The Internet and Disney – Is the Joke On Us?

May 22, 2019: I wrote this piece over 6 years ago. However, any time I see a change within the Disney company, or fandom reactions of almost anything, I’m constantly reminded of this article. With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge due to open very shortly, I decided not only to revisit the piece, but to also update with new thoughts. I hope you enjoy!

I’m not a big fan of practical jokes that come in the form of fake ads and misleading articles. I’m not talking about stories on sites such as The Onion, which are known for such over-the-top satire. I’m talking about the type of articles that are usually released on or around April Fool’s day, or as it has come to be known, “Don’t Believe the Internet Day.”  While I find many of them amusing (who doesn’t like to see how many ways companies can wrap bacon into their products?), I feel many of the “news” articles written can be misleading. For that reason, I don’t take much stock in articles I see posted on that day.

However, I do appreciate the idea of a good joke as much as the next person, and judging by the amount of sharing of false ads and whatnot, I know I’m not alone. This led me to really think about the internet, the sharing of news, ads, pictures, and, of course, gossip. And sometimes, if you will pardon the cynicism, I wonder if the internet in some ways isn’t just one big joke we’re playing on ourselves.

Okay, I'm not suggesting we do away with the internet.. but please, read on....

Okay, I’m not suggesting we do away with the internet.. but please, read on….

I’m sure I’m not original in my thought, but the thought enters my head more and more often: What if the internet had been around when Walt had been building Disneyland?

Here’s the first preview the general public got of Disneyland:

Can you imagine “insider” reporting by some of the select few, who focused mainly on what was going wrong?

“Rumor has it the wrong trees were bulldozed. If this is the kind of care being put into this construction, what can we expect for the rest of the park?”

“Insiders are saying there aren’t enough attractions in the area of the park called ‘Tomorrowland.’ Instead, looks like the suits are pulling in sponsored exhibits, so get ready for lots of corporate plugs, folks. We don’t need that in a theme park.”

“@DisneyLanding1955 tweeted: Apparently @RealWaltDisney is using the plumbers strike to justify the lack of drinking fountains. Yet he’ll take your money for drinks. (@RealWaltDisney replied:@DisneyLanding1955 People can buy a Pepsi, but they can’t pee in the streets.)”

“Apparently the river that’s going to hold a steamboat completely drained overnight. I wouldn’t count on this park to be worth much with this kind of thing not being thought through.”

“The color scheme of the buildings in Fantasyland are loud and look more like a circus than a Fantasy. What’s more, there’s not even a Pinocchio ride.”

“I’m at the park, and a lot of guests seem to be coming in with counterfeit tickets. The ticket takers seem to be powerless to do anything about it. This is not a sign of good management”

“Crowd control is going to be an issue. The Mark Twain is about to tip over. This place was not built soundly.”

“It’s hot, and the asphalt isn’t hardened. Ladies are losing their heels. I’m beginning to think Disneyland will never be completed.”

Now, let’s be honest. If these were the images you had in your mind, would it influence you on whether or not you wanted to go to Disneyland? I’m not saying it would for everyone, but it would at least make me reluctant. However, people at home didn’t have that outlet. They had black and white TV sets. They had Walt showing up in 1954 with a new TV show that was essentially a huge commercial, albeit a very entertaining one at that. Opening day? Except for a few miscues, the viewing public had no idea of the craziness behind the scenes. They had a front row seat to a new and amazing world! The following day, newspapers ran the articles on the chaos, but at that point it was a bit late to form much public opinion. The general public had already seen magic from the comfort of their living room and now had a way to experience it themselves.

Now, I’m not saying that criticism is a bad thing. We learn from it. Mistakes and misfires are corrected and we move forward. However, it does pose the question: do we let it affect our personal judgement? The above scenarios, the “imagining” of internet reporting from back in the day – they’re all true instances thrown in with a bit of opinion (Although the bulldozing of the wrong trees has been purported to be a myth). As I asked before, would those statements make you more skeptical about going to Disneyland, or would you still go eagerly? What about movies that were predicted bombs, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? The issues Walt had with P.L. Travers in getting Mary Poppins made?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is this:

Although I’ve used Disney as the example, this one could really apply to anything. Are we letting ourselves be influenced by inherent negativity online without actually thinking for ourselves, or is it better to go in with a bit of skepticism? The jury is still out for me personally, just a bit of something to think about as you read all those “insider” and negative articles. Perhaps a balance of both is in order?

