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by Ken Pellman (archives)
March 27, 2003
Does Disney Matter? Ken tackles that question and reflects on the departure of a long-time Cast Member and the death of an Imagineer.

Does Disney Matter? - Departures, Passing the Torch, and Revival of Disney

Does Disney Matter?

To answer this, one should first ask, “What is Disney?? Most people reading this column know what Disney is. They know it when they see it and when they hear it - when they experience it.

Is it music? Yes, but not just music.

Is it animation? Yes, but not just animation.

Is it theme parks and resorts? Yes, but not just theme parks and resorts.

Is it characters we have grown up with? Yes, but not just characters.

Is it a hobby? …a job? …an investment? ...a man? ...a corporation? …a brand? Yes, it is all of those, but it is also a culture unto its own that encompasses all of that. It is a culture that lives in people of diverse backgrounds, all over the world.

Because Disney is these things, it is a form of escape. Escape is something we all need, especially in times like these. We need to step inside that berm, whether literal or figurative, and put our cares aside for a little while.

Now, let me explain two things I’m not saying here:

1. I’m not saying that we should avoid our problems forever or be ignorant of what is going on in our neighborhoods or in our world. Anyone who knows me knows I’m addicted to news.

2. I’m not saying we’d all die without Disney. We don’t need Disney in the same way we need nutrition, respiration, and so forth.

While it is more obvious that we need to work, it is no less true that we also need to play. I’m certain that leisure, recreation, relaxation, and entertainment help us to recharge, help us to cope, and help motivate us, allowing us to be more effective in our professions and our lives.

So, yes, Disney does matter.

That’s why we care. That’s why some of us are so demanding and have high expectations when it comes to the Disney product. We think it is important, that it is worth something, that it means something, and we want to see it stay that way. We want to be able to share the wonder, share the memories, share the magic that we felt years ago with our parents, years from now with our own grandchildren.

Like many things, Disney culture is cyclical. Just as it has been a better investment at some times than other times, the Disney product has been better at some times than at others. There are glorious mountaintops, and then there are shadowy valleys, and sometimes there are just plain ol’ plains. You can argue specifics all day and night until your muscles atrophy and you have destroyed what little social life you had (and some people do, right here on this very site), but I don’t think the general idea is something that can be denied.

What should we do when we think Disney has fallen into a slump? Should be moan and groan in columns, newsgroups, discussion forums, and e-mails, day in and day out? Should we constantly complain and whine about Disney, like a nagging spouse in a dysfunctional marriage?

Criticism can be healthy. It can even be productive. Careful evaluation and analysis is good. We should, however, never forsake balance. We need to remember why we even care in the first place, stop and smell the roses (or, the simulated candy aroma on Main Street, U.S.A.), and escape by enjoying the parts of Disney culture we have high regard for.

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