The Battle Hymn of the Republic(ans) is “Welcome to Duloc”

Allow me to explain…

My tenure at Walt Disney World started in August of 2010.  I was 23 years old at the time.  My brother and I threw all my stuff into my car and we took to the road.  It was a four-day drive from Tucson, Arizona as, thankfully, the I-10 runs from Phoenix through Tucson, all the way to Jacksonville, Florida.  It was my second time there joining WDW for the College Program after my stint in ’06-’07 as a custodian at Animal Kingdom and later, a character attendant.  This time was different, though.  This time I had the explicit desire to start a lifetime career at the Walt Disney Company.  I loved art, writing, and voice acting.  I loved the company’s history and I wanted to become part of it. I even had fantasies of being the next Maynard Smith (longtime profilic and recently retired Disneyland operations cast member), Mark Sumner (Prolific creator of Soarin’), Joe Rhode (Prolific creator of Animal Kingdom, Expedition: Everest, and Pandora), or even Tony Baxter (Former popcorn vendor and later head of Walt Disney Imagineering credited for creating Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Journey into Imagination).  I wanted to make a difference, and if the American Dream says I had to start from ground zero, then, by golly, that’s where I was gonna start.

Before, when I thin, naive, and loyal to Mickey.

Over a seven year period, I threw myself into operations for Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Hall of Presidents, Soarin’ (Almost), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Mad Tea Party, Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel, Mickey’s Philharmagic, The Magic of Disney Animation, One Man’s Dream, The Legend of Jack Sparrow, The Great Movie Ride, and then at the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and finally merchandise at Chester and Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures.  By January of 2018, the situation I grew into had many facets that had become untenable, so I retreated back to my family in Arizona.  How did Disney thank me for all I’d done?

I was frequently told in a variety of ways creativity was not tolerated well.  I was told numerous times not to do voices or sing songs because I wasn’t in entertainment (Though not for lack of trying) Jokes not in the Jungle Cruise script were verboten.  I was allowed to do Presidential and Disney themed trivia to guests waiting for Hall of Presidents, but when I did animation trivia for those waiting for Animation Academy, an anonymous entertainment cast member filed a complaint, complaining I was stealing away attention from them.  This got me in a meeting with my manager, but afterward, he contacted the entertainment manager, who sided with me as long as my trivia was factually true.

I got free movie tickets that let me see any movie for free as long as it wasn’t a Disney, Pixar, Marvel, or Lucasfilm movie. 

I won an art contest where my art was put on a banner, given the “copyright Disney” stamp in the corner, and it was on display in the Jungle Cruise breakroom…but was taken down less than a month later because some coworker (Never found out who) defaced it with a sharpie to explicitly mock me personally.  They refused to make another and told me they threw it out.  It resurfaced 9 years later, found tucked in a corner as they were renovating the office.  Someone was kind enough to send it out to me.  Though it still shows remnants of its graffiti, I’m happy I have it back.

I suggested a mirror be placed in a specific corner backstage for safety reasons, and was instead suggested I make a safety poster about making corners safely.  They made several copies of it as a paper poster and hung it in several places, but I always felt patronized about, never mind made into a poster that could be ripped down by someone having a bad day.

I put in a full-fledged effort to devise a renovation for the ailing Magic of Disney Animation pavilion, complete with a new, updated film, easier traffic flow, and collected ideas and opinions from coworkers.  This got me an audience with the manager of Disney’s Hollywood Studios Attractions, complete with a tour of the facility.  Less than a year later, the pavilion was closed and remade into the Star Wars Launch Bay.  Obviously, given how long attractions take to develop, this was well out of his hands by then, but if I’d gotten a simple dismissal, I wouldn’t feel so condescended to.  Besides…aren’t companies supposed to reward ambition?

