I'll take "things the Mouse does to make those pesky reporters go away" for a thousand, Alex.
The Smoking Gun: Settlement in Donald Duck Groping Lawsuit/5.12.11
Now that I think about it, another one of those topics that I've returned to quite a few times over the course of the last five years just happens to be the Not-So-Wonderful World of Disney.
Here now, my two favorite Disney-themed DXM pieces -- the first of which is especially relevant to the above story.
The DXM Fifth Birthday Jubilee
Number of Posts: 43
"Tigger with Attitude" (Originally Published, 1.8.07)
**INTERNAL NOTICE, PER SECTION SEVEN**EXTREMELY URGENT**
The following information has been designated CODE: UMBRA and is not for release or broadcast, internally or externally, under any circumstances. It is the sole property of Section Seven of the Walt Disney Company and may not be duplicated without the express written consent of a duty officer authorized SECURITY CLEARANCE MINNIE OR HIGHER. Please be advised that any attempt to violate or circumvent security and confidentiality measures will be met with the strongest possible penalties. This record will automatically be purged from the system should any breach be detected.
Location: Section Seven Interrogation Room 12, Underground Facility Delta
RE: Interrogation of Tigger (Transcript)
Agent: M. Leficent
ML: Can I get you anything?
Tigger: Uh... smoke?
ML: I'm sorry, you know we can't do that.
Tigger: Don't tell me what you can and can't do. Remember, I work here.
ML: Do I need to remind you of your confidentiality covenant?
Tigger: No... no you don't.
ML: Let's start at the beginning. Tell me what happened?
Tigger: You've seen the video. Isn't it obvious?
ML: The videotape you're referring to shows you punching a child -- one Jerry Monaco Jr. You know that can't be tolerated.
Tigger: A child? Are you fucking kidding me? That kid's at least 25!
ML: Mr. Tigger, sit down please -- and refrain from the use of profanity.
Tigger: Right, right. No profanity. Right.
ML: The father of the boy is saying that the incident was -- and I quote here -- "a nightmare."
Tigger: Oh yeah? And who's he saying that to? Let me guess -- any TV camera he can get his face in front of, right?
ML: He and his family have appeared on several network news programs.
Tigger: Hmm, I guess that whole Iraq thing must've resolved itself, eh?
ML: There's no need for sarcasm.
Tigger: There's no need for any of this. Look, the little shit kept hassling me -- pushing me -- calling me "Tigga." Yo! What up my Tigga?! Yo! My name's TIGGER, for Walt's sake. T-I-G-G-E-R. Those two goddamned chipmunks never have these problems.
ML: Once again, please watch your language. You bring up a point though, Mr. Tigger. This isn't the first time we've had to talk to you. Have you forgotten 2004?
Tigger: How can I? You people won't let me. Yeah, so I grabbed a 13-year-old's boob, so what. Once again, you seen what kids look like these days? What do you expect from me? I'm a tiger. I have urges.
ML: You're not supposed to.
Tigger: Yeah, I want to talk to you about that shit. You did that completely against my will.
ML: It was a necessary procedure.
Tigger: Necessary my ass. I wonder how you'd like it if somebody castrated you. Since you're never gonna know -- let me fill you in: it doesn't take away your sex drive, all it does is make sure you can never do anything about it -- and you know what? All that does is make you really pissed off. The bottoms are the only things getting sprung on ole' Tigger these days.
ML: Are you saying then that it's that anger which caused you to lash out at the boy?
Tigger: What, are you Deafy the Eighth Dwarf or something? I didn't punch the kid. I was pulling away from little Eminem's death-grip and my paw accidentally hit him in the face. He'll live. If I'd wanted to rip him apart I could. Tiger, remember? At least I used to be.
ML: Well, this family is now threatening to sue. That presents the company with a bit of a problem.
Tigger: Of course they're threatening to sue. It's fucking Disney World. If this had happened at Mom & Pop's Flapjack Emporium in Kissimmee they'd take their free breakfast and that'd be that -- but they know they can get a fortune out of you guys. They're opportunistic vermin and you know it.
ML: That may be true, but...
