Interview with a cranky guy talking about Disney, Epcot and American history

TDC Apparently it was a slow news week on the Disney front because Mrs. CollateralDamage had to resort to interviewing me for her podcast, Those Darn Cats. Mostly I talk about how Disney screwed up the telling of American history in the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot. Don’t tell anyone but I also say a few nice things about the House of Mouse, too.

Click here to listen or you can find it on iTunes under … wait for it … Those Darn Cats.

Is a Disney-brand Muslim headscarf on the way?

Disney-Princess-Jasmine3 Imane Boudlal has a problem: She is a member of two of the world’s largest religions — Islam and Disney. This became an issue in her life when, several months prior to Ramadan, the Disney World employee asked if she could wear a headscarf in observation of the month-long religious celebration. This was kicked up the chain of command and Disney corporate came back two months later and told her

told she could wear a head scarf, but it had to be designed by Disneyland’s costume department to comply with the Disney look, Qazi said. She was fitted for a Disney-supplied head scarf but was not given a date when the garment would be finished and was told she couldn’t wear her own hijab in the interim.

On Sunday – five days after Ramadan began, Ms. Boudlal showed up to work wearing her own hajib which was notably devoid of anything Mouse-ish. Ms. Boudlal’s job requires her to deal with the public and so her supervisors reportedly gave her the option of removing the hajib, going home or working in a behind the scenes position for the month.

As much as it pains me to do this, I have to side with Disney on this one. They are nothing if not consistent when it comes to employees wearing symbols of competing religions. My resident expert, Mrs. CollateralDamage, confirms that Mousers can’t wear crosses, yarmulkes, saffron robes, or pins saying “Scientology? YES!” on the job (or at least when their job involves working with the public). Above right: Disney’s standard way of depicting Arabic women.

Say it with me folks: “Thou shalt have no Mouse before me for I am a jealous Mouse.”

Still, I love the idea of Disney-designed religious clothing.

That said, allow me to make a few other points about Islamic issues in the news lately.

Wow. I defended Disney and slammed France in the same post. Clearly I am getting the flu that Mrs. CD & CDjr. already have.

Los Lobos Goes Disney

Los Lobos goes DisneyThat is not a slight on one of my all time favorite bands* but the title of their latest release. On it they cover Roger Miller’s masterful “Not In Nottingham” (from Robin Hood), Randy Newman’s “I Will Go Sailing No More” (from Toy Story) as well as other great music from The House of Mouse. (And to think I scooped Mrs. CollateralDamage – who writes the Disney focused blog Broke Hoedown – on this. WOOT!)

This is not the first time that “Just Another Band from East LA” has done the Mouse. On the great compilation Stay Awake they performed “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book, which was recorded for the movie by the great Louis Prima (and is included on LLGD). I bought Stay Awake on vinyl back in the day (1988) and highly recommend getting the CD. It also has Sun Ra (!!!) doing “Pink Elephants On Parade” and Tom Waits’ version of “Heigh Ho (Dwarf’s Marching Song).”

Stay Awake was one of several odd and wonderful compilations that came out around then. The other one I have is “Lost In The Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill” (1985). While it does have Sting doing “Mack The Knife” this is more than balanced out by the other tracks including Lou Reed’s “September Song,” Stan Ridgeway (of Wall of Voodoo) does a sublime and terrifying version of “Canon Song,” Marianne Faithfull’s exquisitely ragged “Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife,” Todd Rundgren doing “Call From The Grave,” and many other great ones. It’s out of print, which is a shame, and used copies are selling for $23 and up. C’mon over to my house and I’ll play it for you for free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*In the ‘80s when people would refer to U2 as The Greatest Band In The World all I could ever think (and sometimes said) was “Did Los Lobos breakup?”