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this!

I know this is overstating. I just find it really funny, too.

I know this is overstating. I just find it really funny, too.

20 thoughts on “The Internet and Disney – Is the Joke On Us?

  1. I’ve slowly had to learn that it’s generally just best if I keep my opinions about Disney to myself and in turn I mostly just pay attention to good news about it. I don’t necessarily need the nitpicky insider stuff to let me know that such-and-such a thing is a bad idea, and there really isn’t anything I can do about something if I too think it’s a bad idea.

    The only touchy point for me is that I’m the sort of person that needs to keep my interest in something active in order to maintain it. If I don’t have ANY venue to talk about Disney, I could very well start waning in my interest (it’s happened before too). But it’s also hard to find venues in which to do the sort of cultural-artistic analysis of Disney I like to do. Can’t win for losing.

    So, uh… Fantasy Faire: sure, why not? Finding Dory: I’m SHOCKED at another Pixar sequel, I tell you! Starbucks on Main Street: people don’t have more important things to get outraged about, like wars and oil spills and corporate malfeasance? Iron Man’s Tony Stark Adventure in Innoventions: Boo, I don’t go to Disneyland for a Marvel Comics experience. Enchanted Tiki Room 50th Anniversary event: I wish I could go!… am I missing anything new?…

    • Cory, as a friend of yours, I for one am always intrigued by your opinions. Many times they cause me to think outside the box, and sometimes I disagree. However, you say something without having a valid point to back it up, and sometimes that is a rare thing among ANY community. However, I do see at the same time why you feel that you need to keep opinions to yourself. Sometimes those arguments just aren’t worth it.

      • Ironically, it’s poor argumentation on the Internet that taught me to become a good argumenter (“argument” in the classical sense of “a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion”). I learned the value of having a point and supporting it with evidence and sound reason, and for the most part I relish the discussion and exchange of ideas more than I desire agreement. Unfortunately those exchanges seem further and fewer between on a lot of fora. Social media has even concocted it’s exact antithesis: reputation points that allow people to punish your views without even going to the trouble of saying why, let alone providing sound counter-argument. Alexis de Tocqueville was right!

        “Fetters and headsmen were the coarse instruments which tyranny formerly employed; but the civilization of our age has refined the arts of despotism which seemed, however, to have been sufficiently perfected before. The excesses of monarchical power had devised a variety of physical means of oppression: the democratic republics of the present day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind as that will which it is intended to coerce. Under the absolute sway of an individual despot the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul, and the soul escaped the blows which were directed against it and rose superior to the attempt; but such is not the course adopted by tyranny in democratic republics; there the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved. The sovereign can no longer say, “You shall think as I do on pain of death;” but he says, “You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people. You may retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you, for you will never be chosen by your fellow-citizens if you solicit their suffrages, and they will affect to scorn you if you solicit their esteem. You will remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind. Your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your life, but it is an existence in comparably worse than death.””

    • I think you are correct in saying we need to think for ourselves–whether we are forming positive opinions or negative ones. As much as I do see the constant negative of some people’s opinions when it comes to not just Disneyland, but movies and books as well, I also hate the hard sell of these same things, when I can clearly see the real motive. Example: I find it frustrating that all the events that made Christmas magical at Disneyland ( Holiday Fireworks, snow falling,etc) will very likely be part of a hard ticket event in the future (just like they did for Halloween), thereby denying regular paying guests the opportunity to see them–even though they’ve already paid a fortune to visit Disneyland.

      • See, Shannon, that’s where, like I’ve stated, I’m not knocking criticism itself. There is a place for it, and there are topics that are worth fighting for. IF that hard sell happens, that’s a cause worth fighting for indeed!

  2. I think the internet is revealing, very clearly, who we are in a way that was somewhat obscured in the past. Ever read the comments that follow news stories on sites like Yahoo News or CNN? The sheer number of insane postings give the impression that we are living in a world of lunatics. But have we suddenly become crazier due to the internet? I say no. I think this is way we humans have always been, it’s simply more apparent now that anyone with a computer can access any number of outlets which provide a platform to anyone who wants to say anything. In that sense, the internet is a big mirror where the human race can look at itself in a way it never could before on such a massive scale and in real time.

