Episode #1442

American Icons: The Disney Parks

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Disney parks American Icons Studio 360

This is America’s vision of utopia.

Generations of Americans have grown up with Walt Disney shaping our imaginations. In 1955, Disney mixed up some fairy tales, a few historical facts, and a dream of the future to create an alternate universe. Not just a place for fun, but a scale model of a perfect world. “Everything that you could imagine is there,” says one young visitor. “It's like living in a fantasy book.” And not just for kids: one-third of Walt Disney World’s visitors are adults who go without children. Visiting the parks, according to actor Tom Hanks, is like a pilgrimage — the pursuit of happiness turned into a religion.

Futurist Cory Doctorow explains the genius of Disney World, while novelist Carl Hiaasen even hates the water there. Kurt tours Disneyland with a second-generation “imagineer” whose dead mother haunts the Haunted Mansion. We’ll meet a former Snow White and the man who married Prince Charming — Disney, he says, is “the gayest place on Earth. It’s where happy lives.”

→ What is your Disney story? Tell us in a Comment below.

Special thanks to Julia Lowrie Henderson, Shannon Geis, Alex Gallafent, Nic Sammond, Steve Watts, Angela Bliss, Todd Heiden, Shannon Swanson, Katie Cooper, Nick White, Marie Fabian, Posey Gruener, Jason Margolis, Chris DeAngelis, Jenelle Pifer, Debi Ghose, Maneesh Agrawala, and Tony DeRose.

Bonus Track: Cory Doctorow on the Disney theme parks

Hear Kurt's full conversation with Doctorow about his life-long obsession with Disney in general, and the Haunted Mansion specifically.


Video: Walt Disney's original plan for Epcot


Slideshow: Inside the Magic Kingdom

Disney Disneyland Studio 360 American Icons
Katie Cooper

Izzy Kleiman has been an Annual Passholder to Disneyland since she was 5.

Disney Disneyland Studio 360 American Icons
Katie Cooper

Now 11, Izzy Kleiman’s fandom is stronger than ever.

Disney Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

The entrance to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. 

Disney Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

Sleeping Beauty Castle in California’s Disneyland is raised slightly above Main Street USA, making it the focal point of the park. The road also narrows, drawing your eye (and the rest of your body) towards the castle. 

Disney Disneyland Main Street USA American Icons Studio 360

The Market House on Main Street USA.

Disney Disneyland Main Street USA American Icons Studio 360

Even the flowers are carefully chosen to correspond with the color scheme and overall “story” of Main Street USA. 

Disney Disneyland Main Street USA American Icons Studio 360

Above the firehouse sits Walt’s private study, where he would work and entertain guests at Disneyland. Today, cast members keep a light on 24 hours a day to remember the park’s creator.

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

"Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln:" the animatronic president recites bits of the real president’s famous speeches. 

Haunted Mansion Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

The entrance to the Haunted Mansion. The attraction is part of New Orleans Square, where the facades are copied from real buildings in New Orleans. 

Haunted Mansion Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion. Kim Irvine, Disneyland’s Art Director, is a second generation employee: both of her parents worked for Disney. Her late mother, Leota Toombs Thomas, worked in the model shop where the Haunted Mansion was developed – her face was the model for Madame Leota. At the end of the ride, she is also the voice of Little Leota, beckoning riders to return.

Haunted Mansion Disneyland American Icons Studio 360
Cory Doctorow

A small portion of Cory Doctorow’s collection of Haunted Mansion memorabilia. These plaster wall-plaques were sold in the 1970s at Walt Disney World. 

Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. Each theme park has a unique castle: the castles in California and Disneyland Paris belong to Sleeping Beauty, while the castles at the parks in Florida, Tokyo, and Hong Kong belong to Cinderella.

Disneyland American Icons Studio 360

Disney incorporates all sorts of tiny details into the park design. Since this castle belongs to Sleeping Beauty, one of her woodland friends perches nearby.

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Jenny Lawton

Kurt Andersen talks with Imagineer Gary Landrum and press associate Todd Heiden in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Jenny Lawton

Stroller parking at the Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Abby Boylston

Princess Jasmine (Lauren Boylston, 6), after visiting the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Marie Fabian

Annabel Fabian, 9, her mom Genie Cesar-Fabian, and Tigger. 

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Rachel Hankle

Rachel Hankle played Snow White at Walt Disney World for two years.

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Clay Chaffin

Michael Clowers performing as a Kid of the Kingdom in 1989 at Walt Disney World. 