I pitched another idea to update Mickey’s Philharmagic with randomized segments of Disney songs (I elaborate on it here at number 10.)  I was answered this time with legal paperwork, which meant if they ever acted on it, I couldn’t claim ownership of the idea.  Yes, they added a Coco scene to all the versions years later, but it’s still not randomized and Coco was not one of the ones I suggested.  So no, Disney Legal, I’m not claiming anything here, I’m labeling it a coincidence, that’s all.  But hey…at least that kind of paperwork was an implicit admission from someone higher up that an idea of mine had merit.  Still no Imagineering R&D job offers, though.

Unlike my e-mail suggesting turning Dinoland U.S.A. into South America.  That one got straight-up radio silence.

Oh, and I got fired.  Twice. First time, I admit I violated a safety policy, but Disney was supposed to reprimand and transfer me, not terminate me.  Thankfully, the union had my back.  The second time I requested a 30-day absence, and toward the end of it, when I realized I wasn’t going to go back, I e-mailed my boss and told him so, formally stating my resignation.  Less than a week later, after that 30-day deadline passed, I got an e-mail from TWDC proper informing me since I hadn’t returned in time and gave no notice, I was effectively terminated…again.  And they still wanted me to pay them for my costume, which I returned.

Oh sure, I recieved 73 Guest Service Fanatic cards and a smattering of guest letters and recognition accolades, but none of them amounted to a promotion, a pay increase, a pension, or even any sort of job security.

The reason I’m metaphorically cutting myself open and bleeding out my sob story like this is because I need you to know where I’m coming from.  I still love Disney, but it’s like an abusive relationship.  There’s A LOT I disagree with them on, and I clearly got soured by them on a personal level…but I still have my Disney+ subscription.  I admit I might go to the parks in the future, and sometimes…I kinda wanna go back.  I still reminisce once in a while fondly and feel it made me who I am today, for better or for worse.  It’s a safe bet that aside from the friends I made along the way, no one at Walt Disney World misses me.  Most of my coworkers have either quit or rage quit, jaded and cynical after realizing The Most Magical Place on Earth wasn’t the utopia we were sold at Traditions.  I’m smart enough to know with so many people working for Mickey, attributing a single set of characteristics is fundamentally silly, so I can still watch Encanto and sing along while still condemning Bob Chapek for Disney Genie.  I shouldn’t boycott the parks because I don’t want other cast members to lose their jobs.  And I’m waiting to see how this current Disney debacle plays out as conservatives sneer at their recent actions.

Back to this crap again…

So…about those conservatives…

Why are they?

If they saw another country do this, wouldn’t they find it kinda creepy and weird?

Well, first of all, it must be noted that conservatives are no more a hive mind than any other group out there.  Like it is on the opposite end of the political spectrum, it’s the loudest, most cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs voices that get the most attention.  I’m sure there’s a ton of  conservative-minded and conservative-voting civilians who just want to be left alone and live in peace.  And I’m fine with that, truly.  I feel – and I think I speak on behalf of most everyone – that we all just want to live our lives the way we want with as little imposition from others as possible.  The problem, though, is no one can seem to agree where that line is.

The idea that American politics are binary is fallacious, of course.  Anyone can believe in anything.  But American politics has evolved into only two parties that reinforce and nurture the primal “Us vs. Them” mentality.  Since the nineteen eighties, Republicans, headed by president Ronald Reagan, sowed many of the basic ideologies that form the Republican party today, while their opponents, the Democrats, slip further and further right each election cycle.  Reagan and his circle prioritized free markets, smaller government interference, and less taxes.  The idea that government regulations and excess taxes should be curtailed was highly attractive to corporations, and thus companies began incentivizing lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, with millions upon millions of donations.  This is why Democrats, for all their grandstanding about how companies shouldn’t take advantage of the public, mumble half-heartedly and just go along with their Republican colleagues anyway.

The guy who thought if rich people had more money, the poor would get more money. No, really.

