To the future in reverse...
Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour. > Research > M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-A (02-15-02)
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Ellie Badesch
1999-Evanston, IL

If there is a single institution in the United States that screams “America”, it must be Disneyland. Opened in 1955 by Walt Disney, Disneyland was created to applaud America citizens on their World War II victory by offering them a place of perfection. Disneyland celebrated the idealized spirit of The United States. Following the terror of World War II, Walt Disney gave citizens the opportunity to relax and enjoy the country they had fought so hard to protect. Disneyland focused only on the positive, nothing was there to interrupt visitors from enjoying their family and their nation. In 1955, Americans could ask for little more.

In 1928 Walt Disney introduced America to Mickey Mouse. The first cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” began a three-year string of 63 Mickey Mouse cartoons, shown in movie theaters across the nation. By the beginning of World War II, Mickey Mouse held a cherished place in America¹s collective heart. For the soldiers, “Mickey Mouse” became slang for an absurd army routine. The character¹s name was even used as an American password at Normandy. In the United States, during the war years, Walt Disney¹s “The Mickey Mouse Show” occupied television screens across the country. When soldiers abroad came home to the post-war television boom, their families were all but addicted to America¹s favorite cartoon mouse.

In 1955, Walt Disney attempted to build upon his film and television successes with the introduction of Disneyland. Disney wanted to reinvent the amusement park. The park was founded on family enjoyment. On a 160-acre plot in Anaheim, California, visitors were given a passport to a fantasy world. After the World War II consumerism boom, family vacations began to gain popularity. American families had more to spend, and they spent their excess on institutions that stressed togetherness. Disneyland was exactly that. There were five lands within the park: Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland. Each served as a commentary on American culture at the time of Disneyland¹s conception.

Main Street, the area on to which visitors first entered, celebrated the carefree world of pre-war America. It transported families back to a homey, peaceful and comforting America - a nation without memory of the Great Depression or the Second World War. Adventureland, on the other hand, was a place of exoticism. This area of the park gave Americans an opportunity to see the most remote areas of the world, without leaving the comfort of their own country. This Americanized world is exactly what citizens wanted. Post-war optimistic liberalism accounted for a national feeling of American supremacy. As far as nationalistic visitors were concerned, the world was only worth seeing if it was an American world.

Frontierland celebrated American¹s pioneer history. Disney once said, “All of us have a cause too be proud of our country¹s history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. (” Disney affectionately portrayed the frontier as a time of American opportunity for all. Disneyland paid respect to the frontiersmen whose diligence and ingenuity paved the way for the American economic and political supremacy of the 1950s. In fact, Americans celebrated this post-war boom by expanding out into the new frontier - the American suburbs. After the United States¹ victory in World War II, Americans saw themselves as a fearless race of heroes. Frontierland was a representation of another time in which fearless Americans had to persevere the ideals of their nation.

Tomorrowland looked into the future, towards America¹s upcoming successes. This area of the park celebrated the technology boom of the 1950s when countless Americans feared these scientific advancements and their capabilities. Disney claimed that, “Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future. (” Finally, Fantasyland, celebrated America¹s dreams. It paid tribute to the child in all Americans with nonsensical attractions meant to stimulate the senses and fuel the imagination. After the Great Depression and the horror of World War II, Americans desperately wanted to tune out reality, and Disneyland offered them the opportunity. Americans had earned the right to dream - and Walt Disney made their dreams come true.

Walt Disney opened Disneyland by saying, “To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of you and inspiration to all the world.” This quote goes to the very heart of the post-war American mentality. Disneyland provided Americans with exactly what they most desired after years of hardship - an escape from reality. Anaheim, California became a cultural Mecca, a holy ground that celebrated America and the potential of its citizens. Families from all over the United States escaped from the anxiety-ridden Cold War mentality and ventured to the “happiest place on earth”. Why wouldn¹t they? Walt Disney brilliantly combined post-war nationalism with 1950s mass consumerism. The result was one of the most powerful franchises in American history - one that continues to thrive even today. Unfortunately, now it is only concerned with gross exploitation using the weapon of American capitalism.

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