    I have had a lot of fun posting on Disney fan sites. But when I first started getting involved with the online Disney community, I was shocked by the amount of negativity. And not just “I don’t like Disney” kind of negativity but “you are an idiot for holding the opinions you hold about Disney” kind of negativity.

    What if, just what if I happen to like Innoventions at Disneyland? So what? Why does anyone care about that? But try writing such a thing and see what happens. I agree with Cory that a lot of opinions regarding Disney are often best kept to oneself.

    Is this kind of thing new or the result of the internet? I seriously doubt that. It’s the same thing which might happen at a party where two people come to blows over arguing whether Ty Cobb was a better ballplayer than Babe Ruth.

    Human nature hasn’t changed since it was created. The internet isn’t changing human nature, it’s only reflecting it. I think it’s tempting to think that things are spinning out of control as our world gets crazier and crazier. But no, it’s always been this way. It was simply harder to see back in the day.

    Craig, I have also thought what Walt Disney would have had to cope with if the internet existed back in the 50s. Then again, he did cope with many people giving him grief over his ideas. He took a lot of heat trying to get Disneyland built and even his own brother got into the act. Would a few million negative tweets have made it worse for Walt? Maybe, but I think it would have been just so much noise to him and he would have plowed forward anyway. Could those tweets have altered the opinions of enough people to doom Disneyland to failure? I don’t think so.

    People who think for themselves do so whether the internet exists or not. And some people can be lead like sheep and will adopt the opinions of those around them regardless. So I don’t really worry about such things as a function of the internet.

    There are sites out there that specialize in bashing Walt Disney World. One might think that the place is in a state of decay, no longer fit for human habitation. And yet the people come by the millions, more this year than last. Are some people staying away due to what they read on the web? Perhaps a few, but I would have to think these are people who, for one reason or another, aren’t much inclined to go in the first place.

    In some ways life was probably easier for Disney before the internet. It must have been simpler for them to do what they pleased without dealing with a bunch of fallout. I clearly remember going to Disneyland in late 1979 (I lived in Northern California at the time) and happily going to Frontierland to ride the Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland. Imagine my shock when I saw that my favorite ride no longer existed! It was completely gone, replaced by Big Thunder Mountain. I had been away from the park for nearly 2 years and hadn’t heard a peep about any of this. That’s the way it was back then. Now, a trash can is moved 10 feet in Fantasyland and, within minutes, the news is everywhere and everyone hates it. That has to be at least a little annoying for the company. But Disney uses the internet to it’s advantage also, so there you go.

    The internet is wonderful and terrible, interesting and boring, useful and frivolous, intelligent and unthinking, and a place where people become friends as well as enemies. So, for the human race, it’s business as usual.

    • Wow! I have to applaud you for this well written, thoughtful comment! I consider myself a positive person and a positive blogger. Just like in ‘real life’ (as opposed to internet life), it is up to each person whether they want to enjoy life and accentuate the positive or prove their own self worth by being critical and skeptical. Most importantly,the internet is what we make of it and how we decide to use it.

      • I agree with both of you – and David, I appreciate your well written thought out response. How I would love to see more discussion like this on the internet, or, anywhere for this matter. You bring up valid points on the idea that the internet brings it OUT of people, but is not the cause. I’d also like to state, I don’t want to be unfair and generalize groups of people – it wouldn’t be right to say every reader on the internet is a mindless lamb. And I’m not saying that I wouldn’t visit Disneyland based off of internet opinion – but I’d probably go in with lowered expectations as well. But then, that’s just me. Thankfully not all are like that. It’s just that the ones that are the most negative are oft times the most vocal.

        • Craig, I really think that much of the negativity aimed at Disney is of the “ring your doorbell and run” variety. I respect someone who plain out and out hates everything Disney more than I would respect someone who frequents the parks and then writes a lot of scathing stuff just to…what…assure coolness? I don’t know, but it’s childish and it’s exhausting and after a while I get to the point where I just want to enjoy Disney in peace and share it with people who like it as well.