Now of course, the titles of “liberal” and “conservative” had been applied at face value, with the former implying being open to change, whereas the latter meaning little to none, if not outright reverting to some idealized past.  So of course there had always been liberal Republicans as well as conservative Democrats.  But to the Republican party, it wasn’t enough to let corporate America do whatever it felt like.  They had to garner support from the lower classes, so that meant breaking class solidarity by endorsing blue collar work, vilifying others who threaten employment, promote conventional wisdom over intellectualism, and of course, lower taxes.  It meant invoking nostalgia, back when minorities were few and far between, and Christianity was the dominant way of life.  It meant having government back off your rights so you can own guns, let small businesses thrive, minimizing welfare systems to kick out the “welfare queens”, and let capitalism grow unimpeded, defeating the communists and making the economy thrive.

The problem is, with Democrats barely resisting and the conservative voter base cheering their team on, it left no one but leftist and some Democratic voters to protest.  Thus, here we are.

“I will oppose Big Pharma by…wait, they’ll pay me HOW much?…uh-huh…so as I said, the drug companies are our FRIENDS…”

Of course, then Donald Trump ran for president in 2016.  By breaking every conventional rule in politics, the news outlets showered him in attention and legitimatized thousands of voters forced to repress years’ worth of socially unacceptable thoughts.  As moderate and liberal Republicans got neglected in the news cycles, several Republicans and conservatives either switched to Trump’s side after condemning him publicly or pushed even further right, all simping for a taste of that sweet, sweet political power.  Now, it’s not enough to want lower taxes, curb government regulations, and love your country.  To have a chance of even having your voice heard if you want to run for office, you must: Love guns!  Love the Bible!  Love the free market!  Love the Confederacy!  Love the military!  Hate abortions!  Hate the commies!  Hate the immigrants!  Hate the non-heterosexuals!  Hate evolving social norms! And anyone who says otherwise is a commie-loving, pedophilic, satan-worshipping, child-grooming, racist, baby blooding-drinking, America-hating, woke, elitist, SJW libtard!

However…these thoughts rarely have a tenable connection once you take a breath and think about them.  If Mexicans are taking our jobs, why go after the guy just trying to get by and not the multi-million corporation who willingly hired them?  If you want lower taxes, why vote for the party who relieves the corporations of them and charges the common man more?  Why militarize and defund poor neighborhoods rather than fix their economic woes so they don’t have to sell drugs to make a living?  Why fiercely protect fetuses but not the mother or child’s well-being after birth?  Why privatize healthcare, the post office, and schooling, but expect everyone to still have access to them? If you love free speech as much as you say you do, why waste so much time banning books and boycotting opposing points of view?  And my personal favorite…why let the free market companies do whatever they want in every capacity, but want them dead and buried the moment they reflect a political ideology you don’t like?

Why are they so mad?

Hope you check your blood pressure regularly, dude.

If I may be so bold, as I think I understand it, conservativism is based around preferring older ideals amid an evolving world and the benefits going to the “right” people.  This is why when new ideas to improve things come along, resistance comes in the form of citing the Bible, the Constitution, or “Because that’s how it’s always been done”.  If these don’t work, then it becomes a question of whether the people deserve it and if only they benefit from this.  And who “deserves” it?  Per human nature, really just themselves, their family and friends, and those they identify with.  Socialized medicine might benefit me, they’ll say, but it’ll also benefit a crack addict and we can’t have that.  I don’t like taxes, but my ship will come in soon if I just work a little harder, they’ll think, and then I won’t have to pay ANY taxes! 

So yes, a company like Disney should do whatever they please, they’ll rationalize.  They too have watched Disney movies and gone to Disney parks since they were kids, and sigh contentedly watching the same stories told over and over: the masculine prince rescuing and romancing the feminine princess.  The Euro-centric or vintage American backdrops.  The omission of people of color or otherwise turning their way of life into a punchline, because they are not like us.  References to God and heaven as though it were a given truth. Alcohol and firearms a part of every day life because they already were.  Sex, sexuality, and even birth invisible to avoid promoting adultery.  The conservative mind will never question these as this is how things have always been.  That’s why the inclusion of elements outside these parameters are such a shock to the system and dubbed “political”.  They’re social issues you really only notice as adults.  And because the church said women must serve their husbands, being gay is wrong, and America is perfect, it is therefore wrong to suggest otherwise.  And because human nature suffers from confirmation bias, all new information gets rejected to preserve previously-held ideals.  Therefore, my way of thinking cannot be wrong.  Disney is wrong for demonstrating this and it is intrusive to my desire to not have to think about it.  And because I believe in the free market principle to “vote with my dollar”, Disney will HAVE to do what I say if I don’t buy anything from them.

