I’ve gotten to exchange some e-mails with the Animation Pimp, and as much as I can’t decipher his articles, I have enjoyed chatting with him. There is a remarkable difference between how he expresses himself on AWN and how he expresses himself when he’s being himself. Something we talked about was SaveDisney.com, and it brought the cultural differences between American and Canadian into sharp focus. I’ve lived next to British Columbia for many years, right on the edge of it in Bellingham in fact, and you get so used to sharing your K-mart and your McDonalds with them that you forget that its a different country. Specifically, many Canadian animators may be wondering why we Americans care so much about the future of the Disney company. I’d like to put this into context for our foreign friends who might be curious why we’re taking this so personally, and why we spend so much time following the news and talking about it.
Disney has become part of our culture, like apple pie and major league baseball. Almost everyone you meet has been to Disney World at least once. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are practically national mascots. When so much of what comes out of Hollywood is aimed at adults only, Disney was a refuge parents could turn to when they wanted to take their children to the movies. Too much focus might be on how the animators feel about it, though it is significant; the Disney cartoons we grew up on were the reason a lot of us became animators. A lot of people we know lost their jobs recently when the studios closed down, talent is going to waste, and young students who dreamed of working for Disney in the tradition of the Nine Old Men may never get that chance. But to really get an idea about how deeply ingrained Disney is, let me describe a phenomenon: Disney runs a college program that recruits students so they can go down to the parks and work over the summer. Students come from all over the country to not only make minimum wage, but to trade in a hefty portion of that income to pay for housing they share with five other people. I know, I did it.
My roommates were not artists in any sense, they were self-proclaimed Disneyphiles. They moved in with Donald Duck blankets, Mickey Mouse T-shirts and a sincere love of the films. The Disney company knows that the students will spend most of their money on their merchandise, their alcohol, and their restaurants, so its a win-win-win for them. On our first day we were taken to the underground work areas of Disney World, and one of my roommates actually cried because she didn’t want to see Donald Duck without his head on. No kidding, there were tears. Most of us aren’t that crazy, but we do take it personally when we see the legacy besmirched. In particular, I take the state of the parks very seriously. To put all of this another way, watching the “House of Mouse” is like watching someone slap the Easter Bunny with a brick. Repeatedly. Canadians out there, is there anything like that for you?