Walt Disney World American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Clay Chaffin

Michael Clowers and Clay Chaffin (who played Prince Charming) at Walt Disney World in 1989. The couple has been together ever since.

Saving Mr. Banks Disneyland American Icons Studio 360
Walt Disney Pictures

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks (with Emma Thompson). The film opens December 2013. 

A Public Reading of An Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney American Icons Studio 360
Julieta Cervantes

Larry Pine as Walt Disney and Frank Wood as Roy Disney in the Soho Rep production of Lucas Hnath’s play A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney.

WS Paul McCarthy Disney American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth (Photo by Joshua White)

Still from Paul McCarthy’s installation WS, 2013. McCarthy often uses the images of Disney characters in his work, recasting enchantment as something more menacing. “I think one thing about Disney is his intention is putting you to sleep, putting you into a dream and not waking you from a dream,” says McCarthy. “And the case of an artist, I think, is to try and wake yourself.”

Disney Celebration Florida American Icons Studio 360
Jenny Lawton

The Siegel Family — Julie, Marita, and Jim — of Celebration, Florida, in front of their home.

Disney Celebration Florida American Icons Studio 360

A typical street in Celebration, Florida. 

Disney Celebration Florida American Icons Studio 360

Looking down Market Street in Celebration. The fountain and tidy storefronts have a similar sensibility to Main Street USA in Walt Disney World.

Disney Celebration Florida American Icons Studio 360

Market Street in downtown Celebration. 

Disney Mickey Mouse Celebration Florida American Icons Studio 360

Celebration is proud of its Disney lineage: some of its electric transmission towers are shaped like Mickey Mouse. 

Disney Christmas Celebration Florida American Icons Studio 360

To celebrate the winter holidays, downtown Celebration is covered in “snoap” — a soapy snow substitute that falls from the streetlamps.

Walt Disney Disneyland Mickey Mouse American Icons Studio 370

At Disneyland, a statue of Walt and his most iconic creation keep watch over their kingdom. 

    Music Playlist
  1. Beauty and the Beast
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music from the film
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Pinocchio
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music from the film
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music from the film
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Wall-E
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music from the film
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Mary Poppins
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music from the film
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music from the film
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. Pirates of the Caribbean
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Music and dialogue from the attraction
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
    Artist: Disney
    Album: Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair
    Purchase: Amazon
  9. Grim, Grinning Ghosts
    Artist: Bare Naked Ladies
    Album: The Haunted Mansion: Haunted Hits
    Purchase: Amazon
  10. Main Theme
    Artist: Danny Elfman
    Album: Edward Scissorhands
    Purchase: Amazon
  11. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo (Music Box)
    Artist: Sleephead Symphony
    Album: When You Wish Upon a Star
    Purchase: Amazon
  12. Nocturnes, Op. 55: No. 1 in F Minor
    Artist: Arthur Rubinstein
    Album: Chopin 19 Nocturnes
    Purchase: Amazon
  13. Chim Chim Cheree
    Artist: Duke Ellington Orchestra
    Album: Duke Ellington: The Reprise Studio Recordings
    Purchase: Amazon
  14. Someday My Prince Will Come
    Artist: Stanley Clarke Trio with Hiromi & Lenny White
    Album: Jazz in the Garden
    Purchase: Amazon
  15. Someday My Prince Will Come
    Artist: Miles Davis
    Album: Someday My Prince Will Come
    Purchase: Amazon
  16. Someday My Prince Will Come
    Artist: Tigran Hamasyan
    Album: Fable
    Purchase: Amazon
  17. Someday My Prince Will Come
    Artist: Norman Simmons Trio
    Album: Satin Doll
    Purchase: Amazon


Susan Bona, Abby Boylston, Glenn Boylston, Lauren Boylston, Clay Chaffin, Michael Clowers, Cory Doctorow, Annabel Fabian, Richard Fogelsong, Rachel Hankle, Tom Hanks, Carl Hiaasen, Lucas Hnath, Kim Irvine, Izzy Kleiman, Gary Landrum, Paul McCarthy, Larry Pine, Richard Schickel, Jim Siegel, Julie Siegel, Marita Siegel, Devin Viola and Frank Wood

Produced by:

Jenny Lawton


David Krasnow


Rick Alexander and Matt Holzman

Comments [30]

Raul from Italy

Kurt and crew,

This is a great in-depth view on the Disney parks. Having lived iin Florida for a few years I can say that you nailed the feeling of experiencing the "happiest place on Earth", all the good stuff and the bad,

Dec. 06 2014 11:34 AM
Lisa from Philadelphia, PA

I have a question. I just finished listening to the podcast and it stated that there are 11 Disney parks around the world

After some googling I can only count 5
1- US, Florida
2- US, California
3- Paris
4- Tokyo, Japan ( Disney Sea)
5- Hong Kong
What am I missing?