          The world has never had a good definition of the word criticism, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for criticism; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

          It too bad that the line between debating and fighting always seems to blur. For some criticism is analysis. For some it means attacking. And everything in between. I am always up for a vigorous debate but when the attacks start, I’m pretty much outta there. I may try to stick around for a bit to see if things get back on track, but if they don’t, I have to move on. Even something as silly as having someone ring your doorbell and run can drive you nuts after a while.

          This is pretty much a bottomless topic. Thanks so much, Craig for your excellent post.

    • “In that sense, the internet is a big mirror where the human race can look at itself in a way it never could before on such a massive scale and in real time.”

      And in the process giving it ample reason to destroy us when it gains sentience!

  3. Far too much power is given to the faceless critics of the internet world. We let them destroy perceptions, hope, and even our happiness at times. I think the internet is a fantastic tool, but it has become so many people’s lifeline. We no longer experience things for ourselves. We rely on others to do it and then provide feedback to the masses. We label them experts because they gave themselves a made up title that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. I personally try to take things with a grain of salt and I do my best to avoid the seriously negative, but it can be hard! Thus is a very thought provoking post! Loved it! You re- affirmed for me why I still want no part of Twitter. Who needs the constant updates!? Go experience and enjoy your own lives!

    • I think the “grain of salt” thing is very important, Melanie. It’s hard to avoid the negative all together, but good to remember this is one person’s opinion, and be able to make up our minds ourselves!

      P.S. – You have valid points about Twitter, but I still love it!

  4. Your posts deserve more readers for posts like this, Craig. I think it would be comical to drop the negative Disney bloggers in the time Disney opened JUST for the sole fact of reading their comically negative posts are so far off base on what’s true. Keep up the posts, man! Great outlook on things!

    • Thank you, Mr. T! Like I say, all of the “comments” I made were based off of events that happened, but perception is really the key, isn’t it?

    • Thank you, sir. Like I say, I don’t mind criticism, but the way it is presented, and the amount presented, along with consistent negativity and no balance…sometimes I think it skews some people more than they’re willing to admit.

  5. This truly is a frustrating topic. Frustrating because the internet is such a complicated and fascinating thing. It’s hard to have any cohesive thoughts on the topic of humanity’s use of it.

    I really like a lot of what David Foose said above. In regards to Walt… yes… we may treat him like some sort of a god at times, but I really truly do believe that no matter what was going on he would have accomplished what he wanted accomplished. The only reason he didn’t complete EPCOT was death. That was the only thing that could stop him. He’d pay no attention to a bunch of Negative Nancys on Twitter and the blogosphere.

    Also. The negativity about pretty much everything on the internet is probably my biggest issue with the internet AND my favorite part at the same time! I do think that many people go too far in either direction. Many will mostly focus on the bad and even relish in it while others will refuse to live in reality and only focus on what is good. I think what I’ve come to accept is that, overall, the internet balances itself out. It’s easy to think that the negative jerks run things, but that’s only because they’re usually much more vocal (ALL CAPS!) and their opinions are more bombastic and provocative.

    Anyway… I LOVE YOUR BLOG. Keep it up. We need more intelligent, thoughtful voices like yours on the internet.

    • Adam, I know you enough to know you’re with me on this. We were witness to something online not too long ago that started snarky and negative that turned into an actual thoughtful discussion, and even the two parties mainly involved were surprised at how the conversation turned out! Amazing what happens when you don’t let bad vibes take over and think for yourself, isn’t it?

      And thanks for the compliment on the blog and the writing. It means a lot.

  6. Bravo, bravo! As a middle school teacher, I am more and more alarmed by the negativity I hear brought into my classroom in the form of judgment and gossip (a form of bullying). Teens learn this from their parents, standing on the sidewalk or sitting in front of the TV criticizing. If we truly want to turn our planet’s destiny to something worth looking forward to, positive interactions in our families and communities is the place to start.

  7. I try not to go on the sites that are constantly negative about Disney. I like to form my own opinions. Some things have upset me when reading, but then when I get to the parks, I like it. So I try not to read the negative stuff because some people are just never happy or satisfied with things no mater what. I agree with David! And I love what Melanie says. I don’t ever go on twitter. I’m just not interested. I enjoy fb because I like to connect with my friends. I couldn’t imagine having to grow up with things like twitter and fb though. That’s a scary thought. High school is hard enough. I think the Internet is an amazing tool, but like david said you sure see the crazies come out too!

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