Saturday, 30 August 2014

We're Going to Disney World!

Yesterday, my beloved Ashley and I were married, and tomorrow (very, very early tomorrow) we head off for our honeymoon in Walt Disney World. Therefore, for obvious reasons, Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy is going to be taking a break for a couple weeks.

When we get back, we will post our thoughts and photos from our first trip to Florida (and some wedding photos once we get them). We might also try some "live posting" from WDW on our Facebook page! If you haven't done so already, check it out at and click "like" to see what trouble we get up to and to get updated whenever a new post comes out on the blog!

Thank you to everyone who is sticking with us as we get this blog back up and running, and for those of you who are just joining us!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Disneyland SHOULD BE a Museum

“Disneyland is not a museum” is the tried and tired mantra employed by Imagineers and Disney fans alike whenever news of a change to the park is received with anything less than glowing enthusiasm. It is meant to invoke the spirit of Walt Disney, who said that Disneyland would never be completed, against accusations that Walt wouldn’t have done something in a certain way. Whether or not that is true, the phrase “Disneyland is not a museum” is a thought terminating cliché that is less troublesome for what it says about Disneyland than what it says about our attitudes towards museums and our ambivalence towards the preservation of history. In my life beyond blogging, I work as a professional educator in the museums and heritage field whose undergraduate degree focused on exhibit design, and I would like to share with you the argument that Disneyland should be a museum.

I don’t personally know anyone who hates changes at Disneyland for the sake of hating changes. Rather, what I see are people who are justifiably critical given that Imagineering’s track record at actually improving guest experience with new additions is uneven.

Most people can list alterations and renovations that they have liked and that they have disliked, sometimes within the same attraction. For example, when all is said and done, the addition of Disney characters to It’s a Small World was innocuous, but the addition of the America section was just awful. It was not awful in principle, merely because it is a new section, but it was so poorly executed. When I took Ashley to Disneyland for the first time, I decided to run a quick experiment by not telling her that the America section was a relatively recent addition. Afterwards, she volunteered the opinion that this section looked like it was from an entirely different ride.

 Saying that “Disneyland is not a museum” is problematic on the surface because it is an attempt to shame critical engagement with a work of art. By “critical” I do not necessarily mean “negative” (though it can certainly be). Instead, I am using it in the technical sense of a formal analysis of a work of art. Critical thinking means to engage with a work of art, to reflect on it, to absorb it into one’s psyche, to feel it and reason through it, and to consider how it does or does not achieve its goals. It would be to ask why, in my opinion, the addition of Constance to the Haunted Mansion works while the addition of Jack Sparrow to Pirates of the Caribbean does not, and to be able to formulate a coherent argument to defend that point of view.

Yes, I actually like Constance.
This is important because being able to think critically is valuable. Study after study into museum and arts education has revealed that fostering the ability to think critically about art improves our ability to think critically and creatively about other subjects. It is known to enhance math scores and reading comprehension, to stimulate and motivate further learning, to develop creative problem solving skills, boost confidence and self-esteem, promote tolerance of ambiguity and understanding of other people and cultures, encourages sensitivity to others and our environment, train minds to reason logically and think abstractly, deepen our appreciation of history and beauty, increase emotional and psychological health, and improve all-around quality of life and personal satisfaction. Thinking critically about art makes us better people.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Story of the Flying Dutchman

Few maritime legends were left untouched in the course of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. From Greek deities to Robert Louis Stevenson, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Davy Jones himself, the rich mythology built by sailors and authors fueled the sprawling and circuitous plot by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. But if Davy Jones is going to be turned into a squid-pirate, then a squid-pirate presumably needs a ship. Which one? Well there are no ships more famous and more infamous than the Flying Dutchman!

The Flying Dutchman, by Albert Pinkham Ryder, 1896.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the Flying Dutchman acts as a vessel for Davy Jones (then Will Turner) to ferry souls to the afterlife. Amongst professional mythologists, this role is known as a "psychopomp," which derives from a Greek word that literally means "guide of souls." These are figures who, like Charon in Hercules, are meant to conduct the dead safely to the other side. They are not the judges of the dead (as Charon in the Hercules series quips, "I just row the boat."), merely the guides. In some cultures, they work both ways, not only ferrying the dead to the afterlife, but ferrying new souls through birth. Though the ship comes to this use in Pirates of the Caribbean, the actual plot between Davy Jones and Calypso is heavily influenced by the most celebrated version of the Flying Dutchman's story.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Story of Davy Jones

The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was a brilliant piece of cinema capturing the rollicking adventure of swashbuckling films of yore. Using the ride as its jumping off point, it brought together great characters, great actors, great action, and a great story (and skeleton pirates!) to deliver the deeply satisfying kind of viewing experience one rarely gets in movies made after 1960. Then they had to make some sequels. Rather than keep up the strategy that made The Curse of the Black Pearl so successful, writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio took a queue from Lord of the Rings by trying to cram Dead Man's Chest and At World's End full of mythology and plotlines that never quite jelled together.

However, if you're an aficionado of maritime lore, there were lots of really neat allusions pillaged for content. The title of the second film, and the treasure chest to which it refers, was taken from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Just as "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" sounds like an old sea shanty despite being written by George Bruns and X. Atencio expressly for the ride in Disneyland, Stevenson invented his own suitably pirate-sounding song for his novel, entitled "Fifteen Men on the Dead Man's Chest." The Flying Dutchman is a legend amongst sailors, and the plotline surrounding it is unmistakably adapted from Richard Wager's eponymous opera. Inside the ship is an organ decorated with a relief of Gustave Doré's engravings for Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Then there is the man playing it, a Lovecraftian tentacle horror identified with Davy Jones.