Rewriting The Past And Creating The Future: Disney And It’s Never Changing Utopian Society
Throughout the decades, Disney has established itself as a must-see attraction for families all around the world, regardless of social status or class. Established in Anaheim, California, on July 17th, 1995, Disneyland has been the main attraction for both native Californians and tourists all around the world, as its fictitious setting and atmosphere has differentiated itself from other amusement parks. The fantasy-like amusement park has brought in millions of visitors in just the year 2018, Disneyland has brought in over 18 million people (S. Lock, Statista), and continues to grow steadily throughout the years. Tickets generally cost 90 to 124 dollars depending on the age of the visitor, and the day chosen to visit. When Walt Disney had just begun the process of opening his theme park in Anaheim, the park cost nearly 17 million dollars to build (Guiliano, 2015). Walt Disney, founder and creator of the Disney franchise, has stated that the main purpose of Disneyland is to distract their visitors of the real world. Disney expressed; “I don’t want the public to see the real world they live in while they’re in the park… I want them to feel they’re in another world” (qtd from King 121) . Located in the park, a plaque hangs high that reads: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”. This quote engraved into the park’s entrance establishes Disneyland’s main goal of creating a magical place regardless of the circumstances of the outside world, as the park’s main aspect is fairytales and happy endings.
The definition of utopia is simple: an imagined place in which everything is perfect. The idea of utopia has changed deliberately through literature whether it be fictitious or realistic, yet still maintains the entire aspect where everything but be perfect and under order. The first documented form of Utopia dates back to Greek philosopher Plato’s novel The Republic written in 381 B.C., where Plato teeters around the idea of the perfect society, otherwise known as utopia. Plato characterizes utopia as a society with three classes, made up of the ruling class, working class and warriors. In this society, order is established as the ruling class constructs a set of rules for society, while the working class follows. The warriors enforce these rules, as they exist to protect the laws ordered by the ruling class. Overall, Plato constructed the meaning of utopia to be an organized society made up of specific classes to contribute to society, meaning everything is pre-planned and orchestrated to be consistent and steady. Conflict and tension occur, but are easily met with a happy ending as these contributors to society can quickly come up with a resolution that accommodates to everybody. Many utopias in the form of literature include this form of story line, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed”, where an alien invasion occurs on Earth which leads to the assimilation and integration of humans and aliens, spawning a society where both species live in an organized environment. Other forms of utopian literature include a similar format of this story line as well, where society is constructed to fit to the needs and agreements of everyone, as the civilians of these societies live in peace with very easily resolved tensions. Disneyland has used this similar form of utopia ideology as well, as it is meant to be a magical place with conflicts that can be salvaged through a simple solution that will cater to everybody’s necessities.
Consequently, the creators of the Disneyland park have orchestrated a society without conflict or fear, for instance erasing the Wild West of the ongoing war between the Indigenous and European settlers and the slaughter of Native Americans by creating a land without dilemmas, making these parties seem as friendly and amiable as possible. In 1955, located in Frontierland, Disneyland dedicated a special section to the Native aspect of their park called the Indian village. The park had hired actual Native Americans to perform in the area, bringing culture to the park in order to introduce visitors to the world of tribal traditions (Geryak, 2018). These Native workers were friendly and generous, despite the actuality of history detailing the conflict between Native tribes and outsiders. In Disney has marketed a clean and pristine concept of society where people live without rarely any social conflict or fear, as they have continuously kept up with the running theme of fantasy land to cater to those looking for an escape from the outside world that is plagued with ongoing war, political conflict and real life issues. In PBS’ documentary show American Experience, “Walt Disney” further explains the marketable utopia that Disney has profited from. Author and McIntire Department of Art Associate Professor Carmenita Higginbotham then goes on to configure Disney’s utopia and its never changing society, stating: “It is not about now. It is a complete release from all those burdens.” In the long run, Disney will continue to rewrite past history by making their own perception of society to cater to working class Americans and beyond to supply some relief from the world’s chaotic order. Disneyland, essentially, is an amusement park of its own caliber. It has deliberately changed the structure of consumerism and fantasy, which both have collaborated to rewrite the meaning of fantasy. Disney as a whole has grown in popularity throughout a generous period of time, with their theme park prospering and gaining attention as they sell the ideology of a fictitious society made up of organized concepts, which all lead back to the philosophy that living in harmony without political and economic tension is the dream world.
Even as Disneyland has developed greatly over the past several years, the theme of the park is and will always be revolving around nostalgia and accommodating to every sort of person. Peter Stillman, Author and Professor of Political Science at Vassar College, argues that unity and consumerism is what makes Disney’s amusement park so desirable. He writes: “Although the lived American adventure involves divisions and struggles of race, class, and gender, the Disney pavilion of the same name minimizes those phenomena while it emphasizes the appeal of unity and the consumer life” (Stillman and Villmoare, 92). Disneyland’s main slogan is “the happiest place on Earth”, embarking its family friendly key points by erasing any form of political tension from its attractions. For instance, the ride It’s a Small World displays unity between children of all different types of ethnicities and cultures. Historical context is erased from these cultures, resulting in no form of conflicts, just unity characterized by happy songs and hand holding. At the end of the ride, there are children of different races dressed in all white singing the theme song in a choir, signifying that peace among everyone is achievable, thus using utopian elements to create a safe environment that is both family friendly and desirable. Essentially, Disneyland has become an exact example of what a perfect society should be, as it caters to its consumers of all statuses, whether it be race, age, social status, and much more. Through storytelling and unique goods and rides, Disneyland has created a world of its own for those to escape any hardships from reality, offering relief to those who need it.
Overall, Disneyland is the epitome of what a utopian society is supposed to be. It targets its consumers with relief from political and social conflict of the outside world in exchange for nearly 100 dollars. The park provides a temporary peace of mine by creating its own form of history, whether it is the rewritten past, the escape from the present, or a new chapter in the future. Disneyland’s dream society is organized and pre-planned, using assimilation as a tool to create a perfect world where conflicts are easily resolved as long as team effort is involved as long as the solution caters to everybody. Ultimately, Disneyland is the prime example of what a utopian society in reality would be if a perfect society were achievable.