Wait. Stop. Don’t. Come back.

I’m sure if a conservative were to read that last paragraph, they would violently reject this contextualization and claim they feel the way they do because what Disney is doing is wrong, plain and simple, but that’s my point.  They believe morality is objective, not subjective.  Some even believe that morality is completely binary with no gray areas.  Right and wrong determined by an authority, typically God, as well as the court of law…unless the law runs contrary to what they believe God decreed, then the law is wrong.  Humanity, they think, cannot adequately judge righteousness for themselves.  Thus, progress and ideologies shifting to accommodate everyone is foolhardy.

Let’s mix these two thoughts together, shall we?

“Disney…politics…you are either very brave or very stupid.”

For most of my life, I barely thought about politics.  I remember being a teenager and declaring that I thought “liberal” and “conservative” were just arbitrary labels to give people an excuse to not talk to each other (To be fair…I wasn’t 100% wrong!)  But I did have some conservative mindsets.  And the longer I worked at Disney, the more I skewed left.  I got to meet people from all walks of life.  I learned new cultures and new ways of thinking.  I watched as the profit motive and human welfare constantly locked horns. And when I dated a girl who was a Catholic conservative who voted for Trump, I saw how years of religious dogma and right-wing punditry gave her numerous talking points, but she was unable to answer me when I’d ask why.  She was told what to think, but rarely how.  (I hope he’s doing okay now, and no, that’s not a typo)

This is why I laugh – uproariously – when I hear Ron DeSantis and Majorie Taylor Greene and Charlie Kirk and Kristan Hawkins and Jonathon Vanboskerck and the rest of them claim Disney’s gone “woke”. They gripe that Disney’s only catering to the LGBT+ community for the money, to which I say, as nicely as I can, THEY ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, YOU SELF-RIGHTEOUS, SELF-IMPORTANT, HOLIER-THAN-THOU, PRETENTIOUS, SANCTIMONIOUS HUSKS OF BASIC HUMAN EMPATHY.  Disney wants minimal taxing and complete legal freedom, which are values Republicans and conservatives have advocated for decades.  There is no greater mystery here!  The only reason things turned was because LGBT+ acceptance is becoming mainstream and Disney realized there’s money to be made tapping that market.  And if you’re mad about that, then reassess your fetishization of capitalism and decide if companies can either do what they want, no matter what, or that all companies must adhere to some arbitrary Judeo-Christian code of conduct that aligns with YOUR beliefs, but YA CAN’T HAVE BOTH!!

“Yeah, I can. I just lie about it.”

But that’s just the ones who conflate wealth with righteousness.  They’re bad enough.  But it’s the new wave of morons, empowered by the absolute horse hockey that is QAnon, who believe Trump is still secretly in charge, but the deep state is still secretly running things, where JFK jr. will be back any second now, and everyone who disagreed with you ever is a baby eating, child sex trafficking, satan worshipper.  As far as they’re concerned, it was never about money.  As if the board of directors at Disney sits around, plotting how to get the next generation to forsake God and start satanic sex cults in the woods.  Shame is…Disney knows their money is just as valuable as everyone else’s.  So they balk and hem and haw because the only option they can’t accept is the one where they make less money.  Even though both Hawkins and Vanboskerck have claimed to end their loyalty to Disney already…and then there’s Majorie Taylor “Jewish Space Laser/Call the cops on Jimmy Fallon” Greene, who owns up to $45k in Disney stock.  The same woman who said this, and I quote:

“The immoral, disgusting, evil left is attacking our children.  They are child predators. I’m not kidding you. Look at what is happening at Disney right now. Disney wants to completely take your children and they want to indoctrinate them into sexual, immoral filth.”

