The Happiest Place on Earth

Last week Laura and I went to Disney World as Laura’s birthday gift from my parents and had an absolute blast.

The part that’s always fascinated me about Disney World is Walt Disney’s vision for the place and the way that’s been protected and carried on by the corporation. It’s this vision, I think, that helps Disney World feel different from any other theme park- it has a real ethos apart from providing easy entertainment and making money (though they’re really good at those too).

What is Disney’s vision? Walt Disney saw himself as a myth maker and storyteller for the Modern Age, doing for the imagination what Henry Ford had done for transportation or Ray Kroc had done for food. By remaking classic European myths in the American image and making them fit for mass consumption, Disney was making a democratic and New World statement of the kind Jefferson or Whitman would have understood and appreciated. Disney believed in intentionally cultivating and furthering what he saw as American distinctives like enterprise, ingenuity, ruggedness, innovation, self-reliance, etc (it’s easy to forget that Disney was a major and eager participant in American anti-fascist and anti-communist propaganda campaigns). It was possible that this ethos could have been lost post Sexual Revolution, post-Cold War, but it wasn’t.  The following posts will explain why I think this was and why that matters.

To anyone reading who worries that I’m overthinking Disney and I should have been focused on having fun- this is my idea of fun! Plus, and we’ll see, Disney World is a fun and entertaining place with a pretty serious purpose.

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