Walt Disney's Perspective on History
I recently made a trip to Disney World with some of my family and grandchildren. It was an enjoyable experience and though I have my criticisms of Disney and all it represents, I was left with an overall positive view of Disney's accomplishments and enterprise. I was especially appreciative (and somewhat surprised) of the theme park's adherence to a traditional and positive view of American history. I had wrongly assumed that Disney would have succumbed to the pressures of political correctness and toned down its patriotism. I was pleasantly proven wrong.
Walt Disney is remembered for many things. One of those things is his patriotism and interest in American history. Critics rightly note that Disney's "historical" films present a sentimental and immature version of American history. Certainly, that is true in many regards. But there's more to Disney's take on American history than what his critics present.
Born in 1958, I grew up in the 1960's watching many Disney films. I especially loved Disney's films on American history: The Swamp Fox, Johnny Tremain, Mosby's Marauders, The Great Locomotive Chase and Davy Crocket and the River Pirates come immediately to mind. The films fired my imagination and prompted me to explore the biographies of many American heroes in my school library. Though I loved the outdoors and sports, I was just as happy sitting in the school library during recess reading one of the Childhood of Famous Americans series. I believe I read every one our library had available.
While these films and children's books romanticized the events and characters upon which they were based, they served a purpose: they inspired a love of American history and heritage in the hearts of Americans, particularly young American boys like me who reveled in the adventure, courage and hero status of the characters presented. The Disney films offered a simplified narrative of good vs. evil and good always triumphed. And "the good" was America.
While cultural critics and "professional" historians will roll their eyes at such a view, they'll simultaneously ignore their own simplified and immature preferred narrative regarding American history. Those Disney films represent a counter-weight to the dark and evil narrative of American history that seems so prevalent in much of our culture today. That narrative, too, is immature and one-sided. Carry on. PS: An important announcement regarding this blog and other social media outreach is coming very soon; hopefully, later this week. Stay tuned and please encourage those who might enjoy our perspective to subscribe.