While the face of fairy tale has changed since von Franz began lecturing on it, bridging the gap between anonymous short story and epic-proportioned mythology, it nonetheless continues to bear the essential element Tolkien describes as the Faërie, a magical “other world” where animals talk, magicians roam, and the laws of natural science are ignored, which is precisely what Disneyland tries to achieve. If fairy tale is fundamental to the unconscious and nature is an essential part of the human experience, it stands to reason that by revisioning the natural experience, Disneyland is essentially feeding a myth-hungry unconscious.

Each land is designed to accomplish a specific atmosphere that conveys the stories in an environment closely related to their themes. Disney’s vision was that each Guest could step into another time or place during their visit to the park. He charged the Imagineers with creating each of these lands to each be an imaginal microcosm. Guests are supposed to be unaware of the other lands while being fully focused on the one they are in, while also not feeling too cramped, crowded, and, ideally, overwhelmed by the experience. Looking at each of the lands, we can place them into three categories:

  • Imaginary Ecosystem: Adventureland
  • American Mythos: Main Street USA, Frontierland, and New Orleans Square
  • Imaginary Times: Fantasyland and Tomorrowland

I am overlooking two lands, Critter Country and Mickey’s Toon Town, because they are designed more as merchandising tie-ins to Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse, and hold little genuine psychological connection with Guests beyond getting to meet one’s favorite character.

Imaginary Ecosystem

“Adventureland re-creates the eras and locales of great adventure stories. To Walt, it was a ‘wonder land of nature’s own design.’ Here you’ll navigate the tropical rivers of the world, explore Indian temple ruins, and climb into the tree canopy in the deepest jungles of Africa. Adventureland is for the young at heart and brave of spirit.” (Imagineers 33)

The rides in Adventureland were inspired by a series of adventure-themed films produced by Disney during the 1950s, and they represent a conscious opposition to what Theodore Roszak calls “urban-industrialism,” or “the willful withdrawal of our species from the natural habitat in which it evolved” (307). Assuming that archaeological theories are true, and humans evolved in the African savannah, then Adventureland takes us back to that environment, protected by a large landscaping budget from the horrors of global warming. The major point of criticism on this point is that hardly anything in Adventureland is, in fact, real. All of the animals are audio-animatronic, or computer-controlled robots that can mimic actions and mannerisms of humans and animals, because that would ensure the same performance for every Guest. Many of the plants are imported, but are balanced with domestic Southern California foliage, rooting the experience into familiarity, some of which are completely artificial and designed to look real. None of the stone is real, and can never erode. To fully embrace Adventureland, and this is also true of the entire park, one has to look at it through an aesthetic eye: look “at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically … as a spectator watches a drama” (Royce qtd. in Roszak 133). Overlooking the unnaturalness, we see in Adventureland a jungle microcosm not found elsewhere in the United States, at the heart of which stands a Disneydendron semperflorens grandis,[1]an anima mundi, one of several throughout the park that connect the park’s environment with the “soul of the sky” (Cobb 124).

American Mythos

“Civilized man … is in danger of losing all contact with the world of instinct – a danger that is still further increased by his living an urban existence in what seems to be a purely manmade environment. This loss of instinct is largely responsible for the pathological condition of contemporary culture.” (Jung qtd. in Sabini 15)

This is precisely what the three lands of the American mythos attempt to remedy. By recreating the frontiers of the American psyche, these three lands remove us from our urban existence and transport us into the psyche. That all three lands are manmade is a testament to how far American culture has evolved from the environments at the foundation of the culture’s collective unconscious in that we have to consciously reconstruct them because the environment no longer exists.

  • Main Street USA – “Main Street, U.S.A., takes you back to a turn-of-the-century small town modeled on Walt’s own memories from his boyhood. It’s a world at the dawn of the age of electricity, but still firmly rooted in a simpler time. Anything can be accomplished, and soon will be. It’s a time and place of boundless possibilities.” (Imagineers 23)

This land is designed to reflect an idealized image of Small Town, USA, modeled on Disney’s childhood home in Marceline, Missouri. This area is forever locked in that transition between a pioneer town and a more industrialized city, and is the first all Guests pass through upon entering the park.