Dec. 01 2014 03:48 PM
Christopher Wrigley from United States

A lot of people seem to be concerned with Disney having been racially insensitive.. but guess what, 60 years ago our entire country was segregated and racially insensitive. Things change, people change. This was not what the show was about.

Nov. 30 2014 12:36 PM
Daniela G. Luttinger from New York City

Why no mention of Disney's leanings toward Fascism and Hitler? That is UNforgivable, isn't it? Did I miss something? Not only was Disney a fool who destroyed reality and put too many Americans in a stupor of make-believe, he cleaned up nature in a way that is unreal, so that the true sciences of Earth have been neglected by too many ignorant Americans as we face climate crisis emergency now upon us. I'd sooner spend a weekend listening to Neil De Grasse Tyson's COSMOS II than spend a minute at the plastic nonsense of an unreal Disney land that numbs the spirit out of the reality of true beauty and the wonder of science and the natural world. I feel that studio 360 leaned too much toward a whitewash of Disney and should have given even MORE time to his horrific political life and the downside of Disney than it did--though I was glad to hear some of the downside from the man who is trying to be arrested and kicked out of the fantasy park> He did make sense. Disney is not an icon to all Americans, not the educated who know their history better than Studio 360 seems to at times, and who care deeply about saving our habitable planet for the actual lives of children who will suffer the consequences of climate catastrophe if more Americans and Earthlings do not wake up and join the movement to stop global warming. Thanks for this opportunity to comment. I often do enjoy studio 360.

Jul. 04 2014 01:08 PM
Tracy from nyc

I went to Disney at age 9. My main memories are waiting in long lines in the sun.

We visited a family friend whose boyfriend worked in the park as a pirate. My 11 year old cousin picked up his prop sword. The buccaneer screamed profanities at him.

This does not seem like a 360 view of Disney. It is more like a 5 or maybe 10 degree view of Disney. The degrees the Disney marketing department would like us to see!

It is hard for me to believe that every guest, worker and historian you interviewed has a warm, glowing story to tell!

Jul. 04 2014 12:42 PM

Why bash Disney for all the joy his work brought up millions ? Enough already

Jul. 04 2014 12:25 PM
Marsha Glaziere from Seattle WA

In 1962 I was a kid,visiting Disneyland with my family. We were meandering around when my father saw Walt Disney walking around the park (can't remember what the "main street" setting was called). Walt was totally preoccupied with the group he was talking to when my dad called out quite audibly..."HEY WALT !" Mr. Disney turned around abruptly, smiled and waved to my dad. I cherish that personal 'Disney' memory.

Dec. 23 2013 10:24 AM
Michael Rhode from Washington, DC

I bought one of those glow-in-the-dark plaster skulls that Cory Doctorow speaks of, when I was about 8. Still have it, as I ended up working in a medical museum for 20 years.

Dec. 05 2013 02:00 PM
patricia gándara from Los Angeles

I was so delighted to hear the story today on Disney. I believe I was the first child to ever visit Disneyland. My mother had a friend who was the society editor for a newspaper in Chile and this lady got invited to every opening, every movie stage, etc. But she didn't drive and so it was hard for her to get to these things. My mother had just gotten her driver's license, so they had a deal. My mother got to go to all of these amazing events if she was the chauffeur. Sometimes they took me. On the day of the press opening of Disneyland -- the day before the park actually opened-- they took me! I don't recall seeing other children there (there certainly may have been though), it was basically just the press. And, of course no one really knew what this thing was we were going to see. MR. Disney greeted us at the entrance with our picnic basket and told us "the park is yours today." I believe that I went on pretty much everything that existed at the time. I think I was most impressed with Mr. Toad's ride, and most dizzied by the teacups. IN any case, I have always felt kind of like the duckling with her mother -- Disneyland was imprinted on me. It was MY place and I would make the pilgrimage every year from Northern CA to take my children, where they would wait for me, falling asleep on Main Street, begging to go home, while I rode the last ride before they would summarily lead us out of the park at midnight. I have always felt that Disneyland is a magical place and felt saddened by the cynics who would apply their critiques to the business model, or the personal foibles of Walt Disney, or other attempts to bring Disneyland out into the light of day. I went to Disneyland for the 50th anniversary and proudly wear my 50 year pin on my 50 year jacket . . .and now take my grandchildren there. By the way, I am a very serious professor at UCLA now, not given to a lot of fantasy, just Disneyland fantasy!

