Saturday, March 08, 2003

Michael and Don

"Is Walt Disney really called Walter"
"I suppose so"
"So is Mickey really Michael Mouse?"
"Only in contract negotiations"
"And Donald Duck?"
"Known as Don down the golf club"

As is only right and proper, we went to Disney with dark cynicism in our hearts. Disney is, after all, one of the main pillars in America's consumer lead imperialism - an evil cell holed up on the edge of Paris eating away at thousands of years of European culture, conditioning people to the laws of Americana.

Someone at work told me that anyone who didn't enjoy Disney needed their head seeing to, she also told me she'd walked out on a Whitney Houston concert because it wasn't as good as Celine Dion. It strengthened my resolve.

But Disney was great, it was saccharine and idealistic, but that is what they do, they're just not trying to be anything else. The parades are all about how everyone should love each other and get on, we can mock, but it's a fine sentiment. People may say that its unreal, and typically American - the Rough Guide was scathing, snottily proclaiming it to be fine for kids and stupid people, but anyone with a brain, i.e. anyone who reads the Rough Guide and who has kept it real by spending their holidays in small jazz clubs, will hate it.

But going to Disney is what people do, it's as valid as walking in the Andes or Yack herding in Peru, or any of those more 'real' pursuits people do in an attempt to justify their proclaimed eclecticism.

Mickey is, of course, an obvious presence, but disappointingly Donald Duck appears to be ostracised in favour of Winnie the Poo and his friends. I was shocked to see Ee Aww doing the running man dance during a parade rather than concerning himself with blustery days, but generally Disney have retained the values of Poo - which is to be applauded.

What you don't get from the Disney films is how close together all the characters live to each other. Did you know that Pinocchio and Peter Pan are neighbours? If you watch the films, you never see Peter Pan in the background when Geppeto is carving the lying bastard little boy in the garden. You would expect him to appear at the window naked scratching his testicles and rubbing his eyes or something.

At the end of the day we walked back through Main Street USA trawling the parade of shops looking for something for Emma's sister. The range is bewildering, you could easily furnish your house with Disney stuff, wear Disney outfits, live a 24/7 Disney life. People were trying to do it, scooping up great hoards of merchandise, as with all merchandise you have to try and take what your buying out of its context and put it back into real life. A 24 piece Mickey dinner service may look great at Disney, but at home? Think about it.

We moved from one store to another trying to find something to suit Sara, Emma carefully examined things, pulled a face and put them back. In the final shop she stood ponderously, behind her were hundreds of Mini Mouses all piled up. There she stood, with this backdrop. She looked me in the eyes and said "I don't know it's just not DISNEY enough".


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