Main Street USA is Walt’s equivalent to Jung’s Bollengen Tower. He built it to reflect something he remembered fondly from his childhood, much like Jung and his building blocks. That he had to build an entire street, excluding the rest of the park, reflects Walt’s and America’s drive for grandiosity that emerged after World War II and has become the mythic stereotype of the 1950s, one that entitles all families to own a house, have at least one car, abundant toys at Christmas, and everyone could get an education. At least, that was the projected ideal, and far from the actuality. This degree of grandiosity emerges as the unconscious works to offset the conscious prospective realities. As the world was recovering from the war and the Great Depression, it became more important for the collective unconscious to compensate for all of the hardships experienced during those events. Disneyland was built during this collective compensation, opening in the summer of 1955.

  • Frontierland – “Frontierland celebrates the American pioneer spirit. It has always been the perfect embodiment of the wonder of – and quest to discover – the unknown, whether it be by land, water, or rail. It’s also a time of endless summers and lazy rivers. Stay awhile, and you’ll see why so many folks choose to call Frontierland ‘home.’” (Imagineers 45)

Frontierland harkens to a mythologized time in American history – the movement west. It glorifies mining towns and the Romantic view of an America only slightly touched by technology and unaffected by the Civil War and tensions with Native Americans and Mexico. The land is in response to the popular culture of the 1940s-1970s of Westerns on television, weekend games of Cowboys and Indians, and the idolization of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. The search for gold and other ores taint the otherwise unbroken expansiveness of the Western frontier. By projecting its ideal onto empty terrain, the American psyche sees possibility for development of itself through the development of the land, to the point of a “negative interiorization of nature” to the point that nature “becomes sublated in soul, the space of interiority opened up through the application of domination of itself” (Barreto 269). Furthermore, the mines are images of going into the depths of the Earth and extracting pieces of her soul for our own benefit. It is important to note that the human body possesses as “irrevocable kinship to nature” (Barreto 262), and it can be alluded that by mining the earth, we are desperately trying to mine ourselves, and this is more the reason why glorification in Disneyland of the frontier serves as a reminder of the buried treasure within the psyche.

  • New Orleans Square – “New Orleans Square is a captivating ode to the charms of the Crescent City. Here we set sail for parts unknown – on the open seas or in the hereafter. Sit for a spell and sip a sweet, minty cooler as you watch the world go by. The sights and sounds of this remarkable place leave an indelible impression.” (Imagineers 57)

New Orleans Square imagines a more gothic side of the American mythos – the collective shadow as projected onto the port city, New Orleans, Louisiana. Since nature encompasses all archetypes (Sabini 14), then it also encompasses negative archetypes, including the shadow. New Orleans is a good setting for this because the port city brought together traders from the Mississippi, the Caribbean, and Mexico. It has never had a reputation for being a “clean” city. The primary attractions of New Orleans Square feature pirates and Grim-Grinning Ghosts, Disneyfied so as to not frighten younger Guests. Nonetheless, these reflect America’s shadow. The greed and conquest of pirates are a driving force behind capitalism and globalization, and the ghosts represent the fear of death and quest for immortality. The fear of death reflects a psyche “trapped in the desolation of an infinity where it finds no consolation, no remorse, no response to its need for warmth, love, and acceptance” (Roszak 58). The attractions in New Orleans Square place the desolate, trapped psyche into a warmer context, especially when done in conjunction to Fantasyland, which, through its immersion into fairy tale, satisfies psyche’s need for pure imaginal experiences.

Imaginary Times

The Universe “has been reaching forward toward finer orders of complexity, toward realms so subtle and complex that they can be fabricated only out of the delicate dynamics of the human imagination. … It embodies the full potentiality of all that has gone before, realizing it, expressing it. It occupies the frontier of the cosmos.” (Roszak 185)

Fantasyland and Tomorrowland reflect time out of time. Fantasyland is not tied to any particular era, but the façades suggest imaginary pre-industrial European villages that have become the iconic settings for fairy tales: an imaginary past. Tomorrowland, conversely, imagines the technology of the future.

  • Fantasyland – “Fantasyland is a gateway to the world of make-believe. Faraway kingdoms and adventures in imaginary realms lie around every corner. You can live out your daydreams and look into the windows of your childhood. It’s a place where you can dream like a child no matter your age.” (Imagineers 78)

This land is most designed with children in mind and has more attractions than any other land. Visiting Fantasyland is about having an experience, rather than just a thrill. This experience helps people feel happiness and is identified with the essential experience that makes us human. The land offers a stronger flow experience, to use Csikezentmihaly’s phrase, creating an exceptional moment in life in which what Guests feel, wish and think are in harmony. One can do a literary analysis of each of the rides, breaking them down into their fundamental elements, but this would detract from the experience of the land. This experience is indicative of the life-world described by David Abram as “the world of our immediately lived experience, as we live it, prior to all our thoughts about it” (40). Guests do not necessarily pay detailed attention to the details of the rides – there is a lot to take in during a short period – but they all recognize that an experience nonetheless occurs. Because of the nature of Disneyland, Guests are permitted the inability to coherently describe the attraction. This is especially strong in the Fantasyland dark rides, which are gentle rides (i.e. not roller coasters) that transport the Guest in a ride-themed car through the story. There are five of these rides in Fantasyland: Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Alice in Wonderland. All but Pinocchio have been open since the early days of the park.