Nov. 29 2013 01:28 PM

From 1992 to 1997, I worked as a tour guide and took small groups of foreigners on two to four week camping trips throughout North America. Some of the trips that I ran during those years had a two night stop at Disneyland. I remember not being very impressed by what I saw of Anaheim, CA, as I drove form the freeway to Disneyland, but I was always relieved and a little amazed that Walt Disney had thought it necessary to establish a campground right across the street form the Magic Kingdom for budget travelers like myself and my passengers. I remember the campground as having most of the facilities that my charges required, the ground was covered in thick grass, every campsite had a tree for shade, and we were a short walk away from a fun-filled day at the park. I remember that campground as being a little oasis among the sprawl that grew up around the original Disneyland. Thank you, Walt.

Nov. 22 2013 03:10 PM

The one thing really missing from the overview here was Jean Baudrillard. The questions that Disneyland raises about artificiality were probably best addressed by his work, in which he claims that the fakeness of Disneyland is actually a deterrent designed to obscure the fact that nothing is really "real" anymore. That people go there in order to be children so as to foster the illusion that adults really exist elsewhere.

Oct. 23 2013 12:13 PM
Michael from Atlanta, GA

I listened to this while running a half marathon in Athens, GA over the weekend. The part where Snow White talks about kissing little boys on the forehead was so sweet and honest it brought tears to my eyes. This was around mile 9. Running and crying don't mix. Curse you Studio360! :)

Oct. 22 2013 09:56 AM

I have never taken my child to Disney World. He had announced to me at age seven that Disney World is for girls and, with that, let me off the hook. I, on the other hand, have been to Disney World a few times for professional conference and corporate events. Ironically, these functions, while in the guise of professional training and team-building, often bring out the human behaviors that are not at all in sync with the wholesome image so carefully cultivated by Disney. Drinking becomes "the" team sport; and social interactions between colleagues (married or not) can escalate into flirtation or worse. Nothing is funnier (or sadder) than watching someone make an "executive" presentation while fighting a hangover after a night "out on the town." A Disney experience of a different kind.

Oct. 21 2013 09:17 PM
Ally Shuman from dallas

My company hosted a family friendly summer work trip at a resort close to Disney World. My daughter was 15 at the time and while I was in meetings she and her friend would take the train over to the park. It was the first and only time she had ever been at an amusement park as I had always believed in taking her instead to natural amusement parks (national parks etc). On the second evening we were there after the girls had returned to our room from the park, Megan took out of her purse a fist full of twenty dollar bills. I was shocked and asked her where the money had come from. It turns out that she made a tidy little profit waiting in line for people charging them $20 and then texting them when their turn was approaching. Apparently, Cinderella's castle offered a gold mine of opportunity. I was absolutely ashamed of my little capitalist (she had a history of this at one point "short-selling" on ebay when she was ten years old). They were both not allowed to return to the park after that instead stuck at the resort until we left. I wish I had a better story to share.

Oct. 20 2013 08:37 PM
J E Browne from The West

I had a friend who had to write a paper discussing American geniuses who changed the world. And her drew a comparison between Walt Disney and Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner. I thought, as the time "how disparate" the two couldn't be more dissimilar. But as time went on I realized how identical these two men were. Each created a lifestyle for themselves and then other to gain entry into forbidden worlds. Each world was one of fantasy. The only difference at the time was that one was a child's fantasy and the other an adult male's fantasy. But one needed assess to gain entry into both, a key, a pass... something which gave an air of exclusivity to both worlds. Each man grew rich beyond their wildest dreams on the backs of those who would want to pass through the portals of their secret fantasy worlds, conferring a "specialness" to those who would pay for entry.

Oct. 20 2013 04:51 PM
Joanne DeAngelis from Bay Ridge, New York

a few more details ....men wore ties and were clean shaven, and the sec's wore white gloves as I did.........I shared my office on Madison Avenue with a gal by the name of Roberta Hornstein who was the right height for the Mickey costume....Roberta, I hope you are reading these blogs because I still have the birthday present you gave me, a bit shattered but still in tact and I remember you well, you invited me to your home in N.J., and I met your brother, you played piano for me and your brother made a delicious salmon/egg breakfast. Remember our boss? Joe Pellegrino...I saw him on Fifth Avenue once. I hope you will call me and chat about the good 'ol days. We had no problems the way people do today at work. We were in a respectful environment, work was enjoyable, and after working 45 years in the business world, how many people and names do you remember as if it were yesterday. Joe Pellegrino used call someone "Rit of habeas corpus." Remember?

