Sunday, October 28, 2007


The culmination of Walt Disney’s audacity, with Disneyland, was the raising of the freest, most innocent flag of happiness. It stood for a breaking of rationality’s fundamental interdict: the separation between fantasy and facts. No wonder Sergei Eisenstein, in his comments of the Silly Symphonies (Sergei Eisenstein Walt Disney- Circe) proclaims Disney to be beyond good and evil, asserting the purity and brightness of his soul.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Don't Think: I Am

It just occurred to me, having talked about this ongoing exchange of affection with the Disney characters, settings and buildings that…
The first times I went to Disneyland I was at one with it. In such communion, identification with, you name it, I did not “think”. It did not even occur to me that buildings there were built to scale. Even though I had seen real castles in Europe more than once, (for someone who “thinks”, such direct vision would not even be necessary) I did not realize that Sleeping Beauty’s castle is also built to scale. And I was already a young woman. Call me crazy, I myself do when I come to think about it. However, if I go on thinking some more about it, I realize that Sleeping Beauty's’s castle, being “the castle” for me, was incomparable, it was “it”. When you look at whatever is “it” for you, comparisons, size and quantity do not enter your mind. Whatever is not “it” is obliterated. Love or wonder is what elects something to be “it”. And neither love nor wonder is mathematical. Neither admits of comparing, relativizing. Love speaks of quality, not quantity. To love is to deem what you love unique, therefore absolute. Just like the Magic Kingdom was not a park telling me stories, it was “my” story.
Walt Disney’s magical touch was to render “it” what would be no more than one among many. It was to make you love it. It was to make it “you”.
Marcel Proust talks about this power of love in a different, more intelligent (of course) way than I do. Describing his inner state when looking at Albertine, he says:
“…how could the world have lasted longer than myself, since I was not lost in its vastness, since it was the world that was enclosed in me, in me whom it fell far short of filling, in me who, feeling that there was room to store so many other treasures, flung sky and sea and cliffs contemptuously into a corner.” (In Search of Lost Time, vol. 2, Within a Budding Grove [Modern Library Edition, 1992], 700-701)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Disney Takes Care of...

I was at MGM, in that store they have of Hollywood memorabilia. I’d just ridden a Disney bus, the driver of which, a woman full of life, had used the small trip as an occasion for quizzing people about Walt Disney and telling interesting facts of his life. There was always someone in that well assorted bus who knew the answer to her questions. She’d started as a joke, asking if we guys knew why MGM is called MGM, proceeding to explain that it stands for Mickey got Minnie, or Mickey got money. Then, came the serious questions. I couldn’t answer any. At the end of the trip, the driver asked whether anyone knew why they wore purple uniforms. No one could answer that one. She said : “ Purple was Walt’s favorite color”…
After a brief silence, she continued:
“ You know what is good about wearing a uniform?”
Again, no reply.
“Disney takes care of it for us. They wash it and press it…”
“Disney” had been in her mouth to designate Walt himself, the Disney family, a brand and finally the staff. She was proud of her job, reverent of Walt and moved with Disney. The “Disney” that takes care of was all of those together, I guess.
Embarrassed of my ignorance after the little bus trip, I was, at the MGM store, examining Bob Thomas’ biography of Walt Disney, thinking of buying it. But I generally don’t like biographies. Tried reading a few of Proust, my favorite writer, and abandoned them all. Biographies generally give me the feeling that the writer wants, somehow, to “own” his subject, that person he either loves, hates, or loves and hates at the same time. Biographers generally want to know more about that person than the person himself, and assert their cleverness at the expense of the latter.
But I had to know something about Walt Disney. The book was 15 dol. Wondering whether, in buying it, I would just have one more book piling up dust on my bed side table, I heard these two ladies, who seemed to be somewhere in their sixties, commenting on what they saw around. They were very proper, sweet and, one could see, good friends. They looked like two English ladies ready for their five o’clock afternoon tea. On the shelf I got Bob Thomas’ book from, there were a few pictures of Walt Disney stacked up on a corner. The first one was the same as the one on the cover of Thomas’ book. A young Walt, kind of shy looking, by a door, certainly the door of his office, dressed in an angora sweater. Projected on the wall to his left is the shadow of Mickey Mouse. Everyone knows what picture I am talking about, no more need for descriptions. So far, I had no idea of how Walt Disney looked like when he was young, and I was kind of intrigued by it, trying to match that image to the one of Uncle Walt that is generally promoted. Then, I heard one of the ladies say to the other, with the same warmth a mother may talk about a baby son, or of some creature she admires and at the same time is protective of.
“Oh, I love him in that picture…”
The tone that was said with revealed a knowledge of cause. That lady for sure knew all of Walt Disney’s pictures that are available to the public. And her picking that one to “love him in it” and share her opinion with her friend transmitted pure affection. They obviously had their personal way of relating to Walt Disney. Like the bus driver did and like many other people do.
After reading Bob Thomas’ biography of Disney I read many others (of Disney too). Disney made a point of his characters, the good ones, being lovable. I think that the Disney style is remarkable for “babying” characters and also things. That certainly arouses “the license to touch” that was reported of Mickey Mouse, a license also to feel like playing with. An endearingness that accounts for physical closeness. Walt was reported for having the gift to reach the human heart, after all. His power of endearingness pervaded animate and inanimate things alike. The Disney settings make one wish to be in them, they are cozy as can be and at the same time delicate and mysterious. One wants to be protected by them as well as to play with or to be protective of them. The same goes for the buildings on Main Street USA. You like to be kind of cradled by them and also playful with them. Such constant interchange of affection makes up for the ideal in personal relationships. You are constantly given and you constantly give.
Walt Disney made loving a fundamental part of being entertained. To feel taken care of by Disney might have something to do with this lovingness, this exchange of affection. The same for having a personal way of relating to Walt.
I wonder how many people might have their own personal stories to tell about experiences with Disney ( visits to the Magic Kingdom, watching of a Disney movie, thoughts about Walt, particular appreciation of his team and so on). Like the two ladies in the store, or like that bus driver, they could enrich others in participating a unique way of feeling, or in telling their own little stories. In being, a little bit, like Walt Disney.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Transcendental Disney

