The West Side of the Kingdom
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Recently, someone posted a topic to one of the LaughingPlace.com message boards asking a very good question. The intent may have been simple; a gripe, perhaps. However, the question asked is complicated and has many answers; one, I would like to share with everyone in this months column.
The question raised was, "Why does the media hate Disney so much?"
Journalists and editors are odd ducks to begin with. Some have agendas; some dont know what they are talking about and some just call it like it is. Ive met all types in the past decade or so that Ive been writing about theme parks.
There actually are journalists out there that have it bad for the Disney company and take every chance they get to make a public swipe at them. You can find their work online, in newspaper columns and in books they publish. In most of these cases, a look at their full body of work over several years makes their agendas very clear. For whatever reason (maybe they werent hired at Disney and theyre really upset or maybe they were fired and have a "No Rehire" status), some writers simply are never happy with Disney. Never.
I had a friend who is no longer with us that in his old age, had come to hate The Walt Disney Company. He was a very popular Orange County columnist for many, many years and initially started out working for the Orange County Register before moving to the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot. He used to say, "Their arrogance offends me," when Id ask why he disliked them so.
He once relayed a really funny story that was much more amusing if you knew the guy. When he wrote for the Register, hed always comment on Disneyland when it was in the news. However, hed always refer to the Park as "Dizzyland" and that used to make Disney really hot under the collar. My friend said that whenever he did that, like clockwork, two or three guys from Disneyland in black suits would show up at the office to have a "chat" with the editor! That doesnt surprise me, but is amusing at the same time.
When my pal went to the Daily Pilot, he was older and I think the novelty of upsetting Disneyland management wore off. He wrote about the more humorous, simple things in life during his twilight. Jerry Kobrin was a giant among writers and a true hero of mine that lives in my heart and writing each and every day; I couldnt have had a more amazing mentor of sorts. I miss him all the time.
From a Theme Park Adventure Magazine position, I feel that I am one of the journalists that calls it like it is these days. And I never sugar-coat anything. That is something our readers have come to respect and that is something I really appreciate LaughingPlace.com for allowing me to carry over to my monthly column here as well. I know that Doobie and Rebekah are largely very pro-Disney (thus, this incredible Web site that we all visit each day at least once or twice); to me, it says a lot about them professionally to offer my column, which can sometimes be very heavy-handed on Disney and its management.
Im the kind of writer that is Disneys worst enemy in some cases. Being an ex-Cast Member and working with many people within the company on all different levels often, I know what its like on the "inside." I worked at both Disneyland and The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank; I have fond memories and true horror stories from both experiences. Disneyland was by far the best place to work. The Studios was a nightmare, laced with people that really hated Disneyland, which I found totally bizarre. That however, is another story for another column one of these days!
I continue to work closely with Disney executives and some incredible legends from time to time for TPA projects. I get to hear what their worlds are like as well, first-hand.
All in all, I feel that I have a foot up on other writers from local newspapers, etc. that mostly go on public knowledge and a bit of "gut feeling" when writing their pieces about the company or the theme parks. That theory is proven again and again when folks from the Register as well as Times constantly botch facts or dont really know what they are talking about when doing "investigative" journalism or simply writing up a new attraction review. They are on tight deadlines, they are getting paid regardless of the "depth" of the pieces, so they usually settle for "good" instead of "perfect." Thats why I rarely read newspaper articles. You find much more insight and knowledge online with columnists such as the ones here at LaughingPlace.com as well as other theme park sites.
Growing up with Disneyland, have grown older with such attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, America Sings, Country Bear Jamboree, Star Tours, Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones. They arent just "rides" to me; they are part of my life and the foundation for many happy memories. Those attractions that are no longer with us such as Sings or Natures Wonderland have a very special place in my heart and will always be part of my very personal "Disney experience". I am a product of Disneys "product," as they call it today.
And this "product" so happens to be a writer.
That is exactly why, when Ive been raised on the best of WED and WDI, I call "foul" when Disneylands sister park is blessed with such things as a giant Sun Wheel or a used Mad Mouse coaster instead of something akin to a "Disneyland" type of attraction. I am a fan who loves the company and mainly, Disneyland very intensely. I hate seeing individuals that are in my opinion, not worthy of their management positions due to their poor vision and decision making skills. This goes for middle managers at Disneyland that I had the misfortune of working with all the way up the chain to Burbank and Glendale.
While I am saving this full-blown editorial for the TPA site, I will point out some of the more recent things that really ticked me off personally and professionally for you to give you some idea why I have such a bad taste in my mouth about Disneys executives these days.
At the opening of California Adventure, a press conference was held for the media. As usual, the floor is open to anyone with a question. I never participate in the asking end of these things; but I do take in every detail of each answer, as there is no better way to truly read someone than by an off-the-cuff response without the aid of publicists polishing your statements, advisors suggesting certain things be avoided, etc. Press conferences are the best part of any media event. Everyones soul is on display for the world.