The Brilliance Behind the Structure

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Many of us see the world built around us every day and pay no attention to the thought put into it. Disney is a brilliant example of how the concept of the company and its creations are directly conveyed through its architecture. The author of Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians addresses the architectural decisions and production of Walt Disney’s theme park.

A very unique part of the design process that Walt chose to do in order to make sure his amusement park is themed after Disney at its core is the use of “imagineers,” animators and illustrators, in place of actual contractors to draw the designs for the park, resulting in brilliantly bright colors with “exaggerated scale.”  I believe that this is the only way something as fantastical and wonderful as a Disney them park can be built, as if it actually were in one of Walt’s very own animated films. It offers an new angle in the design of architecture that truly promotes the creativity behind it, which could not be any more appropriate  anywhere but here.

He later even showed the plans for his park on national television, which I found to be a very unique approach in understanding what kind of reception one’s ideas would receive and what kinds of things people are looking for. This was also a very clever way of making use of an audience in a place where he is already well established. It appears that today’s architects are afraid of showing their ideas and designs to the indirect public, be it through popular websites on the internet or on television programs.

The journal continues to explain that Disneyland is constantly being controlled and supervised, as to the request of Walt Disney. Much of the workings of the theme park are kept hidden either underground or within walls. This ranges from the directed and linear tracks that each attraction is based on to the computers controlling the speed of a flying ship.

Many of us go to Disneyland and see a world of chaos and random activities, but it is impossible to not see all the employees placed throughout the grounds that regulate everything. I have constantly seen people in Disney uniforms at every corner I turn to and every store I enter, and there is always someone watching you to tell you what to do in case you do something wrong, just as there are hidden cameras every twenty feet.

The author closes with a very important argument that I entirely agree with, as an aspiring architect myself, that imagineers and traditional architects are not necessarily two separate entities. More and more of today’s architects are following in the same direction as imagineers in trying to make buildings not necessarily be so conservatively designed, but to be more layered where there can be no straight lines. Of course, although imagineers came up with Disney’s Toontown (you can imagine what the name implies) through this process, architects of present are finding slightly different results for the same goal so that they can normally fit into our society.

This simply illustrates the never ending pursuit of balance between aesthetics and function. Walt, as the artist he is, chose to side more with the appeal of the design of his parks and all his projects. I would like to follow in this same decision, because to every person the balance point between these two categories is at a different point, and for Walt and I, it leans towards aesthetics.

Pitter Pater

September 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Whether the Disney film is of its own creation or an adaptation of a classic fairy tale the mother is never has a long-lasting presence. Generally the mother’s death acts as a catalyst for the protagonist to realize their “destiny” and reach maturity. Without the nurturing mother the once vulnerable character must rise to the occasion and take charge. Notice in Bambi immediately following the dark winter scene of his mother’s death is a scene of spring renewal in which Bambi is much more mature?

Mom’s are generally absent figures in Disney films but a particularly interesting aspect of Bambi was the absence of his father. While Disney was a brilliant mind, revolutionary thinker and an innovator he was never very progressive when dealing with gender roles. Bambi’s father is aloof but he acts as a source of strength and leadership that Bambi’s sweet and weak mother just provide. In his films, the mother is the caretaker and nurturer but the father is the wise one with all the important answers. Throughout the film I noticed how Thumper’s father had an absentee role. His mother would frequently say to him “Thumper, what did your father say?” Although his mother was his caretaker and his father was never featured the viewer was always reminded of the father’s position of authority and the importance of paternal influence and guidance in shaping a young boy (or girl).

When Bambi is born his father watches over from a very distance mountain ledge but is never actually involved. Throughout the story his father acts as a far-away guardian. On the meadow when Bambi’s father walks by, he briefly acknowledges Bambi by making eye contact and pausing  (father of the year? I think so). He later acts as guardian to all his “people” by warning them of Man’s dangerous and unwanted presence in their peaceful home. Once Bambi’s mother is taken from him at the hands of Man, his father begins to play a more active role. He appears to Bambi in the thicket and says to him, “ your mother can’t be with you anymore”. The Great Prince is a very wise character and although he does not provide the attentive care that a young fawn would get from their mother, he does watch over his son and do his best to protect him. One must understand that The Great Prince has lived so long because of his solitude. He has been careful and remained on his own in order to stay alive. While such an absentee role is not acceptable to Man in nature it’s just the way things go. Although the presence of talking animals takes away a bit of the film’s accuracy, deer are uniparental and therefore fawns are cared for by the mother and the mother alone.

