No marketing gimmick annoys me more than the Disney Vault. For as long as I can remember every Disney tape movie ever has had promoted this idea that all of their classic films are kept lock and key in a physical vault, and each of them are periodically released for a limited amount of time before being put back in. That bullshit is nothing more than a way of creating urgency to consumers to go out there and buy a copy while they still can. All the Disney VHS tapes I grew up with made those claims, but they all left the vault again during the DVD era and once more during the current Blu-Ray era. I know the being put in the Disney Vault is just a code for “not making any more copies for the time being,” but its fun to imagine breaking into the vault and freely dishing the movies to all.
Tag Archives: Disney
As I have noted in earlier posts, whilst in Tanzania we spent a good amount of time with the orphans and schoolchildren that lived at the convent. The school library had a suprizingly decent selection of movies and we would often screen movies with the kids. Our group would decide which movie to watch, and one time we watched the Disney Princess and the Frog which everyone else said they loved. I had never seen it before, but did want to see it since I had heard so much about how it was incredibly racist (like Disney tends to be with animated films not set in generic Europe.) It was worse than I thought. For one thing it had every single thing stereotypically associated with New Orleans and Louisiana I can think of short of bared breasts, Katrina, and oil spills. Gumbo, frogs, jazz playing alligators, Mardi Gras, Voodoo, the bayou, and even more was just crammed together in the most contrived way imaginable. That’s not even getting into the “racist” part of it.
Much like Aladin and Mulan, the racism lies in its depiction of the primary antagonist. This film taking place in Louisiana Disney predicatably chose to make the villian, Dr. Facilier a top hatted “Voodoo Man.” Like any other depiction of voodoo in mass media, Dr. Facilier is shown as black magician in leage with evil spirits and scamming innocent people. What is so troubling about that? Well Voodoo (also spelt as vodou or vodun) is a living religion that along with the related faiths of Santeria and Cadomble claim several million adherents on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the only time it is ever seen in the media is a dark, sinister cult practiced by dirty con artists. These misrepresnations have their origins from the fear many Westerners felt after the Haitian Revolution, and became cemented in popular imagination when Hollywood started attempts to depict voodoo following the Marine Corps intervention in Haiti during the 1920s.
What specifically was wrong? Let me explain. For one thing Dr. Facilier wears a feathered tophat and torn tail coat, with a shirt that is too small and a claw necklace. In reality tophats are strictly associated with spirits of the dead, and are worn with full formal dress because the death spirits are supposed to be wealthy; yet most pop cultures portrayals show all “witch doctors” wearing them along with generally primitive looking attire. No specific deities were named, probably because Disney didn’t actually do any research and couldn’t even contrive to use a very basic spirit like Samedi, Damballah, Legba, Erzulie, or Shango (it would be like omitting Zeus et al from Hercules). No Catholic iconography appeared either: this is a huge error since slaves who brought their religions from Africa were forced to disguise their spirits as Catholic saints, usually ones that are remotely similiar. Instead just generic “friends from the other side” were used, and they looked more like poorly made Hawaiian Tikis than African entities. Most importantly they clearly had voodoo confused with Palo/Nganga, a seperate religion which is notorious for having unregulated priests who will do anything to make money.
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After the movie was done and the kids left someone on our team remarked that she was worried that maybe the movie might have scared children, since “voodoo is still practiced in some tribes in Tanzania.” Except that it totally isn’t. It’s about as prevelant in Tanzania as Shinto is in India. Complete absent if you were wondering. I corrected her and said that voodoo doesn’t exist in Tanzania or anywhere in East Africa, and that it only exists in West Africa. Actually that’s not even true, it really only exists in Haiti, Louisiana, and a few other Francophone areas, what they have in West Africa is Vodun has differences. I went on to say that its clear Disney didn’t do any research, and when another asked what made me think that I gave them an answer that was sufficiently watered down from what I have been posting. That individual informed that “there’s different kinds of Voodoo, and what they had in the movie is how it is in Louisiana.” Um no it isn’t, and besides in Louisiana it has been completely sold out by the tourist industry and weird white people who like stealing nonwestern religions. I didn’t say that, tactful Tom that I am. After I was done explaining what was wrong, yet another said that “most people wouldn’t know the difference.” I even attempt to explain that the movie was racist, since some people don’t even see racism in Peter “What makes the Red Man Red” Pan.
