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  1. #1

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    Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Not quite sure what forum to post this in, but here goes...

    Hi everyone! For my History of the Americas Internal Assessment (aka the biggest written assignment I'll have all year!), I've decided to write about how Disneyland helped shape the geopolitical landscape of Southern California. Another topic that I will discuss is how the Disney's representation of Utopia set the layout for the suburbs of Los Angeles County. My research question will go something like this:

    To what extent did the foundation of Disneyland impact the political, economic, and social landscape of Orange County and the southland?

    My teacher also recommended that I include something about Walt Disney's conservative politics and how his personal ideology is reflected in the park. (That is not meant to be a loaded statement, I'm just trying to gather as much information that's relative to my question as possible!)

    Any sources/personal anecdotes/expertise would be greatly appreciated!

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    I would strongly suggest you check out Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. I read it about a month ago andthere are multiple sections discussing both concepts that you mentioned.
    "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."
    -Walt Disney

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    ^^ I did read that a while ago, and while I enjoyed it very much, I am looking for something a little more Disneyland specific. Thanks for the help, though!

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    I lived in the city of Orange, California from 1964 to 1977. Orange County was already pretty conservative before Disney arrived and it still leans conservative today. I've always thought of Disneyland as pretty much apolitical and I don't believe it had much impact politically on the surrounding area. Disney made Anaheim a household name across the country and around the world, actually. Without it, Anaheim would be just another suburb of L.A. now. Between the time Disneyland opened and Walt Disney World opened, Disneyland was the only Disney theme park and it was the world's most elaborate, most famous and most popular tourist attraction. That fame undoubtedly cause the population of Orange County to grow, though not everyone moved to Orange County because of Disneyland, that was certainly one of the selling points. The beaches - the mountains - Disneyland - jobs! - low crime - sunny year-round mild climate! It was almost like the perfect place to live, back then.
    So I think Disneyland had an impact on the growth of Orange County's population, and it certainly does provide a lot of jobs to residents of Orange County. And the peripheral businesses, the hotels and restaurants that surround Disneyland, also provide jobs, and most of those hotels wouldn't be there if Disneyland wasn't there. So Disneyland has had a significant economic impact on Orange County, but as far as social and political, not so much. Disneyland is sort of hermetically sealed from the rest of Orange County and it doesn't really affect the surrounding areas all that much outside of the resort district. Once you get out of the resort district it's almost like Disneyland has no effect at all. Go a couple miles south on Harbor Boulevard, and after you pass the Target store on your left, you come into an area which is so run-down it seems like a slum compared to the polished and glittering resort district. It's almost jarring.
    As far as Walt Disney's personal beliefs being reflected in the park, there is a patriotic theme that is apparent in a lot of places, but that's about it as far as I can tell. I think Walt wanted the Disneyland experience to be carefree, and for families to forget the troubles of the outside world for a day, even to the extent of building a berm around the park which visually shut out the outside world. I've never felt like anything in Disneyland made a strong or clear political statement.

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    I think Bob Weaver said it pretty good.

    I really hate to burst your bubble, but I don't think Disneyland has had too much of an influence on the growth of Orange County. I think a big part of this is Disney's refusal to allow it's images to be used outside of it's control. Also, the population of Los Angeles was already spreading out towards Orange County at the tine Disneyland was being built which was why Walt put it there in the first place

    If you really want to write about the changes to Orange County I advise you do some research on the Irvine Company and the development of the master planned city of Irvine. This has had a much bigger influence on Orange County than Disneyland has. Sure, it can be argued that perhaps this stemmed from Walt's vision of EPCOT, but to be completely honest I think the idea behind EPCOT may have been influenced by what was happening with the development of the city of Irvine.

    Now that would be interesting to find out If Walt was aware of what was going on at the Irvine Ranch at the time and if any of that led to his ideas about EPCOT.
    Last edited by DisneyIPresume; 10-08-2009 at 07:44 PM.

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Sry I can't rly help but I wish you good luck!
    So after 2 full days in a row of walking around disneyland and a four hour practice, I finally understand why my doctor told me to take it easy on my knee I still cant wait to do it again

    AEROSMITH FTWW!

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    As I'm thinking about it, look at the designs for early Irvine Company projects such as UC Irvine and Newport Center in Newport Beach. They bear a striking resemblance to Walt's original design for EPCOT.

    Perhaps there is a connection there.

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Row2k View Post
    My teacher also recommended that I include something about Walt Disney's conservative politics and how his personal ideology is reflected in the park. (That is not meant to be a loaded statement, I'm just trying to gather as much information that's relative to my question as possible!)
    Sans citations, my sense is that Walt himself was a synthesis of American post-WWI and especially post-WWII cultural values, and Disneyland was a Xanadu of our own cultural mythology. As a child of those times (first visit to Disneyland in 1955, age 7), my sense is that Walt Disney's personal ideology was less embodied in the Park than was his cultural affinity to mid-century middle America. He took what many people felt in that period and expressed it through a storytelling tradition developed during 30 years as a showman and filmmaker. In Disneyland, Walt synthesized the myths of middle America, either directly (he personally did the layout for Tom Sawyer Island) or more often, indirectly, through the work of his artists, who were steeped in the same cultural values.