Focusing on Peter Pan’s Flight, by way of example, the car is a pirate ship suspended from a track in the ceiling meant to stimulate flight. The ride starts when Peter Pan is taking Wendy Darling and her brothers to Never Land. The first couple rooms show London getting progressively smaller. Then, in Never Land, the ride takes us through Peter’s adventures: rescuing Tigerlilly from the cave and battling Captain Hook. The Guest is given a simulation of what the Darling children experienced in the story, and from this build their own phenomenological experience derived from the sensory stimulation of the entire ride – a total subjective experience that keeps Guests coming back to ride it again.

  • Tomorrowland – “Tomorrowland is your glimpse into the Future. Or at least the Future as we’d like to believe it will turn out to be. Catch a passing rocket ship to the next galaxy over or grab a bite to eat with your favorite alien friends. It’s your best chance to have tomorrow’s fun … today!” (Imagineers 109)

Tomorrowland has always showcased possible technologies of the future, and is constantly updated to reflect technological trends. One of the lasting trends is the possibilities of Outer Space, the new frontier now that the West has, essentially, been fully claimed. One possible future in store of us shows more reliance on machines than not. Carl Jung prophesied that modern, Western civilization will either destroy itself or be destroyed by its over-reliance on machines (Sabini 11). Indeed, Glen Slater supports this claim in his article, “Cyborgian Drift: Resistance is Not Futile,” in which he describes the growing (and problematic) trend of the West’s gradual overreliance on machines, and how this further and further removes us from nature. It would seem from both of these that there is little positive about machinery. Walt Disney, like Carl Jung, was a visionary, but one who embraced technology rather than feared it. He envisioned Tomorrowland to be at the top of attraction technology, including advances in three-dimensional video incorporated with ride-vehicles, the first indoor roller coaster, which stimulates flying through Outer Space, and the first fully-operational monorail. The park shows the positive use of technology for the purposes of having a powerful experience.

In his Disney-published series of young adult novels, Kingdom Keepers, Ridley Pearson describes what happens when one spends too much time in one aspect of the psyche qua magic: If one believes in something strong enough, then it can come to life through fantasy and fairy tale, and sometimes in reality. In those fairy tales Disney brings to life, what happens to the evil characters after the protagonists live happily ever after? Pearson speculates that they roman the park after hours, and calls them Overtakers. The Overtakers threaten to engulf the park in their dark magic. The shadow side of Disney’s magic. This demonstrates that for every positive thing, there must be some negative aspect, and the two must be kept in balance otherwise the outcome will not be good. In the situation of psyche and nature, the fear is that we, as a society, have already crossed a sort of tipping point that has severed us from nature. Global warming, cyborgs, urban communities. In Disneyland, one can escape from these issues and spend some time in psyche’s playground. In order to create this experience, Walt Disney fabricated an environment completely removed from pure nature, but one built to satisfy the needs of the entire country. If Jung built his Bollengen Tower to return to his conception of nature, then it can be argued that Walt built the Bollengen Tower of the entire American collective unconscious in Sleeping Beauty Castle and the park as a whole.

Works Cited

  • Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. Print.
  • Andrews, Tamra. A Dictionary of Nature Myths. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1998. Print.
  • Barreto, Marco Heleno. "On the Death of Nature." Spring, A Journal of Archetype and Culture 75 (2006): 257-273. Print.
  • Birnbaum, Stephen, ed. Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort: Expert Advice from the Inside Source. New York: Disney Editions, 2005. Print.
  • Cobb, Noel. "The Soul of the Sky." Spring, A Journal of Archetype and Culture 75 (2006): 121-138. Print.
  • Imagineers, The. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland: An Imagineer’s-Eye Tour. New York: Disney Editions, 2008. Print.
  • Pearson, Ridley. The Kingdom Keepers. New York: Disney Editions, 2005. Print.
  • Roszak, Theodore. The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Phanes P, 2001. Print.
  • Sabini, Meredith, ed. The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology, and Modern Life. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2002. Print.
  • Slater, Glen. "Cyborgian Drift: Resistance is Not Futile." Spring, A Journal of Archetype and Culture 75 (2006): 171-195. Print.
  • Strodder, Chris. The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, restaurant, Shop, and Event in the Original Magic Kingdom. Santa Monica: Santa Monica P, 2008. Print.
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. "On Fairy-Stories." The Tolkien Reader. New York: Ballantine, 1996. 3-84. Print.
  • von Franz, Marie-Louise. The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. Print.

