“The company’s goal is to create an engine that will drive demand among China’s 1.3 billion residents for other Disney products, from video games to Broadway-style shows to DVDs. Disney typically relies on the creation of new Disney TV channels to pump its brand abroad, but China’s limits on foreign media have made that impossible. The approval, notably, did not come with concessions from China on the television front.”
Prof. Steven Lubar is visiting Miniature Worlds on November 3 as a guest speaker. He will be centering his talk on the controversial, unbuilt proposal of “Disney’s America” which will help us tie the topics of past two weeks and this week: Media Conglomerates, National Identity, and Heritage Landscapes.
Prof. Lubar teaches at Brown University, at the departments of American Civilization and History and is the director of the John Nicolas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. He is the author of Legacies: Collecting America’s History at the Smithsonian,InfoCulture, and History from Things, and organizer of exhibits including America on the Move and Engines of Change at the Smithsonian. Before Brown, Prof. Lubar was the chair of the Division of the History of Technology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
STEVEN LUBAR, Ph.D
Professor, Departments of American Civilization and History and Director, John Nicolas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage
American Civilization; John Nicholas Brown Center
Phone: +1 401 863 1177
Here is a short clip, but the full movie is streamed on My Courses.
Rocky Point Park opened in the 1840s and was a Rhode Island landmark until its closure in 1995. It made the news recently:
“The gates of the old Rocky Point Amusement park will swing open Sunday, making way for memories and unobstructed views of unspoiled coastline. But what won’t be apparent to the thousands expected to attend the open house is that there’s still a question about what will happen to all the land that once made up Rhode Island’s landmark family park and seaside dining spot.” (Barbara Polichetti, “Whither Rocky Point Park?” The Providence Journal (Oct 1, 2009):1.)
“…[Walt Disney] called it Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or Epcot, and it was to be an actual town. Its twenty thousand inhabitants would live beneath a giant dome and be zipped from skyscraper to skyscraper on a high-speed monorail.
The town, he explained, would be ‘starting from scratch on virgin land and building a special kind of new community that more people will talk about and come to look at than any other area in the world.’ There would be no slums, and no unemployment, because people without jobs would not be allowed to live in Epcot. There also would be no home ownership, because everyone would rent from Disney’s company.
Faced with the promise of Disney’s golden touch, the politicians rolled over. In May 1967, the legislature approved the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a sovereign government to manage a theme park.
…The utopian vision, and the venerated leader’s words preserved on celluloid, were resurrected for the selling of Celebration. When we sat through the slick presentation video at the Celebration Preview Center on our family’s initial trip, in February 1997, we watched Walt talking about his dream of building from scratch a community that people would talk about and visit. Although we knew he was talking about his dead dream for a city of the future, it appeared for all the world that Disney was describing Celebration. A man sitting next to us whispered to his companion, ‘He hasn’t aged at all.'” (Frantz and Collins, Celebration, USA: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town, p. 26-27)
Another comparison the readings invite is with Levittown. Click on the pic to see an online exhibition on Lewittown.
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Brooks Barnes, “Disney’s Retail Plan Is a Theme Park in Its Stores,” New York Times (October 12, 2009).
“Disney Stores, which the media giant is considering rebranding Imagination Park, will become more akin to cozy entertainment hubs. The chain’s traditional approach of displaying row after row of toys and apparel geared to Disney franchises will be given a high-tech makeover and incorporated into a new array of recreational activities. The goal is to make children clamor to visit the stores and stay longer, perhaps bolstering sales as a result… ‘The world does not need another place to sell Disney merchandise — this only works if it’s an experience,’ said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide.”
As we were discussing why Providence’s Waterfire, which is packaged as an artistic event by its organizers, qualifies for theming (or not), Samuel brought up the case of Paris’ “Beach” or Plage, where since the early 2000s, one side of the river bank transforms into a “beach” for a month in the summer. The Paris project seems to be a corporate re-appropriation of counter-hegemonic art practice and events such as Reclaim the Streets (RTS), which is informed by the Situationists in its advocation of “direct action” to, well, reclaim a major street or highway to stage a party.
What is to make of the recent efforts by New York City to close Times Square to pedestrians’ use? See an article in New York Times discussing the issue.
We saw in the Ric Burns documentary, Coney Island: American Experience, that Coney Island’s Dreamland had a “Midget City.” Here is a news report, Ruth shared, on a contemporary one in China. It says: ” A community of dwarves has set up its own [theme park] village to escape discrimination from normal sized people.”
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