Walt Disney

You are currently browsing articles tagged Walt Disney.

Via the wonderful Browser, I came across David Cay Johnston’s Al Jazeera essay, “America Should Be More Like Disneyland,” which suggests the U.S. invest in infrastructure and our future like Walt did with his walled-in world. It’s not the first time a thinker has suggested we look to a corporation for tips on saner public governance. In the 1990s, Los Angeles sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, worried by the Rodney King riots and crime against his own family members, thought American cities were becoming hyper-violent and needed to turn themselves over to corporations which would make large-scale malls of metropolises. He had, of course, missed the macro picture: Crime was actually diminishing in the U.S. at a remarkable rate. It still is. Johnston’s ideas are far more reasonable. An excerpt:

“At the park’s grand opening on July 17, 1955, Walt Disney said, ‘This happy place’ is ‘dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America.’

To raise the $17 million ($150 million in today’s money) needed to turn Anaheim’s orange groves into the Magic Kingdom, Disney mortgaged his home and created a Sunday night television show on ABC. Today the Disney Co. owns ABC, because Walt Disney’s vision of a richer future paid off beyond even his imagination.

But as a people, we disinvest in America. Even though the country could borrow at extremely low interest rates, we refuse to take the risk. Instead, we let infrastructure deteriorate, cut school budgets, close libraries, raise college tuition and pay ever more for police and security even though crime has been declining for decades.

In an era when human knowledge is expanding at a rapidly accelerating rate, Congress cuts budgets for basic research, thereby encouraging smart young scientists to go overseas because they can get funding abroad. And of course the countries that receive them will reap the benefits of their discoveries.

Disney’s brother Roy and other critics thought Disneyland was too audacious and costly an idea to succeed. Yet it not only prompted a wave of theme parks around the world, including the complete remake of Las Vegas, starting in 1989 with the Mirage, a themed casino resort on the Disneyland model.

Creating a happy place

Imagine if we applied that same vision of a better world from infrastructure to education and scientific research or even to just having public restrooms — and clean ones at that.”

Tags: ,

Rust never sleeps, and Walt Disney, even with all his great success and grand imagination, wasn’t immune to the quiet terrors of life any more than the rest of us. Almost two decades before he built his first safe and secure family theme park in California, the Hollywood house he’d purchased for his parents was invaded by a silent killer. Two articles follow from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.


From the November 27, 1938 edition:


From the May 16, 1954 edition:


Tags: , ,

Jack Benny is one of my favorite comedians, and I think his odd, long-running radio and TV sitcom, with its scheming cast of characters, was the template in some ways for Seinfeld. Sadly the episode tapes of the TV version are in poor condition so the program never became a rerun staple on cable. In this 1964 clip from near the end of the show’s run, the host is joined by Walt Disney, empire builder, urban planner, technologist, Wernher von Braun collaborator and mouse enthusiast.

Tags: ,

From “Inside the Immortality Business,” Josh Dean’s excellent Buzzfeed report about cryonics, a passage about the first-ever “cryonaut”:

“At one end of Alcor’s conference room is a picture window of the kind you see in police interrogation rooms. It’s typically covered with a metal screen, but Mike Perry, the company’s Patient Care Director, pushed a cartoonishly large red button and it raised to reveal the cold storage room, which if you’ve been on a brewery tour, basically looks like that. On the far wall is a row of towering silver canisters containing four patients each (claustrophobia is not a concern of the cryopreserved) — plus another eight or 10 frozen heads, which are stored in crock-pot-sized cans and stacked in the canister’s center channel. Each capsule, Perry explained, is cooled to 320 degrees below zero Fahrenheit using liquid nitrogen and requires no electricity. Canisters operate on the same basic principle as a thermos bottle; they are double-walled with a vacuum-sealed space between the two walls and are known as dewars, for the concept’s Scottish inventor, James Dewar. The chamber itself is filled with liquid nitrogen and is replenished weekly from a huge storage container, though in truth, Perry noted, that’s overkill. A test canister once went eight months before all of the nitrogen finally boiled off, so there’s little reason to worry about your frozen loved ones thawing should the nightwatchman fall asleep on the job.