Clearly a stable and reasonable individual.

And this on Alex Jones’ Infowars show…

“It’s hard to believe that Disney, Walt Disney, the Walt Disney Company, would be the very place that this is happening.  This is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth, a place where innocence is celebrated. But it seems to be the place where innocence is actually under attack…Walt Disney — they need to pay a serious price for this.”

I genuinely wonder if this woman truly believes this incoherent malarkey or if she’s being a dishonest actor for her constituents.  Either way, her followers believe it, and she’ll benefit from her stock ownership, even if a follower enacts stochastic terrorism and brings a shotgun on their next trip to Lake Buena Vista.  All because Disney is weakly trying to find its stance on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill issue.

Retaliation. Petty, petty retaliation.

At least he makes vengeance over trivial matters funny.

The purpose of a government is to provide security and protection to its citizens, and like when your mother forced you to do your homework and eat your broccoli, sometimes you gotta do something you don’t like for the later benefit and healthy growth.  Companies may not care for government oversight, and less regulations sound great…but someone has to intervene when companies fill products with cancer-causing agents or engage in dishonest marketing.  And companies like Disney have fought tooth and nail to get the government off their back, and the so-called “party of small government” was a great place to cozy up.  Too bad the GOP is so damn fickle.

If you know your Disney history, you are very likely aware how Walt’s disappointment over being boxed in at Disneyland became so severe, he pledged his next project would ensure cheap motels and gas stations wouldn’t crowd the areas around E.P.CO.T. or Disneyland II.  So his guys flew to Florida under assumed names and fake companies to buy 47 square miles of swamps for pennies on the dollar before word got out it was Walt buying it all.  Great story, but it was only part one.

Because Walt had some grandiose plans for the property, up to and including building an advanced sci-fi utopia the likes Elon Musk would swoon over, the lawyers at the company petitioned the Florida court to designate the property as its own municipality.  As such, not only would they not have to pay a multitude of taxes, but short of a few state and federal regulations, they can do pretty much whatever they want.  They can maintain their own infrastructure, waste, power, water services, and even issue bonds.  This is why you might have seen, if you’ve been there, Disney has their own fire stations.  After all, you don’t have to pay taxes for county emergency response teams if you own your own!  The Reedy Creek Improvement District was approved in 1967 and they’ve been reaping the rewards since. And nary a politician objected for 55 years.

The more you know…

On April 2nd, word leaked to the press that Ron DeSantis and several of his colleagues were actively discussing repealing the law in retaliation over Disney’s denouncement on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  While DeSantis himself was cagey on calling it “retaliation” and denied it…do you really buy that?  Yeah, me neither.  And while I’m happy in principle that Disney is being properly taxed, what this will mean for the average park guest is development for anything on property will s l o w  t o  a  c  r  a   w   l.  If this comes to fruition, the already-fiscally conservative company will shirk its own budgets, be forced to attend grueling local government council meetings to propose building anything from rides to roads, and face the daunting prospect of hearing “no” more often, and thus, less of anything gets built.  Goodbye, fifth gate, hello bureaucracy tying up World Drive construction projects.  And just so we’re transparently clear…I’m still not in favor of privatization of government-funded programs, I’m just saying this situation has its pros and cons and the fact it’s initiated by something so spiteful as this makes this whole thing unbearably stupid.

But that’s not all.  As if spite and clapbacks weren’t exclusively the domain of gossiping catty women, Republican lawmakers just might kneecap Disney in another way: they might deprive Disney a copyright extension on Mickey Mouse.  Since the seventies, Disney has lobbied Congress to extend copyright law to prevent Mickey from falling into the public domain.  This happened in 1976 and 1997, and now, copyright lasts for 95 years after creation.  As it currently stands, Steamboat Willie version of Mickey will belong to all of us by January first of 2024.  In other words, with less than two years left to go, Chapek had better figure out a plan to woo those Republicans, because Representatives Jim Banks (R-IN), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) have all announced their willingness to reject Disney’s bid for the copyright extension…solely because of their stance against HB 1557.  If that’s not the textbook definition of petty or spiteful, I don’t know what is.

