My decision to include the "Partners" statue as one of the things I don't like
at the Disney parks has taken a severe beating on recent LaughingPlace podcasts. Not surprising--I mean, the subject of my post was "things only I dislike"--so dissension and disbelief should come with the territory. But I could have done a better job explaining my thinking, so I'll take this moment to clarify.
Contrary to the impression I gave in my original post, I don't automatically dislike the idea of a statue of Walt in a Disney park. Unnecessary? Probably. But automatically a mistake? No. But this statue...this particular statue is what I think I have the problem with. For me, it fails on a sculptural level: Walt looks uncomfortably stiff, and Mickey's body is so rigid that it fails to convey any life whatsoever.* Conceptually, the statue is questionable as well: posing Walt with Mickey strikes me as a little too cute. The juxtaposition works to the detriment of both figures: it makes Walt seem as two-dimensional as a cartoon character, and Mickey as leaden as a real-life human.
How could the situation be made better? Better figures that don't feel so stiff would go light years towards helping the situation. (I know that the statue was sculpted by Disney Legend(tm) Blaine Gibson, but hey...even the greats can sometimes be not-so-great.) If we needed to have a statue--and let's take the case of Disney World's Magic Kingdom--I'd rather have it back in the quiet little corner of Town Square where the Walt Disney Story used to be. That would suggest bringing back the Walt Disney Story exhibit, which I'd argue was a better tribute to Walt Disney than a statue is. And reincarnating that exhibit would address my final objection to the statue, which is that the statue as constructed is too much "Uncle Walt" and not enough "Walt Disney, American." A piece of art that communicated the latter sentiment would be just as beautiful but more accurate and insightful, more true to the spirit of the man.
As it stands now, when I walk in front of Cinderella Castle I think back to when I was a kid and it used to be a beautiful flower garden...and that was all. That famous (and possibly apocryphal) quote attributed to John Hench regarding California Adventure always springs to mind--"I liked it better when it was a parking lot"--well, I liked this better when it was just marigolds.
*A Fred Moore-style Mickey would have gone a long way towards making Mickey seem more alive. Picture the bouncy, expressive Mickey from "The Brave Little Tailor" and realize how far from ideal this sculpture really is. Roy Disney's statue at the front of the park is considerably better than Walt's--I'm guessing the sitting pose makes it much easier to convey a sense of comfort and life--though I don't think Minnie fares much better here than Mickey did.