Disneyland: The Magic Kingdom


Image source: Disney

When Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955, many people had already learned about it from Disney's weekly ABC television program. Millions recognized the map of the heart-shaped theme park. What is fantasy and reality in the architecture of reassurance? M. Sorkin, in Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space,1992, p. 227, calls this place the "Holy See of Creative Geography." Walt Disney toured Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, which opened in 1929, to get ideas for his own Disneyland.

In this course, we are only interested in three of the seven Lands: Main Street, Frontierland, and New Orleans Square. Only one way leads into Disneyland; all visitors must pass through Main Street: "our" shared historical experience.

Disneyland and Disney World employ 90,000 workers; by contrast, the United Nations and all its agencies employ only 53,589. In Orlando, three-quarters of Disney's own employees need housing assistance because they get paid such low pages that they can not afford the cost of local housing! Who dominates the world?! Disney's theme parks have expanded to Orlando, Tokyo, Hong Kong (2005), and Paris and their architectural styles have spread to shopping malls and resorts across the United States. Disneyland is a metaphor for U.S. entertainment culture and a synonym for what trivializes or sentimentalizes authenticity with all its varieties and conflicts.
Optional readings:
1) James Howard Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere, especially chapter 12
2) Richard Foglesong, Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando.

Disney products and associated culture are spreading around the world. See where at Disney's international web page. And read about the newest (2005) Disneyland in Hong Kong and its competition, Ocean Park.

In 1997 Walt Disney Company gave Michael Ovitz, the Hollywood agent who spend 14 months as Disney's president, $38.9 million in cash and $54 million in stock options to leave the company. What do you think workers who actually ran Disneyland received when they are fired?!

 
Created by Ingolf Vogeler; last revised on 16 October 2008.