[1] A “large, ever-blooming Disney tree” (Birnbaum 65).

Epic Mickey: Disney’s Dystopia

I know I’m a little late on the bandwagon, but I finally started playing Epic Mickey last month. This is a Wii-console game (only) about a land constructed by Yin Sid for the forgotten Disney characters. Except that it’s called Epic Mickey and not Disney’s Forgotten Characters. So here’s the plot: Mickey Mouse is playing around in Yin Sid’s lab (an homage to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) and spills a magic paint into the model land, causing the Blot or Thinner Disaster. Mickey is then pulled into this wasteland by the Mad Doctor (another tribute to an old Mickey cartoon), who almost cuts out Mickey’s heart, except that Mickey escapes. He picks up his magic paintbrush and is tasked with restoring the wasteland.

What follows is a tribute to Disney. Areas of the game occur in places inspired by Disneyland areas and attractions. Transitions between the game areas are inspired by old Mickey Mouse cartoons. Mickey becomes friends with Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, his predecessor, and is reunited with friends he hasn’t seen since the first Mickey cartoon days. All along the way, Mickey battles paint splatters and mechanical creatures, solves puzzles, and rescues the Gremlins that keep this wasteland running.

But what is interesting with the dystopian theme of the entire game. Real-life Disneylands and Magic Kingdoms project a utopian ideal. These are places where everything is clean, believed to be safe, and mechanics are running properly. Epic Mickey’s wasteland is full of deadly paint thinner, is dangerous, and nothing is running properly. One of the first areas you encounter outside Dark Beauty Castle (based on Sleeping Beauty Castle) is a sort of Fantasyland with the spinning tea cups, flying Dumbos and It’s a Small World—except the tea cups jerk around, the Dumbos don’t fly (and have a mad elephant look in their eyes), and the Small World dolls look like something from it and Small World attraction is likewise broken. The music is a slowed-down bummer remix. This wasteland is anything BUT the Disney ideal. Even for all of Mickey’s repairs, this land never gets up to the Disney-standard, which makes sense since it is the land of the Forgotten Characters (unless you’re a Disney-geek, like me, who has never forgotten).

But, in the vein of that show Life After People, I’ve often wondered just what a run-down Disneyland would look like. This game gives this imagery very nicely.

So now, what does it mean? Disney has been plussing the parks lately. Some notable new attractions or reduxes have happened within the last 10 years to the present, from adding Jack Sparrow to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction to the Star Tours redux or the Little Mermaid attraction. Disney parks rank among the best theme parks in the country (if not the world). But they do come under the criticism of being the happy side of a mythic spectrum, ignoring the shadow, or that counter element to any mytheme (Jung coined to term to describe unconscious elements that get filed away as we go through the course of identity formation). Everything in Disneyland is supposed to be perfect – this is a part of the utopian ideal. We enjoy going to Disneyland because we want to experience utopia. A key component of the American myth is the constant quest for a utopia. We need it, we hunger for it, we want it, but we can’t make it happen in our real lives, no matter how hard we try. The constitution and its constituent parts is utopian philosophy.

Not everyone wants the escapism of a utopia. It’s not realistic. The modernist and post-modernist world has filled us with dystopian imagery, so what better place to explore this dystopia than in the place of utopia?

But the whole point is that Mickey is cleaning it up. In the past, I’ve written about the idea of Mickey Mouse as Everyman. So it is in the hands of Everyman to clean up our present state of dystopia. But we can’t return it to the polished state of utopia. Once something has been damaged like that, it’s in the past. When we rebuild, we build something new. But if the goal is not rebuilding, as Mickey is just repainting, there will always be a dingy reminder of the dystopian past. This is a statement about the current state of America, and a reminder that we have to tend to the utopia ourselves rather than hope that someone will make it happen for us. There’s a lesson to be learned from this game, not just a really fun time to be had or Disney tribute to experience.