Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Here is a paper I recently wrote for my English class. It is a research paper about Disneyland and its place in American Culture.
Over a half century ago, a lonely father sat on a dirty park bench watching his daughters ride a carousel and had a dream that would change American culture forever. The man on the bench was Walter Elias Disney, a soon to be icon in popular culture. Walt dreamed of a place where a family could have fun together and share a magical experience. His dream became Disneyland. Walt’s little park in Southern California has been a major factor in generating new technologies, implementing innovative business practices, and revolutionizing architecture and building design all around the globe since 1955 (Mata). Despite the radical change America has experienced since the 50s, Disneyland has continued to be a place that harbors all of our dreams and hopes for the future. Disneyland is truly an American Utopia due to the special place it holds in all of our hearts and the way it has changed our technologies, businesses, and culture.
The Walt Disney Company began in 1923 with Walt and his brother Roy acting as partners. Walt started his company as an animation studio and it quickly became the American leader in animated films. His characters, including Mickey Mouse, became household names and brought the company into the spotlight of popular culture. The company made history in 1934 when it released the first feature length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Due to the incredible success he was achieving, Walt expanded his company into television and live action movies. These films included hits like Song of the South, Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. By the 1950s, Walt Disney was a household name and appeared weekly in the living rooms of Americans with his Disneyland television show (Hume). He would look to capitalize on his popularity and nearly mortgaged his life away to construct his biggest dream to date.
Walt was determined to turn 86 acres of orange and walnut trees in Anaheim, California into Disneyland, one of the world’s very first theme parks. He wanted to take the ideas behind popular parks like Coney Island and expand on them. Not only did Walt want to create a family friendly experience, but he also wanted to add a layer of story and detail unseen in other parks at the time. Guests to this world of fantasy, adventure, and tomorrow would see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, take a jungle cruise, and ride rockets to the moon. After years of ambitious planning and research, construction began in the spring of 1954. Then on July 17, 1955 Walt’s incredible dream came to fruition and Disneyland was officially opened to the public (Mata).
Although the park contained lands and attractions full of fantasy and grandeur, the park’s opening day was filled with anything but. Disney officials would come to call the disaster Black Sunday. On this fateful day, Anaheim had a record high temperature, women’s high heels sunk into the wet asphalt, there weren’t enough water fountains, and food ran out. Despite such a major setback on opening day, Disneyland became a hit with the public. By its 50th birthday in 2005, an estimated 78.6 million pairs of Mickey Ears have been sold in the park and in the same year it generated 1.9 billion dollars in consumer spending. Today, Disneyland attracts 13 million guests annually. Not only has Disneyland itself been successful, but Walt’s little park has even inspired the Disney company to open many other parks all around the globe (Mata). All of these parks have carried on the Disneyland tradition and continue to push the envelopes of recreation and entertainment.
While the Disney Company has grown to become one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, it has not been able to escape controversy within its parks. One of the major issues critics point out is called “Disney Realism”. People believe Disney glosses over major political issues like slavery and racism in their attractions (Yoshino). While Disney does avoid being politically outspoken most issues are a result of overanalyzing the park and looking for things that aren’t really there. Proof of Disney’s place in the forefront of American culture can be seen by the way it is often used as a platform on which to tackle major current events. Vietnam war protests, Gay rights events, and visits from major political powers have all taken place in Anaheim (Yoshino). Since it holds such a significant place in our culture and media, it is easy to promote messages through the park.
In addition to being connected to controversial issues, Disneyland has also been the source of many innovations in the technological and business worlds. Disney has set the gold standard for theme parks and many other companies like Universal Studios have sought to copy their successes. Its influence has even expanded out into the modern museum. Lighting techniques that are used, music that is played, and full immersion exhibits that are in place are all examples of how museums follow in the Disney tradition. The Disney way has even found its way into banks and airports. They can be seen using the convenient “switch-back” line system pioneered in Disneyland. Disneyland has even had influence in creating the modern day mall. Stores are now conveniently linked together and shopping centers have turned into entertainment complexes with movie theaters, restaurants, and even some rides (Yoshino). Disney has continued to push the boundaries of entertainment and in the process has changed the way we live our lives every day.
Besides becoming a technological leader, Disneyland has allowed Disney to become one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world. It also sets the standard for marketing and synergy in the business world. Companies like Kodak, General Motors, and Nestle all use Disneyland as a way to market their products. Disneyland also pushes its own name and brand into every possible popular culture outlet. There have been Disneyland television shows, games, Happy Meals, CD’s, member’s only clubs, and websites (Yoshino). Because of all of its marketing and exposure, Disneyland continues to be a major player in American tourism. It’s ability to stay relevant for over 50 years makes it a standard by which all other businesses can be measured.
As you can tell, Disneyland has made its way into almost every aspect of our lives. Banks, airports, malls, and almost every other business in America follow the Disneyland tradition in some way. It is because of Disneyland that technological innovation, corporate synergy, and quality service have become part of the American way. Disneyland itself is a perfect example of the American dream. Walt Disney risked everything and turned a small studio in an entertainment giant.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
My Senior Trip ended up being 5 of the funnest days of my life. 130 seniors from my class and about 10 chaperons journeyed to the world and stayed at the All Star Sports Resort. We spent 4 days at the happiest place on Earth and one day at Universal. Since we have gotten back, I have tried to pinpoint what made this trip so much more fun than all of the rest. I finally figured out that on this trip, I allowed myself to be a kid again.
I have to say, I am deeply sorry. For those of you have been reading my blog, I am sincerely sorry for this recent hiatus. But, as it often does, life just got in the way. The good news is, my schedule has opened up. I look forward to adding a lot more content to the site. I have also made a trip to Disney World since then. It was on my Senior Trip, and I have some insight from that trip that I'd like to share. So if you can accept my apology, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.