Perry, who is gaunt, wispy-haired, and hunchbacked (a condition he hopes will be fixed when he’s revived down the road), drew my attention to another unit, horizontal and obviously much older, on the floor just on the far side of the glass. This container once held Dr. James Bedford who, in 1967, became the world’s first-ever cryonaut, as the fervent press at the time dubbed him. Perry said that security reasons prevented him from identifying precisely which of the new capsules now contained Bedford, or for that matter the baseball legend Ted Williams, who is the most famous ex-person publicly known to be in Alcor’s care. (Walt Disney, contrary to urban legend, was never frozen. Neither was Timothy Leary, who was once an Alcor member, but later canceled.)

Cryonics as a concept has existed in science-fiction for more than a century, but it traces its real-world origins to the 1964 publication of The Prospect of Immortality. That book, written by a physics and math professor from Atlantic City named Robert Ettinger, opened with a bold proclamation: ‘Most of us now living have a chance for personal, physical immortality.’ Ettinger went on to lay out, in a very specific and carefully constructed scientific argument, why humans should immediately begin to consider this plausible alternative. He wrote: ‘The fact: At very low temperatures it is possible, right now, to preserve dead people with essentially no deterioration, indefinitely.’ Ettinger called this ‘suspended death’ and the overall movement he hoped would grow up to support it ‘the freezer program,’ an ominous phrase that didn’t stick for obvious reasons. (In a later book, he called it being ‘preserved indefinitely in not-very-dead condition,’ which is so hilariously stiff as to sound bureaucratic.)”

Tags: , , ,

Fifty years ago, the great John Glenn orbited the moon and America was on its way in the Space Race. Behind the scenes, things were murkier, as erstwhile Nazi Wernher von Braun was leading the program. The scientist collaborated with Walt Disney on the 1955 short film, “Man in Space.”

See also:

Tags: , ,

From “The Machine-Tooled Happyland,” Ray Bradbury’s 1965 Holiday analysis of the robot-centric Disneyland:

“We live in an age of one billion robot devices that surround, bully, change and sometimes destroy us. The metal-and-plastic machines are all amoral. But by their design and function they lure us to be better or worse than we might otherwise be.

In such an age it would be foolhardy to ignore the one man who is building human qualities into robots—robots whose influence will be ricocheting off social and political institutions ten thousand afternoons from today.

Snobbery now could cripple our intellectual development. After I had heard too many people sneer at Disney and his audio-animatronic Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois exhibit at the New York World’s Fair, I went to the Disney robot factory in Glendale. I watched the finishing touches being put on a second computerized, electric- and air-pressure-driven humanoid that will “live” at Disneyland from this summer on. I saw this new effigy of Mr. Lincoln sit, stand, shift his arms, turn his wrists, twitch his fingers, put his hands behind his back, turn his head, look at me, blink and prepare to speak. In those few moments I was filled with an awe I have rarely felt in my life.

Giovanni Battista Bracelli's robot drawings, 1624.

Only a few hundred years ago all this would have been considered blasphemous, I thought. To create man is not man’s business, but God’s, it would have been said. Disney and every technician with him would have been bundled and burned at the stake in 1600.

And again, I thought, all of this was dreamed before. From the fantastic geometric robot drawings of Bracelli in 1624 to the mechanical people in Capek’s R.U.R. in 1925, others have conceived and drawn metallic extensions of man and his senses, or played at it in theater.

But the fact remains that Disney is the first to make a robot that is convincingly real, that looks, speaks and acts like a man. Disney has set the history of humanized robots on its way toward wider, more fantastic excur­sions into the needs of civilization.” (Thanks Longform.)