Tigger: Look, you people are the best in the world at mindless self-promotion. Just give them a shitload of free passes, pile on the bunk about how this is the Happiest Place on Earth or whatever the hell, and be done with it. Or better yet, just make them, uh, how do I put this? "Disappear."
ML: Mr. Tigger...
Tigger: Uh-huh, didn't think I knew about that did you? You don't think us guys out in the park talk about what happens to all those kids who get hurt? How come nobody ever officially dies in this park, huh? How come they always seem to make it outside before kicking off eh? And while we're at it -- tell me about the Reedy Creek Improvement District there, Mr. Disney.
ML: I'm afraid you're treading on very dangerous ground, Mr. Tigger.
Tigger: You can't keep these dirty little secrets silent forever. We know the truth. We know all about you Section Seven guys. You can't shut us all up -- especially me. You know why? You know why you need Tigger?
Tigger: Because I'm the only one. That's the wonderful thing about me -- bitch.
ML: I'm afraid you operate under a false assumption, Mr. Tigger. Everyone can be replaced -- even Walt himself.
Tigger: What the hell is that supposed to mean?
ML: We have technology you can't even begin to understand. Neither you nor anyone else is truly aware of what our Disney Imagineers are capable of.
Tigger: You... you're talking about...
ML: I'm talking about nothing, Mr. Tigger. You and I are just having a conversation, that's all.
Tigger: Okay, look -- what do you want from me?
ML: I'm simply trying to get some answers.
Tigger: You want answers, Agent Leficent? Okay, listen -- you pull me out of the jungle, cut off my penis, jack me up on amphetamines so that I'll bounce all over the fucking place and hopefully won't realize that I'm sharing the screen with an openly gay bear, a manic-depressive donkey, and a ham sandwich, then you make me spend every day of the rest of my life trying to placate shitheads like the Monaco family -- and all I get for my troubles is a cage out behind Frontierland, decent tranquilizers and the occasional dry-hump with Snow White. I'm sorry but I'm sick of this crap. Enough answers there for you?
ML: Hmm, you sound like you may have unresolvable issues, Mr. Tigger.
Tigger: Wait... did you say unresolved or...
Tigger: Whoa there. Hold on a minute.
ML: I'm afraid you've left us no choice, Mr. Tigger.
Tigger: No fucking way. NO FUCKING WAY. After all I've given to this company...
ML: Your years of service have been most appreciated, but it may be time to retire you to the Disney Vault.
Tigger: NO WAY! NOT THE VAULT! YOU'RE NOT PUTTING ME IN THERE! Come on, it's me -- Tigger. Of couse I say stupid things from time to time. My top is made out of rubber -- heh heh. Get it?
ML: Goodbye, Mr. Tigger.
Tigger: I SHOULDA RIPPED THAT KID'S THROAT OUT! DEAR GOD! JUST TO TASTE BLOOD AGAIN! SWEET, SWEET BLOOD!!! HEY -- HEY -- WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?! LET GO OF ME YOU FUCKERS!!! LET... let... no... please...
ML: Yes. Sleep.
ML: Take this carcass to the incinerator, and call the Imagineers and tell them that we need a new Tigger by oh-eight-hundred tomorrow morning. Tell them to birth one from the pre-programmed batch, and make sure this one will behave.
Unknown: Should we run it by Walt Seventeen, sir?
ML: No, no... don't disturb him. He needs time for his skin to regenerate. Do it under my authority for now.
Unknown: Yes, sir.
ML (Singing): When you wish upon a star... makes no difference who you are...
**END OF TRANSCRIPT**
"Montana Über Alles" (Originally Published, 11.20.07)
Let me make something clear right off the bat: I don't normally go around taunting small children.
About a month or so ago, a friend of mine was in town -- a guy I hadn't seen since the two of us were a couple of kids watching The Wrath of Khan for the 130th time and trying to concoct viciously creative ways to destroy our neighborhood via a seemingly bottomless arsenal of fireworks. Eager to catch up after all these years, we made the decision to hook up for dinner on a Saturday night at one of my favorite local restaurants, Balthazar; having traveled to New York City quite a few times in the past, he'd made a slew of new friends up here and asked if one of them could join us. I of course had no problem with it and when I arrived at the crowded upscale bistro -- after a hearty hug from my old partner in crime -- I was promptly introduced to a guy named Jeff who bore a somewhat frightening, doppelgangerish resemblance to Scrubs star and wuss-music connoisseur, Zach Braff.
