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  1. #1

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    The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    I'm not sure if this bothers anyone else... or if anyone ever really stopped to think about it. When Walt died a lot of those closest to him went out of their way to "Do it the way Walt would want it done". This can be seen, heard, and read in countless interviews. As time has gone on the "Walt would want" statement has become more and more broad... many times stated by people who didn't personally know him and barely knew of him. At the same time Disney has been content to exploit Walt's image within the park, far more then Walt himself ever did. I realize how tightly Walt controlled his own image, and how his image and the company became one. But Walt didn't have a statue dedicated to him. He didn't have Books and Movies about him sold in every shop. There are pictures and there are autographs, but nothing on the level of what is produced today. Walt has become yet another character in the Disney empire.

    What bothers me is that Disney is now using his image to reshape DCA. Again, those who barely know him are content to say what he would and would not have wanted. I'm not shocked... stunned would be a better word... stunned that the opening of DCA will be "How Walt saw Buena Vista when he stepped off the train". It seems like the farther they stray from what many percieve to be his "visions" the more they cling to his image to rationalize their decisions. I personally think it is wrong that they are tying him so directly to a land with the hope that his image will help it succeed. I can't wait for the array of Buena Vista merchandise in the stores Walt would have seen when he stepped off the train.
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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    If his intention was to not be too closely identified with his creation wouldn't he have called it FUNLAND or some other descriptive yet distancing moniker?
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by ALIASd View Post
    If his intention was to not be too closely identified with his creation wouldn't he have called it FUNLAND or some other descriptive yet distancing moniker?
    And yet, aside from his name he didn't really promote himself within the park.
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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Well....
    I can sorta see where you're coming from, but I have other thoughts as well. First off, it seems natural to me that he wouldn't blast his own image while alive, otherwise looking like an egotistical maniac. Once he passed it also seems reasonable that he would become the icon the park has made him. He created the theme parks and films, and TV series that shaped and continue to shape generations of people, so having him present in the park doesn't seem like a stretch. To me DCA's entire overhaul is genius in that it looks to the past. The overexposure of Pixar and their 15 minute of fame movies wasn't creating the classic park attractions people bond to, and now with so many old style things coming in, (The new Fun Wheel design, Silly Symphony, World of Color), it makes sense that his image would reimerge as well.

    Also, it is a known fact that Walt drew inspiration from the places his visited, particularly Main St., so complementing that in the neighboring park doesn't seem like too big a stretch. Like I said, I get what you're saying, and sensitivity to the dead does need to be taken into consideration, but I would like to believe that their feelings are genuine. Don't get me wrong, they want to make money and be successful, but I think (although I'm not completely sold on the idea of whether Buena Vista St. will be good) that their hearts are in the right place.

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    And yet, aside from his name he didn't really promote himself within the park.
    Just on national television to a far broader audience to promote his park, films and other products.
    Last edited by ALIASd; 08-24-2009 at 11:13 AM. Reason: double post
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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    And yet, aside from his name he didn't really promote himself within the park.
    Just on souvenirs sold there and on national television to a far broader audience to promote his park, films and other products.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  7. #7

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    I'm not sure if this bothers anyone else... or if anyone ever really stopped to think about it. When Walt died a lot of those closest to him went out of their way to "Do it the way Walt would want it done". This can be seen, heard, and read in countless interviews. As time has gone on the "Walt would want" statement has become more and more broad... many times stated by people who didn't personally know him and barely knew of him. At the same time Disney has been content to exploit Walt's image within the park, far more then Walt himself ever did. I realize how tightly Walt controlled his own image, and how his image and the company became one. But Walt didn't have a statue dedicated to him. He didn't have Books and Movies about him sold in every shop. There are pictures and there are autographs, but nothing on the level of what is produced today. Walt has become yet another character in the Disney empire.

    What bothers me is that Disney is now using his image to reshape DCA. Again, those who barely know him are content to say what he would and would not have wanted. I'm not shocked... stunned would be a better word... stunned that the opening of DCA will be "How Walt saw Buena Vista when he stepped off the train". It seems like the farther they stray from what many percieve to be his "visions" the more they cling to his image to rationalize their decisions. I personally think it is wrong that they are tying him so directly to a land with the hope that his image will help it succeed. I can't wait for the array of Buena Vista merchandise in the stores Walt would have seen when he stepped off the train.
    You make a valid argument, and yes, Disney is exploiting Walt Disney as a tool to sell the revamped California Adventure. I'm holding out hope that the finished Buena Vista Street feels more like a tribute to Walt Disney and Los Angeles than it does a cheap trick to fix Sunshine Plaza.

    It was downright insulting when they were throwing Walt's name around every other sentence when they were talking about the Disneyland Dream Suite. It was even more so when they gold-leafed the WD and RD initials in the balcony wrought iron. So far, nothing in Buena Vista Street seems that offensive or exploitative. I hope the new Partners statue doesn't happen, and I hope they add references to Walt with taste and tact.

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    And yet, aside from his name he didn't really promote himself within the park.
    It is hard for me to say how much of a presence Walt had in his park's namesake during the years of his life as I was not there to witness it firsthand.

    But collectors know for instance that there was a very large image of Walt featured on the 1955 pictorial guide book cover and again on the covers from 1958 through 1966. Starting in 1958, the title of the guide was "Walt Disney's Guide To Disneyland".