The film does a good job of creating a relationship between Bambi and his father while respecting the fact that bucks aren’t active in raising their young. At the end of the film, Bambi fills his father’s shoes as Great Prince of the Forest and watches over Feline and his twin fawns. This establishes some attachment but acknowledges that reality of the wilderness and the role of the buck in its family unit.

Patriot Games

September 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

As I started reading the article, what caught my eye was the statement that “Disney entertainment projects were consistently nourished by connections to mainstream American culture – its aesthetics, political ideology, social structures, economic framework, moral principles.”  As an avid Disney fan myself, I have always known that there are underlying messages in all of his productions, but his political views have always snagged my curiosity – enough to wonder, but not enough to truly investigate.

With a bit of digging, I came across this site, which documented Disney’s move into World War II.   Many iconic Disney characters such as Donald Duck, Dumbo, and Grumpy the dwarf all began to appear on the sides of American war machines.  Walt even said that “military experience had provided maturity and worldly wisdom at a young age.”  As a philosopher once said, “politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed,” I felt that if I delved deeper into the Disney universe, I might be able to find his political views/alignment.

Eventually, I found another site that discussed Walt’s political views and perspective, and in five sentences, it summed up what I was searching for: “The truth is that Walt’s politics don’t require much analysis at all. They were very simple. He believed in America. He believed in Abraham Lincoln. He believed that if people were given the right information, and the freedom to use it, they would behave well.”  As mentioned in The Falcon’s post, Walt spent four years as a child in a small town called Marceline.  Though since then, Walt has visited many large cities such as Chicago or Los Angeles, yet he claims to “pity” the inhabitants of those towns.  Walt’s “love for this village was genuine.”

I now believe that Walt does not really have a specific political alignment.  He believed and loved America in its purest form, a little town in the midwest close to nature and the pursuit of happiness. At the conclusion of the article, Walt responds to the exposure of a Communist by saying that he’s “glad to know that. It’s a relief that he’s a Communist. [Walt] thought he was an alcoholic.”  I suppose that Walt did not really concern himself with the politics in America and the conflicts between Republicans and Democrats: the only thing that mattered to him was the well-being of his United States as he saw it, not the political alignment of Americans.

Where’s Mrs. Disney?

September 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

How many little girls do you know who dream of attending a ball in a pumpkin and leaving behind a glass slipper like in Cinderella? How many young women do you know who fantasize of being awakened by their own Prince Charming like in Sleeping Beauty? How many wives do you think would give anything to have the happily ever after of Beauty and the Beast?

Disney has created a fail-proof formula for romance and a fulfilling relationship: Princess is in trouble and faces adversity of some sort (usually evil witch or wizard), Prince comes in and saves her, and they fall in love and live together forever in blissful happiness.

Ironically, it doesn’t seem that Disney’s love life resembled a fairy tale at all. There is very little information about his wife other than that she was named Lillian and she was an ink artist at Disney Studios. There love appeared to be nothing like the ones Disney recalled in his famous Princess stories. Instead it seems very distant and lacked any real passion.

It seemed to me Disney was a workaholic and loved the characters he created more than people in his own life. Disney once confessed, “I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I’ve ever known.” Can you imagine his wife reading that? That’s like a man telling his wife he loves his golf clubs more than his children or his car more than her. I understand Mickey Mouse was very real to him because he was his own creation, but I once again would hope he could love his wife just as much. Their private and concealed feelings make me wonder if there were any really feelings at all.

No one knows what goes behind closed doors, but I hope no one ever had to tell dear ol’ Mickey, three’s a crowd.

The not-so-public love triangle

Why was Marceline so important to Disney?

September 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

Walt Disney was born in Chicago. Besides a four year period in his clife, he lived in mostly large cities such Los Angeles and Kansas City. Why then is he so attached to the small town of Marceline, Missouri? He claims that he would hate to never experience a great small town and feels bad for those who live in cities, when he is just like them. He uses this town as inspiration for many of his stories, but there is great question as to why.