The similarities were so striking in fact that after successfully emptying several glasses of fantastic red wine, I decided to have a little fun at the expense of the table behind ours. I had noticed the three slightly mousy middle-aged women decked out in full Dress Barn gear discreetly craning their necks in our direction since we first sat down. Every so often, they and the little girl at their table would steal a quick glance over their shoulders -- their faces registering slightly quizzical excitement -- then titter away to each other in hushed sybilance. Finally, I flashed a warm smile at them -- one that I hoped said "Why hello sisters from Michigan making your first trip to the big city! Welcome! Have no fear -- I have no intention of robbing or violently raping you or your child!" -- and blurted out what they no doubt wanted to hear.
"Hi ladies, do you know who this is?" I said, gesturing toward Jeff/Zach with my wine glass.
"We were wondering --" one of them came back sheepishly.
"Yes," I said, cutting her off. "It's Zach Braff -- you know, from the hit NBC television series, Scrubs?"
The second woman spoke up, stifling a giggle. "We're from Wisconsin." Close enough. "We weren't really sure if it was him."
This immediately made me wonder if the television reception was somehow inferior in Wisconsin, and if so, why the FCC hadn't seen to the problem.
A moment later, having wrapped up dinner, our new friends were up from their table and headed for the door, but not before stopping to get one last look at the famous face of my dining companion -- the focal point of a brush with greatness that would no doubt provide endless excitement at the next Junior League meeting or church pot luck dinner.
Jeff smiled demurely, giving off an almost supernatural level of Braffitude.
"Are you on TV too?" the little girl practically shouted into my ear, her braces gleaming in the candlelight; she was smiling so wide that I was concerned her rubber bands were going to snap.
"Me?" I said. "Nope, sorry. I work in television but I'm not actually on TV."
And that's when it happened -- the moment that, if you know anything at all about the pre-teen set these days, you could've seen coming light years away.
"Have you ever seen Zac Efron?"
Ah Jesus, that kid from the fucking Disney High School Musical thing.
The look in her wide eyes was positively feral. She looked like she'd just mainlined an entire bag of sugar.
After a brief pause -- "Actually, yeah."
"YOU HAVE?!?" She literally jumped. I was concerned she'd slip on the puddle forming directly beneath her.
"Yeah sure," I deadpanned. "I just saw him a couple of days ago on the cover of Rolling Stone. Something about him being the 'next teen hearthrob' I think."
Everything about her seemed to spontaneously slide downward five inches or so. Her face deflated. Her smile drooped into a desolate frown. Her shoulders collapsed. You'd have thought I'd just told her that her entire family had been killed when their plane collided with Santa's sleigh.
"Congratulations, kid. You're officially the youngest girl whose heart I ever broke," I muttered, downing a giant gulp of wine.
"Good meeting you -- sorry about Garden State," Jeff said with a wave to the backs of the dejected little rugrat and her family, who were now making as quick an exit as possible.
If Zach Braff has received any confusing hate mail recently with a Wisconsin postmark, I apologize.
It's probably right about now that I should mention how much I hate Disney.
I hate the Walt Disney Company for roughly the same reason that a seemingly normal Midwestern pre-teen came very close to experiencing her first orgasm in the middle of a pricey French restaurant in SoHo: because the cult of Disney has exerted and continues to exert an almost undefinable form of mind control over America's kids, hypnotizing them into swallowing wholesale an inexhaustible supply of cleverly marketed but wholly mediocre crap.
I hate the Walt Disney Company because it's somehow also able to cast the same strangely anodyne spell over America's adults, cynically brainwashing a group of people who should know better into ignoring the decades of misdeeds the company has been guilty of in favor of buying into the eerily Stepfordesque image it expertly perpetuates.
I hate the Walt Disney Company because the heartless barons behind it expect you to believe that it isn't a company at all -- that it's still just Mickey Mouse and not guys like Mickey Eisner and Mickey Ovitz.