Talk about a mixed blessing.

Now, again, I need to be clear here.  I am not at all opposed to Disney’s petition getting denied.  Properties in the public domain are healthy for creative stimulation and them hoarding onto Mickey like Smaug hoarding his treasure helps no one but them.  But the representatives are not doing this for the American public, they’re doing this because they can and they want to.  How is that not such a repugnant and irresponsible way of managing legislation?  What the hell happened to “vote with your dollar” in that free market you love so much?

I hope my story in the opening of this article helps you, dear reader, see where I stand on all this.  Disney showed me no loyalty in return for the seven years I spent trying to be an asset for them.  Ideally, I have no real reason to stand by them except that I love their products (most of them), and that they’re at least trying to do the right thing, even if it’s only financially motivated.  And because the reactionary right-wingers are reacting so idiotically, so spitefully, so toxically, that I can’t believe this is what qualifies as “political discourse” these days.  It sickens me.

So…What’s with the title?

(L-R) Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and David Geffen, founders of DreamWorks SKG.

Jeffrey Katzenberg joined Disney as chairman of Walt Disney Studios in 1984.  His impatience and lack of understanding of the animation process made him very unpopular with the animators, but his instincts helped steer the studio out of the dark age and into the beloved Animation Renaissance of the nineties.  But Katzenberg was despised by Roy E. Disney and neglected by Michael Eisner, which led to him quitting the company in 1994.  Almost immediately, Katzenberg spearheaded opening a brand-new studio, DreamWorks SKG.  After a few ambitious projects like Antz, The Road to El Dorado, Chicken Run, and Prince of Egypt, the studio’s first true hit came in 2001 with Shrek.

When Shrek and Donkey first arrive in Lord Farquaad’s realm of Duloc, Donkey plays a miniature tableau of little wooden figurines of children singing “Welcome to Duloc”.  Despite the cheerful tune, the lyrics spell out the dark, fascistic underbelly Farquaad holds over his subjects and visitors:

Now it’s going to be stuck in your head.

“Welcome to Duloc/Such a perfect town!/Here we have some rules/Let us lay them down!/Don’t make waves, stay on line/And we’ll get along fine!/Duloc is the perfect place!”

Katzenberg was so consumed with spite, he literally made an anti-Disney movie.  With the diminutive Farquaad as a stand-in for the 6′ 3″ Eisner, Duloc as a stand-in for Disneyland, and of course the tableau parodying It’s a Small World.  The commentary is as biting and thought-provoking as a nine-year-old with the username Deathkiller69 flipping you the bird.  Even if you thought that scene was funny, once you know why it’s there, it reveals itself for what it truly is: pettiness.  Ugly, ugly pettiness.  Yes, Disney deserves to be knocked down a peg, but Katzenberg was no saint, most notably for cheating Robin Williams during Aladdin and asking Eisner for Frank Wells’ job days after the man died in a helicopter crash.  Children have trouble comprehending that if someone disagrees with them, it’s not because they’re evil, just different.  And it enrages me that we have clowns like DeSantis, Greene, Boebert, Gaetz, and Banks, with their heads so far up their own asses, that they see disagreement as an excuse to be this childish, and using the American legislative system as their own personal wish list to punish their enemies.

Katzenberg did make some great movies, even the Shrek franchise.  But it had to grow up at some point and be more than the Anti-Disney movie.  The conservative lawmakers might as well sing “Welcome to Duloc” as they make their cases.  They seem to think their constituents are idiots already.

“🎵 WELCOME TO DULOC, SUCH A PERFECT TOWN…” “Ladies, this is a Wendy’s…”

Author: TAP-G

Writer, former podcaster, entertainment enthusiast. Movies and media have the power to shape our world and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

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