One of the reasons why I believe that he is so attached to Marceline when it comes to his stories is that he lived there in his young childhood. He lived on a farm there from age 4 to 8, which is a very important stage in the development of a kid. It is also a time where a child has the largest imagination and creativity before he is forced to lose it when he gets older.

Another reason is that he was constantly around animals. Since he lived on a farm, he had to tend to the animals so he grew an emotional attachment to them. This love for animals is very clear in his later work, because all of his most famous characters are talking animals.

A final reason that I think Marceline is so important to him is that while there, he began a love for drawing. He would draw everything from trains to animals and loved doing it. He was even paid by his neighbor to draw pictures of the neighbor’s horse. Since all cartoons start with rough sketches and drawings, he began his cartoon ideas in Marceline.

I don’t think that it was any single one of these reasons that Walt Disney loves Marceline so much, but a combination of the three. When you put together his incredible imagination, love for animals and artistic abilities, they all began in Marceline. That’s where his life really began and where his business started. If it wasn’t for this seemingly insignificant small town, he wouldn’t be the person he is today.

Disney: Rebounding to higher than before

September 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have to admit, the last thing I wanted to be doing when I got back from the Senior Retreat was what is, in effect, a short essay. And Justin goes ahead and makes the rest of us look bad by diligently doing it over the weekend (you’re still awesome though). Luckily blog posts are in a more informal style, so I can just let my personality slip through.

As I was frantically scouring my weekend annotations in the Disney packet for a topic, I realized there was a reoccurring theme in the story behind the rise of Disney. The constant backstabbing by the corporations and Walt Disney’s answer to it. Take for example the Oswald contract. After an amazing run with Oswald Disney goes to New York confident that Mintz would renew his contract and give him a raise. Instead he finds that Mintz had stole nearly all of his employees, and that he either has to surrender to Mintz, or give up everything and be forced to start again. Yet he never hesitated in declining the offer, and went on to create Mickey Mouse, who everyone not living under a rock for their entires lives must know. It still amazes me how time and time again Disney could just say “Alright, fine! Go ahead and take everything. I guess it is back to the drawing board.” The determination, that ability to bounce back from adversity and emerge stronger than before is what allowed Disney to become the giant that it is today. Walt Disney earned every last step the the way time and time again. Nothing was given to him and many obstacles arose in his path, but through it all he remained single-mindedly determined to succeed, and in the end did succeed far beyond his wildest dreams.

Oswald vs. Mickey

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

So as I was reading the assignment on Disney, I came across the part that described his first creation: “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.”  Now I thought that I had heard about Oswald somewhere, but the question that I wanted to learn was “how does Oswald compare to Mickey?”  The best way to do this I thought would be to just watch some old cartoons of them both and then write about what I thought.

This picture is a great representation of the relationship between the two cartoons in terms of public popularity.  You can go to the link where I found it by clicking on it.

Anyway, so in total I watched five old clips, the first two “Oh what a Knight,” and “Trolley Troubles,” starring Oswald, the next two “Steamboat Willie,” and “Plane Crazy,” starring Mickey, and the final one “Skeleton Dance,” which was one of The Silly Symphonies, just for fun.  Now it should be noted that “Skeleton Dance” and “Steamboat Willie” are the only ones that you should listen to with the audio on because the others were originally shown as silent films.

First impressions were about how similar the two characters are.  They look very much like each other, with only a few minor adjustments, and their actions and gags are very similar too.  Likewise, the “evil” character from “Oh what a Knight” and “Steamboat Willie,” also have a striking resemblance, and both characters have a sweetheart who’s heart they are trying to win.

The differences are a lot harder to determine.  Since both cartoons are by Disney, its to be expected that the styles are very similar.  Indeed even the cartoon aspect, the way the characters are able to bend physics and do the impossible, is very similar between the two cartoons.  The main difference that I could see between them (or at least between “Steamboat Willie” and the two Oswald cartoons) was that the “Steamboat Willie” appeared to be made more for the music, while the Oswald cartoons were more of just a story.  I think that this probably was one of the main things that separated the two and allowed Mickey to grow as he did.  They both had stories, but Mickey’s cartoons had stories that were made to go along with audio, Oswald’s did not.

It was fun to look at the cartoons that I read about in the reading and I think that taking the extra time to look at the “Skeleton’s Dance” was worth it as well.  It was a cool way to look back at the past, and see where the world of cartoons has come.

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