Disney – Transforming Imagination to Reality

By Guest Blogger Kathleen Hubert.

Many can list Walt Disney’s accomplishments as easily as they might list items on a grocery list. Disney created Mickey Mouse. He produced the first full-length animated movie. His amusement park, Disneyland, became the first theme park. Disney formed the first multimedia corporation. Disney’s achievements are truly impressive, but more impressive still may be the impact that he and his company have made upon the world and world culture.

Mickey Mouse, Disney’s first unqualified success, appeared at a time when the world was in the first throes of the Great Depression. Mickey’s indomitable spirit, as well as the technological advances that Disney displayed in those first cartoons, struck a chord with movie-going audiences seeking signs that neither the human spirit, nor humanity’s ability to progress into the future, had been irreparably damaged by hard times. People became invested in Mickey Mouse. In rooting for Mickey, audiences were cheering on their own success as well.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937, was the first full-length animated film produced in full color. If Mickey Mouse had symbolized a hope that the human spirit could overcome obstacles, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs seemed to prove it. The message that good could prevail against evil, without sacrificing qualities like innocence, loyalty and friendship, was a message sorely needed on the eve of World War II.

The Snow White movie was based on a fairytale published by the Brothers Grimm, two sibling German academics who collected folklore. These fairytales were the myths of Germanic culture, and as myths, were ripe with symbolic meaning. Disney, whose talents lay more in technological artistry than in narrative, would turn again and again to fairytales for ready-made stories, often stripping away the sometimes dark and violent aspects of the original tale for his family-oriented audiences.

For generations, parents had repeated folkloric tales to their children as a family tradition. After Disney, stories told to children would undergo a dramatic change. Today, fairytales are more likely to reflect Disney’s modern sensibilities. This came about, in part, from Disney’s business acuity. Disney was savvy enough capitalize on relatively-new genre of family films. While Disney is sometimes considered a champion of mainstream values, his personal interests always lay more with technology and innovation.

Nothing illustrates Disney’s fascination with technology as does his movie, Fantasia. A life-long music aficionado, Disney pushed forward technology to enable Fantasia become the first commercial film screened in stereophonic sound. The extent to which Disney established a high standard for technical achievement in the film industry – and in the entertainment industry as a whole – cannot be underestimated. This standard of excellence affected higher education as well, establishing new curriculums in colleges and universities. Disney himself founded the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, not only contributing substantial funds to the college during his lifetime, but leaving one fourth of his estate to the institution when he died.

Throughout his life, Disney remained committed to family entertainment. Disney embraced television early on, using the medium to build his multimedia conglomerate. In the early Fifties, Disney began to envision an amusement park that would provide families with a safe and clean alternative to midway and country fairs. He purchased 160 acres of land in Anaheim, California, and with a fresh palette before him, focused as much on urban planning as he did on the individual attractions.

Disneyland illustrates many aspects of Disney’s personality. The park opens on an idealized “Main Street,” a portrayal of small town America that evokes images from American cinema as much as it does reality. That Disney was partial to Main Street cannot be denied – he kept offices in the park overlooking it – yet only a few steps away from Main Street is “Tomorrowland,” representing Disney’s enduring fascination with technology. Disney’s commitment to family and to the future has surely impacted all of our lives.

Review of The Pirates League at Disney World

Yo Ho!

A few weeks before another Disney adventure, on my birthday to be exact, I was handed a scroll. Naturally curious, I unfurled said scroll and discovered I had been invited to ‘join the crew’ of the Magic Kingdom’s ‘Pirates League.’

Deciding it was indeed a pirates life for me, I of course accepted.

As it happened, the date for my piratey makeover coincided with our ‘Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party’ night, thus my transformation from park guest into scurvy knave would blend seamlessly into a mass of other weird and wonderful costumes.

The day soon arrived and we all trooped over to Adventureland. The Pirates League rooms are located on the right hand side of the adjoining Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, near to the seasonal El Pirata y el Perico dining area.

When you arrive, you first need to check-in to confirm your reservation, then will be asked which of the facial effects you’d prefer. There are 6 to choose from, ‘Cursed Pirate’, ‘Smokey-eyed Jack’, ‘Multi-eyed Jack’, ‘Black-eyed Jack’ or ‘Captain Hook’, whilst another is reserved for any pirate wenches in your party called the ‘Empress.’

I chose the ‘Black-eyed Jack’, which seemed to be the most popular choice from those I saw at the time. I was then shown a range of hats to add to my look. These are optional and cost extra, however I opted for the mid priced tri-corner. It should also be noted that other items are available both inside the outside the Pirates League should you wish to complete your costume. Most items are also available to buy outside  the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, should you want to purchase anything ahead of time.

As it was Halloween and a MNSSHP night, it was pretty busy and it meant having to wait a short while until I was ‘summoned.’

Upon being called, I was told that my own name was not acceptable for pirateering, and a new one would be given. Two dice were handed to me, one black, one white and then placed inside a revolving treasure chest. I had to give it two turns before the dice were removed and the resulting numbers, coupled with my month of birth, were matched against an ancient parchment and thus ‘Benjamin Gunskull’ was born. The pirate wench noted that it was my month of birth and handed me a birthday button with my new pirate name written on (this had interesting consequences later in the day…I’ll get to that shortly) before being directed through into the main chamber of the experience.

I took my seat and was swiftly transformed into ‘Black-eyed Jack’ via a variety of brushes and sponges.

Black eyes, scars and stubble applied, a remark from my other half that it was “an improvement on before” ignored, and bandana tied. I was then given a couple of accessories to complement my new pirate look – an earring, eye-patch and set of false teeth. The Cast member then finished things off by adding the mark of a true pirate… a Pirates of the Caribbean tattoo! Thankfully, it was only a temporary mark.

My completed look and identity was then announced to the entire room… and there was much rejoicing (well ok, a few people yay’ed)

I had to recite the pirate oath, before being directed to another corner of the room.

All in, the make-over part of the experience took around 15-20 minutes. Some of the other ‘looks’ may take longer though.

But there’s more…!

A fellow pirate offered up more goodies to assist my future plundering – a pirate sash and cutlass.  Every good pirate gotta have a blade! Made by that great Spaniard, El Plastico!

One more surprise was in store. The corner I’d been led into also contained a doorway. The Cast Member indicated that this was in fact the entrance to Captain Jack’s secret treasure room, and asked if I would like to enter.

“Stand aside,” I motioned, my vicious sword at arms.

What happens next you will just have to discover yourselves. The pirate code forbids me to talk about it. (The medallion may give you a bit of a clue however)

You exit back into the front room of the building, and are offered to purchase an official photograph of your experience. Again, this is up to you whether you wish to buy or not. What isn’t optional however is the final payment, where you will unfortunately have to part with many of your hard earned doubloons, depending on the package you’ve chosen.

This was my photo, the folder it came in was a nice addition.

Now, as you may remember I had been given the pirate alter ego Benjamin Gunskull, the name now emblazoned in button form on my person. I was minding my own business, pillaging a cheeseburger and fries from Cosmic Ray’s when an eagle-eyed Cast Member spotted my birthday button and proceeded to lead a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday Benjamin’ with her fellow cast members and several nearby diners. I didn’t have the heart to point out the error!

The Pirates League may be a boys alternative to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, although that’s not to say either is specifically for one gender or another, and there are certainly no age limits. In fact, I’d say a healthy percentage were dads bonding with their kids but secretly enjoying it just as much (if not more!)

We can all be kids at Disney World.  Now we can all be kids dressed as pirates at Disney World. That for me is definitely a winner!