Could the ride Mission Space Mars, at Epcot, be the ideal synthesis of the organic, guttural element in human nature, with a paroxysm of artifice?
Does the union of such extremes afford a paradise like identification of polarities?
Does it allow a glimpse into the real nature of pleasure, as bodily experience and yet liberation from body?
Could it really beg the question of whether artifice can ultimately be spiritual, in granting the experience of glory?
Is simulation blessedly invasive, in making the participation of your viscera as fundamental as what it imposes on you visually?
(From the book "From Mars to Marceline)
I came out of such ride with shaky legs and a dazzled mind: Mission Space Mars grants you the feeling of spiritual ascendancy, through guts and sight.
Isn't it very much in line with Disney, to conceive the experience of glory as artificial, fleshly and organically induced by technology?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Looking at Life in the Eye

Philosophy was everything to me until I first read a biography of Walt Disney. Even though I’ve always been a Disney fan, I had no idea that Walt’s life is really the other side of the apple, completing the healing power of his creativity. The fact that there was such a man, a person who really looked at life in the eye, answered, to me, what philosophy could never answer. Better than answering anything, it obliterated the anguished, obsessive need of impersonal questioning that philosophy is all about.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I hope we don't loose sight of one thing: there was a man that...

Had the Socratic power of bringing the best, talent wise, out of people.
Described his role as that of a bee taking pollen from place to place so as to make them flourish, a self- description that is very much in the line of Socrate’s “midwife”.
Was an almost inconceivable identification between pragmatism and poetry.
Had the guts to be free.
Could provide the flight of abandonment along with the discipline of order, a Dad like support and a maternal giving of fun.
Had the innocence of being carried away and yet the hardship of an iron determination.
Was as self-renewing as the sea...

Disney's Rescuing Hand

I was very little, still in first grade. My Catholic school demanded faith. But faith can only happen from within. Faith in God is faith that God especially wants something from you, that there is a particular “living right,” a wanted path of action, as opposed to arbitrariness, especially designed for you. It was like the prince killing the dragon, or Aurora singing in the woods. It was like the searched-for inevitability with which Sleeping Beauty’s numbered stickers should follow one another to completion, in the album that was launched right after the movie. Like charms created by the Disney industry, those stickers were swapped between my younger brother and I, passing from one avid set of little fingers to the other as a transcendental mission behind the torrential, shield-like rain that had my dreaded school providentially called off on that unforgettable morning.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Golden Age Disney's Healing

