Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Walt Disney and the Gift of the National Parks

"If certain events continue, much of America's natural beauty will become nothing more than a memory. The natural beauty of America is a treasure found nowhere else in the world. Our forests, waters, grasslands and wildlife must be wisely protected and used. I urge all citizens to join the effort to save America's natural beauty... it's our America - do something to preserve its beauty, strength and natural wealth."
Walt Disney

Though better known for creating imaginative artificial landscapes, Walt Disney was a renowned lover of nature. While publicly eschewing titles like "conservationist," Disney still took an active role in helping Americans to better understand and preserve their shared natural heritage. In 1956, for example, he was awarded the distinction of being the honourary chairman of the National Wildlife Federation's National Wildlife Week, a position held until his passing in 1966. In an annual series of public service announcements made for the NWF, he made unequivocal statements like "We must help Nature preserve her vanishing creatures," "The preservation of our American wildlife is very close to me," and "You've probably heard people talk about conservation. Well, conservation isn't just the business of a few people. It's a matter that concerns all of us."

The first inklings one might get towards Walt Disney's sensitivity to nature is in one of his first films: Bambi (1942). In this story of a young deer's growth into maturity, Disney gives a vivid, sympathetic and often sentimental view into the lives of forest animals. Bambi's portrayal of nature was so heart-warming, and its portrayal of hunters so terrifying, that it spurred on considerable controversy in its day over the question of ethical hunting. This enduring film still wields this influence; it is not uncommon to hear that little deer's name brought up in debates over conservation issues, whether one is trying to elicit sympathy for wildlife or accusing someone else of having an overly naive and sentimental view of nature. Disney even lent his characters out to the US Forest Service in fire prevention posters, until Smokey the Bear was created in 1944. Yet Bambi is only the first example of how America's master showman and the company which bears his name have been able to shape the public perception of these important issues.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


At the D23 Expo, Walt Disney Feature Animation unveiled their next film: a version of Jack and the Beanstalk called "Gigantic"! In honour of this, we're holding a contest for the best new title for one of Disney's classic animated films. But here's the rule: the new title must be one word, and that one word must be an adjective!

You see our example above, now have at it! To enter, leave a comment on this post with the name of the movie you're retitling and its new title. If you want to get creative, feel free to post a link to your movie poster masterpiece or e-mail it to us via Cory's Blogger profile. Enter as many times as you want, and spread the word!

The winning entry will be posted on Sunday, September 6th (after we get back from our vacation!). The contest may be GIGANTIC but there is a small prize for the winner.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Story of Mara

In the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye in Disneyland USA, the great explorer has discovered an ancient lost temple dedicated to the god Mara. Deep within the temple is the Chamber of Destiny, in which Mara reads the thoughts and ambitions of visitors. He then opens up one of three doors, leading to a chamber bestowing either earthly riches, eternal youth, or visions of the future. But beware the eyes of the idol: one look and you will be carried, screaming, into the Gates of Doom.

Of course, this is a Disney ride, so off to the Gates of Doom you go! Thankfully Dr. Jones is there holding them closed, which results in a wild ride through the rest of the temple and its various dangers. Is there any ethnographic basis for the deity Mara, though? Indeed there is, which adds another dimension to an excellent ride.