When I was younger I had an atrocious tendency to buy a souvenir whenever I went somewhere special. I was under the impression that I needed some cheap knickknack in order to have memories about wherever I went. My room back home is filled with all sorts of useless shit that now means nothing to me and serves no purpose other than collecting dust. Of course, taking advantage of these impulses is a big moneymaker for tourism. Now that I’ve realized this I’ve gotten much better, and now I generally only purchase souvenirs as gifts for family members. That’s what I did in Costa Rica, even though the temptation to buy crap for myself was still present. The only thing I got for myself was a jersey for Costa Rica’s national FC, something practical that I actually use. Costa Rican souvenir markets carry a lot of paraphernalia, most of it very eye catching. I remember seeing a glass pipe that had a clay sloth hanging off the stem, and I briefly considered getting it for an uncle who is a chronic enthusiast. At Disneyland all I got was a Yoda shirt, and at Yellowstone I did as I had in Costa Rica. I am more mature know, and have learned the hard way that any memory that needs some tacky ass souvenir isn’t a memory worth making effort to retain.
This week I finished reading a book most of you have probably never heard of (unless you are from West Africa), The Epic of Sundiata. It is Mali’s national epic and is a fictionalized biography of Mali’s first emperor, Sundiata Keita. He turned Mali into the strongest empire in the region, creating a formidible trade power profiteering off of Mali strategic location. Because his story passed orally from generation to generation, many obvious embellishments exist within the narrative. Western scholars have dissmissed oral accounts as being unreliable, however any discerning reader should be able to sort fact from fiction and The Epic provides a rare look into life in 13th century West Africa.
The entire narrative follow’s closely with the Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell. For those of you not aware, the Hero’s Journey is a lazy ass formula used in multimillion dollar franchises such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Matrix, recently with the Hunger Games, and too many other stories to count. One noted example is Lion King, which some Sundiata readers have even accused Disney of copying from. I and many other classmates noticed the resemblance, however there are a couple major differences which lead me to conclude they are merely to monomyths set in Africa. Sundiata’s father was known as the “Lion”, so I guess he was a literal Lion King.
I really enjoyed the Epic of Sundiata. It is a quick read at only 85 pages, so it is well worth your time.
Just returned home a few hours ago. Disneyland was very nice, I’m glad I decided to go (I had had prior arrangements but those didn’t work out). I was sweating for much of the time even though the sun wasn’t too hot, but it was much hotter than I’m used to in Washington. Waiting in line wasn’t as bad as I thought, on the other hand I don’t do rollarcoasters so I didn’t have to wait for Splash Mountain which takes like an hour of waiting. The range of rides I can handle are limited, the fastest thing I could go on was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which had two or three fast drops. I steered clear of the Tea Cups, I probably would have puked on the Mad Hatter. I went on them at Disneyland Tokyo when my family lived in Japan during the 90’s (no, I don’t speak Japanese), and I can still remember how sick I got. For the rest of the time I went on stuff like It’s A Small World Afterall and the Pinocchio ride. While on the former I played a game of “count the obsolete ethnic stereotypes” and lost track before leaving the first room; taking two Sociology courses makes you do stuff like that. The fez is so pre Mustafa Ataturk.
If there is one thing I am troubled by it is the increase of corporate oligopoly, and no where is it more blatant at Disneyland. For those of you who didn’t hear, Disney purchased LucasArts a couple of months ago, effectively annexing Star Wars and Indiana Jones into the Magic Kingdom. There was always the Star Tours attraction, but now Star Wars merchandising is everywhere and TomorrowLand may as well be called “Galaxy Far, Far Way.” Even more disturbing was a poster for Stark Industries from Iron Man, a quick web search revealed Disney also owns Marvel. But hey, I had a fun time with my family and it’s easy to see how Disney got so damn rich.
We didn’t land in LAX or go through Los Angeles, so we didn’t see that many interesting figures. One that I did see was a guy outside Disneyland with a sign rambling about “sexual perversion” and “corporate greed.” The latter makes perfect sense, but I’m not sure what sexual perversion would be associated with Disney. Most likely the picketeer was one of those people who can look hard enough and find phallic towers in the Little Mermaid and S E X written in the night sky on the Lion King. People will believe anything about Disney: http://www.snopes.com/disney/disney.asp
Overall I had a really good time and it was a great vacation.