Oct. 20 2013 04:18 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Thanks again, Philip -- and really enjoyed your doc!

Oct. 20 2013 04:16 PM
Philip B. Swift from New York City

I was really happy to help out on this episode by recommending Jim Siegel for the Celebration, Florida segment. He was a great in this episode of Studio 360 and was a huge help with my documentary about the town. Check it out if you want more insight on the Disney-built town: http://thebubbledocumentary.com/

Oct. 20 2013 04:00 PM
Joanne from Bay Ridge, New York

I have a story. I am 66 years of age now and in my life's story the best years were the years working for Walt Disney Productions in New York City 488 Madison Avenue. I graduated secretarial school and after a summer working for Louis Lefkowitz as a legal stenographer, I was fortunate to be hired in the Character Merchandising Division. Magical Happiness wherever Walt Disney presence emitted. My days there are clear in my memory, working next to the artists then drawing cartoon characters onto cells. The artists were warm, loving souls. A screening of the most current Disney movie could be heard down the hallway and I was invited to participate. I was chosen to wear the costume of Claire Bloom who portrayed Doris Duke in the Happiest Millionaire. I sat at a desk doing character merchandising correspondence related to tie-ins with children's clothing and toys. It was a daily experience of fun, dedication and I remember one day looking out the window, seeing a white-haired man, looking like a wizard himself, or shall I say, someone special in the Universe, and, he at that time, came into each office waving a hand and saying hello like a Santa Claus. I realize now that in 1965, 1966 I was fortunate to see him before he passed. I worked there until 1970 and I remember seeing handsome men, like Eisner and lawyers meeting at the Manager's Office. His name was Pete Smith and his assistant Marie Ritti. Oh, what happy fun memories. The seeds of my own invention and the character of inventing, dreaming, believing, all started from the experience of Walt Disney. He brought happiness to the world and there is no one to match. He took care of our hearts, our spirits, our minds to envision a world outside ourselves where no crime, no greed, no politics, no prejudice, and in his characters like the Greek gods, we find true selves. Thank you for reminding me of how lucky I was to meet him and for a time be part of that happy world.

Oct. 20 2013 03:28 PM
Tim from Cleveland, Ohio

What fascinates me is how much of a tourism machine Disney World is. My family and I are meeting there for an 8-night vacation in June 2014, but we have to begin planning now. In October. Nine months from the trip. Seriously. Reservations for some of the restaurants are sold out as far as six months in advance. Want to see the Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios? Better reserve it now. I would love an in depth look at all of the arrangements and planning it takes to have a great DW experience.

Oct. 20 2013 12:50 PM

We saw Colman Domingo's Wild with Happy at the Public Theater on Lafayette St. in NYC last fall. He wrote and starred with Sharon Washington in a hilarious yet touching play about a gay man trying to arrange a funeral for his mother which ends up in Disney World.

Oct. 20 2013 12:45 PM
Teresita from NYC

Hi: Just listened to your Disneyland broadcast on the cusp of seeing (last night) first-time director Randy Moore's black-and-white flick Escape From Tomorrow which takes place inside Disneyland. It tells the story of a troubled family's trip to the theme park. A hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the film has been riding a wave of publicity, not only for its noir-ish artistic merits, but also for the fact that it was filmed "undercover."

Done "guerilla style" without knowledge of Disney, the family is typical but "things go awry." The ride begins! The film is quite good, a surprise!, very funny and ironic, (just a tad bit too long), but an amazing thing to watch when you know that he filmed this under the radar. Catch it at IFC Center in NYC bc Disney may choose to sue and this film will disappear and go cult. Sorry that Studio 360 missed including this film in its piece this morning.

I remember my Dad taking us girls (4 of us sisters, ages 6-12) to Disneyland Anaheim summer of '57 and 2 of
us got separated and lost and finally went to the parking lot and stood at our car, waiting. (Don't know how we found it in the huge sea of cars!) After an hour, an angry Dad came with the other 2 in tow and
was so upset he packed us in the car and drove us home. That's my memory of Disneyland! I remember returning as an adult with fellow professionals, we were at a nearby conference, and it was still
odd & uneasy to be there in all that nicety! I get the askew sensibility in the film Escape.

