Walt Disney World is a pilgrimage site filled with utopian elements, craft, and whimsy. It’s a pedestrian’s world, where the streets are clean, the employees are friendly, and the trains run on time. All of its elements are themed, presented in a consistent architectural, decorative, horticultural, musical, even olfactory tone, with rides, shows, restaurants, scenery, and costumed characters coordinated to tell a consistent set of stories. It is beguiling and exasperating, a place of ambivalence and ambiguity. In Vinyl Leaves Professor Fjellman analyzes each ride and theater show of Walt Disney World and discusses the history, political economy, technical infrastructure, and urban planning of the area as well as its relationship with Metropolitan Orlando and the state of Florida.Vinyl Leaves argues that Disney, in pursuit of its own economic interests, acts as the muse for the allied transnational corporations that sponsor it as well as for the world of late capitalism, where the commodity form has colonized much of human life. With brilliant technological legerdemain, Disney puts visitors into cinematically structured stories in which pieces of American and world culture become ideological tokens in arguments in favor of commodification and techno-corporate control. Culture is construed as spirit, colonialism and entrepreneurial violence as exotic zaniness, and the Other as child.Exhaustion and cognitive overload lead visitors into the bliss of Commodity Zen—the characteristic state of postmodern life. While we were watching for Orwell, Huxley rode into town, bringing soma, cable, and charge cards—and wearing mouse ears. This book is the story of our commodity fairyland. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (12)
I think someone needs a hug.
This book is complete rubbish. It is a scathing indictment of our university system and an argument against tenor.If my son or daughter came home spewing this tripe I would pull them immediately.
I surmise that maybe his [author] darkest day was in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. In fact, the only praise I remember in the book was for the Chinese over some clever anti-Western words they used in their showcase film.I think he pines for "agrarian reformers" like Che (wink...wink).
The author is adamantly opposed to optimism (of any kind) and his main criticism of Disney comes from their inability to show history at its worst moments.I think he would be unsatisfied with a dark ride reliving the grimmest moments of US history.
My favorite trick of his is when he uses quotations around words like "free market".I think this is code to demonstrate to his smug friends his disdain for free enterprise and industry.He almost writes/types the words "nuclear family" angrily!
It is sad.He is sad.
Finally, you should never trust someone who writes about pop culture who places an AT-AT on Endor.
Nostalgic Descriptions of Early WDW, but lightweight 'scholarship'
Dr Fjellman probably spends at least 3/4 of his space describing attractions and environs at Walt Disney World, and less than 10% of his space offering any real scholarly analysis of the sociological impacts of WDW.It's hardly worth the price for the few pages of critique he offers, but if one is looking for a quasi-professorial description of WDW as it was 15 years ago - and especially of the first incarnation of EPCOT Center, this might be entertaining... or you could just read one of the early editions of "Steve Birnbaum Brings You the Best of Walt Disney World" - one of Fjellman's primary sources.Where I went to college, travel guides were hardly considered valid reference material!For a better study of Walt Disney's influence on American culture, spend your time and money on "The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life" by Steven Watts; "Married to the Mouse" by Richard Folgesong about the relationship of Walt Disney and Company with Orlando, FL, is also an interesting read.
A Mickey Mouse Book About Walt Disney World
I'm surprised to read that the "scholarly" Fjellman doesn't perpetuate the old chestnut about Walt being cryogenically frozen. As it is, he has his readers believing this ridiculous story about Walt making a series of films to be shown after his death to guide the company after he's gone.
This is a respected author?My God, where are his sources?Hopefully if he comes out with a second edition, he'll correct such glaring errors as these.
Still THE scholarly standard...
I keep hoping that Fjellman will update his seminal book to encompass all that has happened in the last ten years; I'll be the first in line when he does. I wrote my MA thesis at NYU on Disney using Fjellman as a prime source, and have used various chapters from Fjellman's book to teach graduate classes in museum studies, design, and architecture. Students in many fields find a lot to think about, discuss, debate, and apply to their thinking.
Witty, engaging, balanced, factually accurate, yet still with a point of view... a great book all around. Other reviewers who complain about the writing level, or some of the more obscure academic theorizing, are missing the point. For a truly academic piece of literature, it is written in incredibly accessible, engaging, and clear style. Highly recommended.
Great imagineer and business model info
This is not a tell all/behind-the-scenes gossip book. It reads like a business venture case file with some interesting bits of Disney design and innovation thrown in. The author gives equal wonderment to the imagineers' genius as to the company's business decisions.
Also, this book was the catalyst for a to take a side trip to Celebration, Florida after our last Disney vacation in Dec 2001. The book peaked our curiosity to see Walt's real/intended version for a prototype community of the future.
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