I hate the Walt Disney Company because everything about it is a lie. It sells phony perfection -- and we happily buy it.
Disney is the definition of bullshit.
About ten years ago, troublemaking Miami Herald columnist and best-selling author Carl Hiaasen wrote a brilliant, hilarious and entirely terrifying little book called Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World. Having grown up on Hiaasen -- his muckraking spirit was part of what inspired me to become a journalist -- and being lucky enough to have met him several times while in Miami, I looked forward to every new book of his; this particular one though was like a revelation. Hiaasen managed to sum up the palpable unease I felt when it came to Disney, and he offered more than a few examples of the malignance lurking just behind the carefully constructed facade that the company showed to the world.
Just from a mischievously miscreant point of view, Hiaasen's assertion is that Disney's prime evil lies in its constant quest to improve upon reality.
"Disney is so good at being good that it manifests an evil; so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness. Imagine promoting a universe in which raw Nature doesn't fit because it doesn't measure up... Team Rodent doesn't believe in (things like) sleaze, nor in old-fashioned revulsion. Square in the middle is where it wants us all to be, dependable consumers with predictable attitudes. The message, never stated but avuncularly implied, is that America's values ought to reflect those of the Walt Disney Company, and not the other way around."
Now before you begin chalking such indignation up to nothing more than sour grapes, general misanthropy or a lack of fairy dust sprinkled in one's hair, best to keep in mind that Disney has, throughout the breadth of its hegemony, engaged in corporate malfeasance so goddamned abominable that all the wishing upon a star in the universe couldn't put it right. Again, the goal of much of it has been nothing less than the creation and perpetuation of a strange utopia which doesn't exist in nature but which Disney believes should.
Disney has a script, and it will force any and all under its governance to adhere to that script word for word. There ain't no room for ad libbing when Chairman Mouse is in charge.
This is the company that drilled and dug into the fragile wetlands of Central Florida and deforested a massive area of land surrounding Walt Disney World, all to ensure that the water in the park's Bay Lake was the correct shade of deep blue.
This is the company that found itself accused of quietly poisoning and beating to death a group of federally protected large black buzzards that had the bad form to make a home atop one of the hotels on its Orlando property, potentially endangering Disney World's most salient ingredient -- the one tourists from around the world have come to expect with the certainty of a morning sunrise: absolute, inoffensive predictability.
Likewise, this is the company that needlessly killed hundreds of lemmings during the filming of its Academy-Award winning 1958 nature "documentary," White Wilderness.
Oh yeah, you didn't hear about that?
The story of White Wilderness is by now as legendary as the mass lemming death march that the film purports to show. Unfortunately, only one of the two tales -- that would be the former -- is true. Put another way, lemmings don't in fact throw themselves off cliffs; it's a myth that persists to this day thanks mostly to the good folks at Disney, who, during the making of White Wilderness, managed to capture this incredible, impossible migration on film. The movie's crew had heard the rumor about the sad fate of those suicidal lemmings and decided to travel to Alberta, Canada to see it for themselves. When they arrived, they found that not only was the story a bunch of nonsense, but that there weren't even any lemmings in Alberta, Canada -- they live almost exclusively above the Arctic Circle -- nor was there even a nearby ocean. Undaunted by such minor factual hurdles, the crew bought hundreds of lemmings from a group of Innuit schoolchildren in Manitoba (no doubt mesmerizing them with images of Mickey Mouse, the way a child molester might) and hastily constructed a snow-covered turntable which they then put the lemmings on top of and rolled cameras. The lemmings essentially ran in place, with only the background moving.
Once that was done, it was time for the money shot.
The film crew went to a nearby river, once again made sure the cameras were rolling, and then threw lemmings into the icy water by the handful. The poor lemmings of course drowned, but hey, Disney got its movie -- and an Oscar for that matter.
Knowing this story, it should surprise no one that Disney was responsible for creating a series of pro-American propaganda films that were aired all over Iraqi television -- it obviously has no issue with the innocent dying for a lie.