In the film, the kids get lost several times and this is probably part of the undertow of visiting that place--sunny, bright and nice, and eventually all manner of real life intrudes. (I once read that the rose bushes around the benches where people sit in the Park expire earlier than norm bc that's where families sit and fight! LOL.) The film captures this and more. "Extreme" in Disneyland is a good balance!

Oct. 20 2013 12:44 PM
Vic from .

Listening to this edition of American Icons on Walt Disney & The Disney Parks, I am surprised that no mention, not even a veiled reference, was made to Walt Disney's racist policy (in the early days of Disneyland) that no "colored" were welcomed in the Magic Kingdom.
Aside from this sad, and hurtful issue, visiting Disney World is a healing experience for families. A place where you can leave all your troubles behind you, and dwell in the beauty of the moment. Everyone has come there for the same elixir of happiness, and renewal even if it is only fleeting. (My 5 year old daughter was in a screaming panic the moment we left the confines of the park. One of the attendants looked at us smiling and said, "This happens all the time."

Oct. 20 2013 12:29 PM
Judy Herzfeld from Clifton, nj WNYC fm

What a happy hour, listening to the story of Disney. Thank You!i grew up with Disney World, 4 hours away, but have only visited twice as an adult. Beautiful program!

Oct. 20 2013 12:07 PM
Heidi from New Jersey

Listening, I mentally travel between the feeling that I have to take my children to Disney World or I am not a good parent and being glad that my children are not Disney obsessed. We don't go to Disney World because we are fiscally responsible. We do not have the discretionary funds to spend $70 per ticket (plus airfare and hotel) or the time to spend hours looking for good deals. I didn't go to Disney until my adulthood and did have a great time. I hope my children can forgive us if we choose to feed them, take them to ballet, karate, local (NE) amusement parks, and save for college, instead of supporting Disney.

Oct. 20 2013 11:41 AM

Several years ago, I took a tour of Yunnan province in southwest China, and visited Old Town Lijiang, an ancient place that is home for the Naxi ethnic minority. Everyone in our tour group noticed immediately that the whole town had been "Disneyfied"; One tourist commented that whoever did the restoration must have been to Disneyland.

It was a strange thing to see; a whole town restored and polished to the point where there was no loose brick on any public walkway, no roof missing a single shingle, colorful and appropriate landscaping everywhere you looked. A babbling brook wound it's way through, crossed by a series of photogenic little bridges. Even the alleys and back entrances were perfect. The whole quite large town had been prettified into an idyllic vision of a pre-industrialized Chinese country market town.

With the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on the horizon, it was breathtaking to look at, but also horrifying that someone had done this to an 800 year old town with real history. 60 years ago, when Disney first opened Disneyland, this part of China would have been extremely remote. I doubt there were any paved roads to take people through the mountains here.

It's impossible to imagine that anyone would have ever contemplated a restoration on this scale without Walt Disney's example. What Disney taught the world is that perfection is achievable. What he failed to teach is that sometimes (usually), perfection should not be the goal. I hope that very few places in the world try to sanitize and prettify their history to emulate Disney's vision.

Oct. 19 2013 10:42 PM
Frank Justin from Providence, RI

I enjoyed the Disney program.

The extended interview with the family who visited Disney 33 times before moving there however struck me as pathologically obsessive. The final interview with the daughter Julie revealed even more her total self-absorption.

In that sense the Disney story is prototypically American: self-absorption combined with money. Well done.

Oct. 19 2013 08:05 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi June --
Although for a long time, the human characters at the US parks (and the people who played them) were almost exclusively white, in the 90s a more multiracial cast began to appear on-screen and in the parks: Aladdin, Jasmine, Mulan, Tiana, and others. In terms of cast members (the people who work in the park but aren't "characters"), the parks are staffed with people of many backgrounds.
Thanks for listening and writing!

Oct. 19 2013 11:43 AM
el rectificador insolito

@ June Wulff: Latino, is a daft term to begin with [this from a recovering/former, Latino]. however, the least of what Latino could be ,is anything remotely approximating ethnicity or race. that's just part of a social/geographic delusion , masquerading as an historic demographic moniker.

Oct. 19 2013 09:48 AM
june wulff

terrific story! i wonder if there are black, asian, latino, or other ethnic characters at the american parks.

Oct. 19 2013 08:01 AM

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