Great look at what Disney should have done instead of buying Marvel

Geoff Carter is an excellent and smart writer who, among other things, produces the Disney-centered blog YourSouvenirGuide (but don’t hold that against him). In the post Ten things Disney could have done to geek up without buying Marvel he explains both why Disney buying Spidey was a bad idea and how they could have leveraged the properties they already own.

DisneyMarvelMashups0 To my mind, the purchase of Marvel is one of the few missteps the Mouse has made under Bob Iger’s reign. Disney isn’t getting a hell of a lot for its money. The theme park rights to the characters will continue to be held by Universal. And the movie properties .. will remain the properties of Sony, Fox and Paramount for the forseeable future. …. Four billion dollars spent to wait out contracts and to see if Avi Arad and Jerry Bruckeheimer will duke it out in Thunderdome.

My favorite suggestion:

9. The Disney Princesses: Teach them kung-fu and arm them with wrist-holstered blades and pistols.

Works for me.

Mouserine courtesy of KidKalig

Disney buys its way into the boy market

Pay attention True Believers – it’s clobberin’ time.

spideymouse For years the criticism, such as it was, of Disney’s marketing was that it missed boys. It is a fair criticism, though this doesn’t seem to have hurt the bottom line all that much. Disney knows how to connect with girls and women just fine. They are tuned into the tiaras, fairies and flowers like nobody knows. It explains why all their later (non-Pixar) animation was in fact formulaic: Bad boy, princess with true heart, add schmaltz and (after Aladdin) really schmaltzy uninteresting romantic soundtracks. Even Lion King – ostensibly a story about men and boys – was about the boy having an emotional experience that could only be of interest to girls.

This girls only approach was so entrenched that a few years ago the head of their consumer products division explained their all-girl approach told me in an interview that no one had success connecting with older boys.

Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em. Disney today said it is buying Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. (And to think I remember when comics cost a quarter.) A note to The Mouse: more blood, less music. Also, no more Hulk movies. Hmmm, will this be enough to get me to go to another Disney park? Probably not.

I hope Stan Lee got a big cut of this.

Bang

Disney displays the lighter side of The Force

Heaven and Mrs. CollateralDamage know I do not like a lot of Disney stuff – early movies, Pixar and their overall marketing expertise are pretty much the entire list. This display of posters past and present for their "Star Wars Weekends” probably falls into the last category. Even I who avoid The Mouse like it was carrying Aporkalypse Fever was thoroughly bemused by these. (BTW, Mrs. CD and CD Jr. had a total blast at this last year.)

vader trooper 3_2006   1_20072_2007 vader2

Top 10 Marketing Blunders of 2008

Yeah, there’s a lot more than 10 here. What can I say? It was a very good year for very bad things.

(PS: If you liked this would you mind going here and voting for it on Digg?)

GRAND PRIZE FOR SUSTAINED ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT

(tie)

The John McCain Presidential Campaign

  • “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
  • Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
  • Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
  • Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
  • “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
  • “Lipstick on a pig”
  • Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).

GM

Runners Up

  1. Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.
  2. Framingham State College  uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.
  3. Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.
  4. Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl
  5. JetBlue lives up to Southwest’s parody ad by charging for pillows.
  6. Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone
  7. Residents of Lesbos sue those other lesbians over brand name
  8. Motrin gets headache from viral moms video
  9. Butcher’s ads feature “Meat Products, Fresh Service” on naked woman
  10. Hershey asks if you’ve found Mr. Goodbar

Special Jury Awards

Co-Branding That Shouldn’t Have Been

The Alpha & Omega of Over-reaching

Product Failure

The Penguins Of Irony “Oh NO You Din’t” Awards

Previous years’ lists

Penguin seal

He sounds like THAT?

For all of you wondering what I actually sound like (admittedly a number that’s probably in the low single digits) check out this week’s episode of the podcast Those Darn Cats. I bloviate about the propaganda cartoons put out by Disney during World War II — a subject I actually know something about. TDC is co-produced by Mrs. CollateralDamage (aka BrokeHoedown) and her adorable BFF Lisa. Thanks to Mrs. CD for making me sound so smart! BTW, if you want a funny and hip take on all things Disney this is the podcast for you! Damn they’re so cheerful over there it’s contagious!

