Introduction: Feeling Disney, Buying Disney, Being Disney
As has been noted by many educators who report “special difficulties in getting students to develop critical approaches in the face of the distinctive Disney mystique” (Budd, 2005, p. 3), Disney is in some ways “beyond criti cism.” Wasko, Phillips, and Meehan (2001), who surveyed 1,250 respondents in 18 countries for their “Global Disney Audiences Project,” found that the vast majority have very favorable attitudes towards Disney and consider critiquing Disney to be taboo. One of the reasons Disney is so difficult to critique is the way the company capitalizes on the nostalgia that its fans feel, cultivating an image of family-friendly fun and projecting the idea that our individual and collective engagements with Disney and its products are nothing more than wholesome entertainment. Disney thus purposely facilitates a “close association with and appropriation of childhood innocence as a personal and cultural memory for several generations of parents and children in many countries” (Budd, 2005, p. 2). The power of this personal and cultural memory is exemplified by Julie’s early experiences of Walt Disney World, which she visited over two dozen times between the ages of 3 and 33. Having grown up in South Georgia, Julie spent most of her family vacations in Orlando, including one Thanksgiving when her entire extended family (parents, both sets of grandparents, and her aunt and uncle) spent the holiday there. When Julie became a young mother, she continued the tradition, embarking on a winter tour with her 18-month old daughter and a full entourage of family members. Thus, for Julie, Disney is strongly associated with her own memories of familial intimacy and childhood innocence.