    I would suggest that understanding post-WWII middle American culture is key to reading the cultural iconography of the original Disneyland and its influence on Orange County. There is a large literature on the post-WWI lure of "sunny Southern California" -- filmmakers like Walt, agriculturists like the pre-WWII population of Orange County and entrepreneurs like those who followed the Disneyland boom all felt its call.

    I see Walt as both follower and folklorist of cultural forces already long in play in America and California in the first half of the 20th century; bottled up during WWII, they exploded in the late 1940's and early 1950's (see the opening chapters of Diana West's Death of the Grownup). I think America and the world responded so powerfully to the values embodied in Disneyland because they were the premiere ideals of America in that period.

    The Studio strike and HUAC activities notwithstanding, I think Walt's politics weren't even a blip on the radar of Southern California or Orange County geopolitics. For the power of Walt's influence, I would suggest looking less to his politics and more to the post-WWII myth of the American man as the eternal boy.


    Last edited by Mr Wiggins; 10-08-2009 at 09:19 PM.
    "With the acquisition of Marvel and now of Lucasfilm,
    Disney may have finally found the grail. You don't need
    imagination or art. All you need is a brand."

    - Neil Gabler


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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    One thing I'm surprised nobody's picked up on yet is the themes of the individual lands. Tropical lands, the old west, turn of the century small towns, and the future were all themes which resonated strongly w/ mid-century America. You could write a whole essay on that alone, but try looking at some of the themed hotels popping up in OC around then. A guy named Stovall had a whole chain of them, all w/ space themes.

    Here's a couple sites to get you started:

    Space Age City

    Postcards From the Forgotten

    As far as Walt's politics go, permit me a little editorializing. As several people have already stated, politics didn't play much of a part in DL. Your professor, if he's like most professors, probably leans pretty far to the left. He's looking for you to find some hidden "right-wing agenda" in the Park. Other academics have written books trying to do just this and, while interesting, most of them are so nakedly agenda-driven as to be off-putting.
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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Your editorializing sounds spot on - coming from a moderate to liberal voter, it bugs me too.

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Row2k View Post
    ^^ I did read that a while ago, and while I enjoyed it very much, I am looking for something a little more Disneyland specific. Thanks for the help, though!
    This paper is due at 8 am tomorrow, isn't it?

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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadway Guru View Post


    As far as Walt's politics go, permit me a little editorializing. Your professor, if he's like most professors, probably leans pretty far to the left.
    That is a pretty bold statement. You are generalizing and generalizing doesn't hold water. A person's profession does not dictate their political affiliation (with the exception of politicians...duh).
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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by leopardchucks View Post
    That is a pretty bold statement. You are generalizing and generalizing doesn't hold water. A person's profession does not dictate their political affiliation (with the exception of politicians...duh).
    Well, that's why it's called editorializing, isn't it?
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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Alright. You were not incorrect.
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    Re: Disneyland research paper- Help!

    Disneyland was originally built during the Cold War era but there is virtually nothing there that has any reference to that. It was also the "Atomic Age" and the "Space Age." Tomorrowland reflected the excitement about manned space flight, but as soon as mankind landed on the moon in 1969, public interest in space flight ebbed and "Flight to the Moon" was redone as "Mission to Mars." The original Tomorrowland as opened in 1955 had a kind of World's Fair look and feel, and when it was remodeled in 1967 it had a more sophisticated World's Fair look and feel, almost an intertwining, thriving "city of the future" with the PeopleMover and all that. That was still the era when futurists were imagining the U.S. and world in the 1980s and beyond as a sleek, stylish, almost Jetsons-like place, which of course never came to pass in the "real world." Here it is 2009 and we still aren't driving around in our little air cars. But that was what the future was expected to look like, at that time at least. It was a very optimistic outlook and Disney was clearly a believer in that vision.
    As far as social impact about the most Disneyland ever did with social messages was "it's a small world" which was actually designed for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, then brought over and rebuilt in Disneyland. The social message of "it's a small world" is a pretty simple and obvious one, but still seems somewhat relevant today. Other than that Disneyland has always focused heavily on entertainment and the various lands reflect different concepts of what entertainment can be defined as - anything from a ghoul jumping up at you in the dark, to a princess in costume signing your autograph book, to a movie shown on 9 screens that completely surround you, to a live ragtime piano player and 4 men riding a bicycle built for 4, to a shotgun blast in a jungle, to a bunch of bubbles outside a submarine window, to an old-fashioned carousel, to a space launching port, to a fireworks show - it's every possible manifestation of what could be considered entertainment (but no alcohol, gambling, nudity, sex, politics, religion, controversy - although plenty of violence, shooting and fear: almost every attraction involves peril and fear at some point in the show).

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