    In my opinion, I think your argument is unsound Techskip.
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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Just to point it out: Perhaps one reason there weren't many visual tributes to Walt when the park opened was because you could see the man himself walking around, or see him on TV every Sunday night. I can see where he would have been uncomfortable seeing tributes to himself while he was still alive, and they wouldn't have been as necessary anyway. Everybody already knew who he was.

    These days, I think it's important to have reminders of the man, so kids coming to the park have some appreciation for the fact that Disneyland didn't just spring from the earth fully built.

    Obviously there's some profit motive involved, but if you deride any Disney project out of hand because it makes money in addition to telling whatever story is intended...you're not going to be left with a heck of a lot to enjoy.

    Personally, I think the Partners statue is a sincere and understated tribute to Walt, and I think the idea of seeing "his" Hollywood at the front of DCA sounds very promising.

    I guess I'd rather see reminders of Walt's influence sprinkled throughout the parks, even if he wouldn't have personally approved of everything there. I don't see it as hypocritical, since it's impossible to ask Walt whether he'd want to build this or that, and even his own words are going to be of limited value since his perspective was necessarily limited by the times he lived in.

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    If I'm not mistaken (and I very well could be), Walt's family owns the rights to his likeness--not the Disney Company. You would have to go through the Walt Disney Family Foundation to secure those rights.

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    They are saying that they are basing Buena Vista Street off of what Walt would have seen, but I don't think it's overusing a connection to Walt. It's a simple connection and a basis for what time period and basic architecture that they want to use for the revamp of the park, but they aren't slapping his name on everything. They've even taken out the Disney in California Adventure's name. And it seems that unless they heavily alter their plans, most guests won't even realize the special connection that some see as excessive. And if they don't put in the partners statue, there really won't be an obvious connection back to Walt. It will simply be a perfected image of California in the 20's and a far cry from overkill on Walt.

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    If I'm not mistaken (and I very well could be), Walt's family owns the rights to his likeness--not the Disney Company. You would have to go through the Walt Disney Family Foundation to secure those rights.
    I believe you're correct... Opus would likely have more documentation on it. I remember a while back he posted some documentation in regards to Walt's Image/Likeness...

    What's strange is that Walt did Main Street without any tie-ins. Sure it's "just like my boyhood home" but he didn't really promote anything. Disney CO is doing Buena Vista and instead of "Here's 1920's LA" you get immediate "Here's what Walt would have seen" and "Walt..." and "Walt..." I was a bit surprised how often his name came up. That is the main point of this thread. Walt comes up a lot regardless of the decision itself... look at Small World's changes if you want a wonderful example. Who knows what the man would have wanted. Who knows what he would think. He's been gone over 40 years... that is a lot of "life experience" time that could have shaped his view of any subject. Disney the company tries so hard to tie themselves to Disney the man... to me it's actually pathetic.

    As to an homage to Walt... I'm not sure if it is factual but it has been posted before that he didn't want that. I specifically remember how deeply divided various individuals were when the Partner's Statue was installed. That was "back then" in the early 90's... now you can find any number of books/DVD's specifically about him in just about any store.
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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    ...Disney has been content to exploit Walt's image within the park, far more then Walt himself ever did....

    ... Walt has become yet another character in the Disney empire.
    Yep. What really fries my frijoles is the contrast between Disney management's oh-so-reverent hyping of Walt in public and their cynical scorn of his name, works and culture in their conference rooms. It's a hypocrisy that lumbered into Burbank like an 800-pound gorilla when Eisner arrived, and stayed when he left.


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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    And yet, aside from his name he didn't really promote himself within the park.
    I am sure he just did not want the attention while he was still alive but he still made sure he was in the public eye with specials on television including the Disneyland show.


    He is dead now i doubt he cares

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    Re: The Exploitation of Walt for Buena Vista St.

    Interesting points, Skip. And I agree with some of them, and also with most of what Mr. Wiggins said.

    But there are a few salient points. Walt named his studios named after himself. He called the park DISNEYland. He put his father's name on a window in that park. Walt marketed Walt as much as he needed to. When it was a matter of showing the public whatever he needed to get something paid for or publicized or pushed through, yes, he did it. He had no qualms about naming it Disneyland, or using the Walt Disney name or his own image when it would be beneficial. I'm not sure he'd mind some of what's been done since his death. Who honestly would mind if years after their death, people still wanted to honor them by naming things or places after them? Even if it's in DCA, which Walt had nothing to do with. DCA exists because of Walt Disney, whether for good or ill. If there was no Walt, there would be no Disneyland, and therefore no DisneylandLite/DCA.

    But here's the real stickler: I don't claim to be an expert, but I have read a lot of things that indicate that no one, not even Walt himself, was ever totally sure what he was going to want. He changed his mind as circumstances, finances and imagination allowed. Always seeking to better things, yes, but still...no one could really predict. So certainly now, 40+ years after his death, no one has any idea.

    If he has come to be revered by many and an icon of American ingenuity, inventiveness and artistry, then I have no problem with that. I don't see making Buena Vista St. as "Walt saw it" a real problem, either. Some of it will be artistic license, certainly.

    What I hate to see is Walt's name or likeness added to things with the careless abandon usually seen in DisneyChannel marketing schemes. I don't ever want to see "the toilet paper Walt used" or something equally hideous. I know some of the naming is simply marketing. And marketing is more prevalent today than in Walt's day. Merchandise at the parks is more prevalent as well. It's to be expected there will be more Walt.

    The bottom line is that if you become well-known, and you alone establish your name so firmly with your product (as Walt did) that they are permanently entwined, then as long as your product remains popular and marketable, so does your name.

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