The Golden Age Disney’s Healing

As a small child, confronted with the big screen for the first time, I experienced,much beyond fun, an unknown kind of relief. The feature film on display was one of Walt Disney’s classical fairy tales.
Today I realize that the healing granted by Disney had a psychological as well as a metaphysical aspect. Psychologically, the plot of the story, with its message of effort, discipline and integrity to one’s action, with the pleasure granted by the images’ colors, sweetness, humor and entertainment fulfilled, respectively, a paternal and maternal support. The movie “told” you to buck up at the same time it made you feel good. It granted command and pleasure, inspiring authority not just by its message of discipline and integrity, but by the exactness of its lines’ response to story development, and at the same time organic spontaneity by the freedom of its multicolor, morphing physicality.
On the metaphysical level, that overwhelming movie screen transmitted, in all colors of the rainbow, something more intense, and therefore more convincing than any after life conception of paradise. The Disney cartoon altered the world of the physical but, remaining, yet, an illusion of life, kept a livingness that was filtered from everything contingent to its fantasized story development. The life it is an illusion of becomes, therefore, a “screened” life, a life that is required for or a life that must be.
A life derived from or equal to meaning.
(excerpt from the book "From Mars to Marceline")

A Matriarchal Vein

The culmination of Walt Disney’s audacity, with Disneyland, was the raising of the freest, most innocent flag of happiness. It stood for a breaking of rationality’s fundamental interdict: the separation between fantasy and facts. No wonder Sergei Eisenstein, in his comments of the Silly Symphonies (Sergei Eisenstein Walt Disney- Circe) referred to the purity and brightness of Disney’s soul, and of his being beyond good and evil.
In a cultural context, Walt Disney’s innocence distilled the American search for material heaven, that is, the all American impunity to the spirit/matter; reality/essence dualism that is common to religion in general and to much of the philosophical tradition that molds and responds to the guilt stricken human mind. Disney’s innocence, freedom and daring were one and the same.
I will suggest that the above mentioned American impunity to such archaic dualism relates to a strong matriarchal vein in American culture. The expansion of cuteness, as a fundamental trait in the creation of a great part of fictional American characters, is responsible for the establishing of endearingness as a form of attractiveness that does not rely on traditional standards of beauty: on the good looks that account for sexual attraction. The sanctioning of attractiveness as a function of sex results from a male oriented world, with its obliging of the species’ urge for reproduction, rather than nurturing. Physical satisfaction in such world is more often a result of competition, fight, or prevailing of the strongest (and strength here relates, of course, not to literal Darwinian strength, but to other sorts of material power, such as money, youth, social superiority).
This is the cut-in-two world of satisfaction and self-assertiveness on one side, pain on the other. Something like heaven and hell. But the attractiveness that results from endearingness, from the cute, in one word, is maternal like. It sanctions beauty as that which appeals to heart before sex, to nurturing rather than subduing, to maternal and fraternal love rather than hierarchic, competitive authority. It reverts to a world where strength is not so material, but emotional. A more homogeneous world, in which pain and pleasure, the blessings of a heaven like life and the hell of disgrace are not so discriminated

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is it the Age of Vulgarity?

“Though his wife and two daughters were attentive during Disney’s final illness, he happened to die alone. Gabler quotes one of his nurses writing to the family afterward: “I took care of Walt in his final days, and just want you to know that the poor man was so fearful.” How bizarrely cruel to take the effort to point that out, but maybe she thought she was sticking up for him. By the end of the book, though, even his biographer seems tired of him. Gabler finishes his volume with a description of the Forest Lawn plot where Disney’s ashes are interred — no, he wasn’t frozen — and then concludes with, at least as I read it, the slightest hint of a sneer: “Walt Disney had at last attained perfection.” Who would have thought the story of Uncle Walt would end with such a chill in the air?”

This is the final paragraph of a review of Neal Gabler’s Walt Disney The Triumph of The American Imagination, written by Bruce Handy, of the Wall Street Journal. The reviewer points not just to a possible cruelty on the part of the nurse who informed the Disney family of Walt Disney’s final ordeal (even though he admits she might, with such information, be sticking up for Walt) but goes on, what is more important, to remark on what he calls a “slightest hint of a sneer”, on Gabler’s conclusion.
It astonishes me that the reviewer has not made any mention of the worst: Before getting to those lines, Gabler, vulture like, applies the lowest blow, something nobody can possibly do without loosing decency: to mock someone fear of death, without ever having had to prove his own courage in the face of it. To use one of Gabler’s favorite sneering verbs, he, after “crowing”: “The master of order had been so terrified of death that he hadn’t left instructions for his interment.” (pp633 Walt Disney The Triumph of The American Imagination), contradictorily goes on mentioning exactly the instructions Walt Disney had given Lillian to have him cremated in small ceremony etc.