WALL*E is amazingly good

In no particular order the greatest animated movies I’ve ever seen are:

All of these are among the greatest movies ever made PERIOD.

Add to that list, WALL*E. Even by Pixar’s admittedly high standards, WALL*E is exceptional. If it doesn’t have the characters as complex as some other movies it is because it is a fable. In that respect it has a lot in common with Edward Scissorhands.

WALL*E is tells a fine, simple (not obvious) story superbly. (I’m going to stay away from plot synopsis. Go see it. We’ll talk.) It is essentially a silent movie, a great and bold decision (and something it shares with Triplets). In addition to being a fine filet of consumer culture, W also includes an extended comment on the sterility of life in a controlled environment designed for nothing but amusement. That would be the bread and butter of Pixar’s life-partner Disney. Is this:

  1. a cynical comment by a company that makes its money from these parks; or
  2. a truly subversive effort to sway the people who make The Land of Mouse so profitable?

Not sure. But I do know it’s great.

I could go on but I’m tired and heading off for vacation. See you all in a week.

Disney changing It’s A Small World to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”

There is probably no one Disney ride/attraction I loathe more than “It’s A Small World.”

It brings together all the worst of Disney & theme parks into one package.

In design terms it has a banality and mediocrity that makes it possible to forget these are the same people that brought us Oswald the Rabbit, Pinocchio, the early Mickey Mouse cartoons and a host of other wonderful works of real art.

It also has the problematic racial issues that litter the Mouse’s history: Song of The South, Epcot’s bizarre and historically inaccurate Eurocentric history lessons, an animatronic Native American village — (personally I was hoping Euro Disney would have an animatronic shtetl). In Small World the racial problem becomes that all the people of the earth who are not already Caucasian appear to have undergone a severe loss in melanin. Small World’s many deficiencies are wrapped in a song I can only compare to the aural equivalent of mixing Twinkies & Spam.

Given all this you would think it impossible to make the attraction* any worse. But NOOOOOOOO. In what seems to be a complete violation of Small World’s saccharine “we’re all alike” will now include a nice cuddly display of nationalism.

Mrs. Collateral Damage — aka The Queen of All Disney Media — quotes the following:

And in one of the most egregious and downright disgusting decisions in Disney theme park history, the gorgeous New Guinea rainforest scene, replete with some of Mary Blair’s most whimsical character creations (a crocodile with an umbrella, colorful birds hatching from eggs) and her drummer children with Tiki Masks on the opposite shore will be replaced with a Hooray for U.S.A sequence.

Now don’t get me started on the whole tiki masks thing and the gross condescension towards indigenous peoples — anyone surprised that we don’t get cute caricatures of any Christian religious images?

I really think Disney should go the whole way with this redo and insert a display of gross nationalism for every nation. Then they could have a follow-up ride called “It’s A Small World War.”

BTW, the headline is a quote from one of my favorite Disney attractions: Muppet*vision 3D.

Kermit the Frog: We will also see a rousing finale from Sam the Eagle. What’s it called, Sam?
Sam the Eagle: It’s called “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”.

*or is it a ride? that’s one of those distinctions that the Disney-centi are very particular about.

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Disney bans kids from Disney World restaurant

Walt Disney World, home of Mickey Mouse, Tigger and Tinkerbell, has banned young children from its fanciest restaurant, reported CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami. Beginning this week, children under 10 are no longer welcome at Victoria & Albert’s in the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the theme park’s only restaurant with an AAA five-diamond rating.

Because there are grownups at Disney World who want to pretend they aren’t acting like children, that’s why.

In all fairness, it’s probably a great marketing move for the restaurant and its customers but it presents a PR nightmare. Cheap shot headlines like mine are just too easy.

