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.
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!