Aside from that going unnoticed, the sneering is not a hint, but a tone that pervades the whole book. It seems to me a sneaky way of vulgarizing Disney, at the same time of being forced to name (facts are facts, after all) everything he accomplished.
The French Magazine “Telerama hors Serie”, by the occasion of the exhibition “ Il Etait Une Fois Walt Disney” held at the Grand Palais, in Paris 2006 ( I went twice, to this exhibition), published some sentences by Sergei Eisenstein, the genius of Russian cinema. Thanks to this, I came to read the whole of Eisenstein essay on Disney, published in French, by Circe. This essay is pretty unknown here, when, in fact, it should be promoted before everything else written on the subject.
Not just because Eisenstein is unanimously recognized as a genius, (that would also be enough in itself) but because of the depth of his insights.
Instead, you see Gabler’s book promoted to no end on Disney parks, of all places. Does that respond to a total, vulgar submission to marketing purposes, rather than to quality?
What would Walt Disney think of it?
It is also weird, to say the least, that the French were able to pay such a high quality, high art homage to Disney, that went to Canada but was never brought to this country.
The world is different, cultures are different, people are different. Sometimes they are op
It is amazing to think, for instance, that while Eisenstein brought out an ecstasies dimension to Walt Disney’s cartoons, (Sergei Eisenstein- Walt Disney- Walt Disney- Circe) Gabler, on the other hand, interprets Disney’s animation as Walt’s need for creating an escape from reality into a world he had total control of. What is a result of freedom, in Eisenstein's vision, comes to tyranny in Gabler's. Freedom in its mystical dimension reverts to determination in abandonment. To intuition and inspiration, the exact opposite of control, which is nothing but imprisonment in the limits of self.
Many people complain about intellectualizing the work of Walt Disney, like Eisenstein did. It is everybody’s right to complain, but before doing so, one should consider that the phenomenal appeal of the work of Disney cannot be so easily explained by the pettiness of a control need or something of the kind. As phenomenal as its appeal, is the magnitude of what Walt Disney accomplished, the complexity of his personality. The analysis of it demands a depth of thought of the same proportion. If it gets difficult, tough!
Oscar Wilde, through one of his characters, Lord Harry, in Dorian Gray, accused the nineteenth century as the time of vulgarity. What would he think of today, in view of all this????

Monday, October 1, 2007

What is Love?

I must mention that, taking a casual peek at a Disney poster right here by this computer, I read Walt Disney’s famous declaration: “I hope we don’t lose sight of one thing: it was all started by a mouse”.
This crediting of Mickey was obviously very important to Disney. As if investing the smallness of the little creature with the immensity of everything that followed its “birth”, this recognition of the Mouse, this attempt at making sure (“ I hope we don’t loose sight…”) he will be equally recognized by everybody else, is an eternal thanks giving to a fictional character. In referring the success of his creativity to "redoubtable little Mickey”, Disney talks to and about his creature with reverence. Being thanked, Mickey, in “his” unreality is treated like a talisman, as if gaining some sort of transcendental, mystical dimension. (CD Disney Treasures- Mickey Mouse’s Twentieth Birthday, 13 October 1948)
As “means to an end”, in Disney’s words, Mickey was a tool for survival, but as an entity to be thanked, he acquires his own value. He is then recognized, by Disney, as something of a first principle, rather than a circumstantial trigger of everything that followed “his” success. Turning from a mere cause into a reason, Mickey really comes to life.
Disney seemed to have shown on more than one occasion he had a sense of predestination, of being endowed with a mission, so to speak. The way he left Kansas City to Hollywood, (according to reports and to his own declarations in movie clips) having just bankrupted, but traveling first class and feeling happy and free, is one instance. Besides, he was a storyteller who impersonated stories. The line of action and events of a story can be anything but gratuitous. On the contrary, its inexorability parallels the mystical. Those who live it and tell it are mystically motivated and giving, and those who are told it are mystically “comforted” and inspired. (I guess that is why the power of narrative has survived along all the literary movements that destroyed it).
The declaration, “If you live right, things happen right” (attributed to Disney by Art Linkletter in the movie The Man Behind the Myth), makes one think that the connection between living “right” with things happening “right”, in the case of Walt Disney’s self-sacrificing, immense body of work, also relates to mission fulfilling, as if he had a conviction in the existence of a relationship between whatever it is that makes things happen and our own behavior .
After all, Walt Disney had a super human generosity: in a childhood of forced labor and poverty, he was still capable of seeing beauty and goodness in what surrounded him - the animals, the farm, the little town.
As if pledged to joy, young Disney, poor, even hungry, insisted, against all odds, on a path in entertainment, something that can only exist for or make sense to those on a full stomach. Walt Disney’s pledge was beyond the demands of the flesh.
Walt Disney identified with Mickey at the same time of perfecting “him” to what “he” came to represent for people. Disney identified with the character he was giving and yet gave what was expected of the character. If this is not a loving, giving power, one is entirely justified to be at a loss in relation to what love really is.