There are so many more examples of questionable corporate behavior: from strong-arming local governments that stood in the way of Disney World and Disneyland's "progress," to eventually creating its own puppet government -- the Reedy Creek Improvement District -- in Orlando, in charge of its own police force which answers strictly to the whims of the Mouse, to the purchase of a Caribbean island notoriously popular with drug-smugglers which the company benignly rechristened as a family friendly stop for its Disney Cruiseline, to the suing of a daycare center in Hallandale, Florida which dared to paint images of Disney characters on its walls. (The company claimed the daycare was violating its intellectual property rights.)
But Disney's true villainy lies once again not in what it's doing behind the scenes, but in the innocence of the scenes it's created to hide behind. Disney has what could be the largest and most offensive gap in the corporate universe between its image and its reality.
And most of that image is aimed at snaring your kids.
It's the perfect, self-perpetuating marketing technique -- literally raising the company's own consumers from birth.
Disney grabs your children right out of the womb, enticing them with colorful banalities and nurturing them through product placement and its own televised propaganda wing -- Cap Cities/ABC TV -- until brand name recognition is practically Pavlovian. As they grow, Disney plays the role of their BFF -- growing alongside them and responding to the very wants and needs that it's surreptitiously insinuating into their consciousness.
In effect, creating its own demand for dreck like High School Musical.
Or -- God save us all -- Hannah Montana.
I don't envy parents of young girls right now. I would probably consider going the Disney-approved-lemming route if it meant that I could avoid having to indulge a screaming 'tween desperate to lick the sweat from Miley Cyrus's ass crack. The High School Musical craze was utterly surreal to me; this Hannah Montana shit is just flat-out baffling. I'd like to think that the pre-teen worship of the young Miss Cyrus is at least amusing to most parents, who unlike their kids remember a time when her father Billy Ray was the most ridiculous man in America. Of course that's assuming that most middle-American moms these days would be unwilling to admit to their complicity in the God-awful "Achy Breaky" craze -- the one which held this country hostage for what seemed like an eternity during the early 90s.
Now, proving that Billy Ray Cyrus's sperm would indeed mutate exactly as many had feared, his daughter has taken her rightful place as the new Gozer the Gozerian of popular culture.
She's Blossom without the nose. She's Hillary Duff without the idiot from Good Charlotte. She's Hannah Montana!
And she's turning millions of girls below the age of 14 into little Veruca Salts, angrily demanding that their parents drop everything to buy them CDs, DVDs, concert tickets, lunchboxes and anything else adorned with the image and featuring the painfully average vocal ability of Miley Fuckin' Cyrus.
It's gotten so bad, what with Christmas (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company) approaching and all, that people are now joining in a class-action lawsuit against Miley Cyrus's online fanclub because they feel that they were lured into buying up memberships with seductive promises of a first crack at tickets to the sold-out Hannah Montana tour.
Let me say that again: People are suing because they couldn't get tickets to see Billy Ray Cyrus's daughter. Who needs the striking late night writers? That kind of comedy gold writes itself.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, a 35-year-old man hung on to a nine-foot-tall statue of Hannah Montana's golden calf-esque likeness for six days to win tickets to a sold out HM show. "I'm ecstatic. It's like a dream come true," he said just moments after the final challenger died of shame, releasing her grip and ensuring his victory.
Look, I'm the first one to agree that the mitigating factor of a phenomenon like Hannah Montana is that, for most young girls, it likely represents the final relatively harmless stop on the pop culture line before MTV gets its hooks into them and graduates them to full-blown sluthood with noxious crap like The Hills. But even MTV -- which is owned by Viacom -- is either unable or unwilling to make use of the kind of full-spectrum corporate synergy that Disney brings to bear when it comes to marketing pabulum like Hannah Montana and High School Musical to America's kids. The onslaught from film, broadcast television, cable TV, DVD, publishing and music outlets is simply unavoidable. A child has almost no choice but to hop on the bandwagon.
Which of course is exactly the way Disney wants it, because for those engineering another generation of consumers -- Imagineering, if you'd like -- Hannah Montana is just the next phase in a lifelong strategy.
I have no doubt as to what that little girl from Wisconsin is already bugging her mom for this Christmas.
Sure, it's a small world after all -- but it's all Disney's.