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Spirit Airlines doesn’t consider acronym before launching “Many Islands, Low Fares” campaign

Spirit Airlines forgot to do some basic acronym checking with its latest sales campaign. The Florida-based airline, which specializes in Caribbean trips, inadvertently started offering a “MILF” special. While this likely resulted in an increase in traffic to the airline’s web site, apparently it wasn’t the type of traffic Spirit wanted. The slogan was removed from the site on Tuesday.

Maybe they thought it stood for “Mom, I’d like to fly!”

Maybe it’s something in Florida that makes companies obtuse on this topic. Disney ran into a similar problem with its Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor attraction.

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J.K. Rowling sues festival for constructing physical version of an imaginary place

KOLKATA, India (AFP) – Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is suing organisers of a religious event for constructing a replica of her imaginary Hogwarts Castle in an eastern India city, officials said Thursday.

How do you make a replica of something that’s imaginary? If I build a recreation of Yossarian’s tent from Catch-22 can I be sued by Joseph Heller’s estate? Doesn’t the whole basis of this law suit put the entire Disney empire at risk? I’m suing over Cinderella’s castle. It infringes on my idea of what the thing should look like. No, wait, Mrs. CD won’t let me. Bad husband. No suing The Mouse. Baaad.

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Sex, violence and religion: Churches use Halo 3 and porn to attract customers

Everyone else is doing it, so why not them?

The computer game Halo is hot so:

Acts of GodAcross the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.

Pornography, of course, is always popular so:

The Crux, a Fishers church, joined a nationwide movement Sunday to address the issue, a day they called “Porn Sunday,” WRTV-TV in Indianapolis reported. Across the country, hundreds of churches talked about what some call America’s dirty little secret. An estimated 40 million people visit porn sites daily, generating an estimated $6.2 billion for porn purveyors in the United States alone, according to Porn Sunday’s organizers. Porn Sunday is a movement started by two pastors from California who formed a church called xxxchurch.com, dubbed a Christian porn site.

And to think people once got upset because Vatican II switched the Catholic Church from Latin to the vernacular. (Cue Tom Lehrer.) All of this goes a long way to explain why the Night of Joy Christian music event at Walt Disney World is considered the rowdiest, most debauched event in the Happiest Place on Earth:

. . . some who have attended previous NOJ festivals, as well as Cast Members who’ve worked it, claim that of all the separate-ticket events held at the Magic Kingdom, it’s the most unruly. Tales abound of the Magic Kingdom overrun by mobs of drunken teens, petty thievery in the shops, as well as an overworked security dealing with fights among the crowds of young concert attendees.

(Maybe it’s just the context but doesn’t Night of Joy sound a little dirty?)

It’s actually disingenuous of me to criticize this behavior. I mean if you read the source material … aka The BIBLE … it’s just filled with this stuff.

But that’s all in the Old (fun) Testament, the New Testament’s stories offer far less in the way of how people do act and more in the way of how it is hoped they will act. Because of this I think it’s OK for Catholic Bishops in Belgium to complain about a TV ad depicting a pot-bellied, hippy Jesus performing miracles and picking up scantily-clad girls up in a nightclub.

God Ad

According to the texts I’ve read (and I haven’t finished The Gnostic Gospels yet) while Jesus did meet “fallen women” he put a premium on helping them back up. It’s important to show the full story.

(Acts of God image courtesy of GreatCosmicHappyAss.com which has a bunch of other funny God cards.)

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Porn producer beats off Disney in copyright dispute

The beloved Broke Hoedown (aka Mrs. Collateral Damage) reports on a story about Disney losing the rights to the slogan “The Place Where Dreams Come True” on the flimsy technicality that someone else had already registered it. That someone was Michael Wightman from Newcastle, in the UK, registered it for his company which makes porn that can be viewed on mobile phones. Ahh, pornographic pictures on the phone — a blessing to optometrists everywhere.