“We also accompanied him on a trip to Disneyland,” 1968:

Tags: ,

From Kevn Kelly’s comments on the Technium about copyright law and the public commons:

“It is in the interest of culture to have a large and dynamic public domain. The greatest classics of Disney were all based on stories in the public domain, and Walt Disney showed how public domain ideas and characters could be leveraged by others to bring enjoyment and money. But ironically, after Walt died, the Disney corporation became the major backer of the extended copyright laws, in order to keep the very few original ideas they had — like Mickey Mouse — from going into the public domain. Also ironically, just as Disney was smothering the public domain, their own great fortunes waned because they were strangling the main source of their own creativity, which was public domain material. They were unable to generate their own new material, so they had to buy Pixar.

A tragedy of the commons occurs when members behave selfishly and deny the commons what is due. As Disney shows, when members keep their creations out of the common pool for others to exploit, their gain is only short lived. Mickey Mouse, Superman, and eventually Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker all belong in the commons. The world will be a better place when they are.

We should repeal unreasonable intellectual property laws, to keep the incentives for a period no longer than the life of its creators (how can you be invented if you are dead?). But in the meantime, imagine what the creative public could do with these works, and weep — because nothing like that will happen for a very long time.”


Inside the Disney vault, with Robert Smigel:

Tags: , ,

Walt Disney on What’s My Line?, 1956. Jerry Lewis is a panelist.

Tags: ,

Walt Disney discusses robotics, 1963.


"Each year, between 7,000 and 8,000 college students and recent graduates work full-time, minimum-wage, menial internships at Disney World." (Image by NASA.)

From “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,” Ross Perlin’s fun inside look at the Disney World intern program, just published in Guernica:

“At Disney World, interns are everywhere. The bellboy carrying luggage up to your room, the monorail ‘pilot’ steering a train at forty miles per hour, the smiling young woman scanning tickets at the gate. They corral visitors into the line for Space Mountain, dust sugar over funnel cakes, sell mouse ears, sweep up candy wrappers. Mickey, Donald, Pluto and the gang may well be interns, boiling in their furry costumes in the Florida heat. Visiting the Magic Kingdom recently, I tried to count them, scanning for the names of colleges on the blue and white name tags that all ‘cast members’ wear. They came from public and private schools, community colleges and famous research universities, from across America. International interns, hailing from at least nineteen different countries, were also out in force. A sophomore from Shanghai greeted customers at the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A. She was one of hundreds of Chinese interns, she told me, and she was looking forward to ‘earning her ears.’ Disney runs one of the world’s largest internship programs. Each year, between 7,000 and 8,000 college students and recent graduates work full-time, minimum-wage, menial internships at Disney World. Typical stints last four to five months, but the ‘advantage programs’ may last up to seven months.” (Thanks Longform.)


Mickey Mouse debuts in 1928:

The great Robert Smigel takes aim at the Mouse House:

Tags: , , ,

From 1960-64, there was an incredibly ambitious theme park about American history located on 200 acres in the Bronx called Freedomland. It was the brainchild of Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood, who helped Walt Disney create the original Disneyland. The two men had a bitter falling out and Wood went his own way. Freedomland looks like it was amazing, with frontier stagecoach rides, a recreation of the Great Fire of Chicago and park theme music composed by Broadway legend Jules Styne. Unfortunately, it went out of business quickly and was supplanted by the Co-op City housing development.

More Featured Videos:

Tags: , ,

Walt Disney: Mickey Mouse sure is fucking wasted today. (Photo by Alan Fisher.)

Back in the day, athletes took amphetamines which were quaintly called pep pills. But even children’s favorites Mickey Mouse and Goofy were on the stuff, according to an old 1951 comic book called Mickey Mouse and the Medicine Man, which has been placed online by erowid.org. Not only do Mickey and Goofy get speeded up, but Mickey wants to push the stuff himself. The drug-positive comic was a collaboration between Disney and General Mills. (Thanks to the great Boing Boing for pointing me in the direction of the comic.)

Peppo is super!

Tags: , ,