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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Archetypal Nature and Cartographic Correspondences

As Disney’s entertainments are geared for a mass audience, they have to work with universal concepts.  At Disneyland, Finch (1983) notes 40,000 or more people may experience a ride each day, so Disneyland does not have the luxury of catering to particular tastes of a special group, they must appeal to everyone:

One could take every feature of the parks and explain its appeal in terms of some instinctive or emotional response common to almost all of us.  The emphasis on the “common factor” does not encourage the designers to indulge in intellectual subtleties, but it does make for a fascinating series of archetypal experiences . . . the Disney parks . . . are designed to satisfy the existing imaginative appetites of tens of millions of men, women, and children.  (p. 422). 

In the films, Disney often turned to classic children’s literature, myths and fairytales, which, themselves drew upon archetypal material.  At Disneyland, some of the films provided the basis for different rides, so they incorporated archetypal themes from the Disney films. Let us see how these archetypal themes play out against Grof’s cartography through the four outer planetary archetypes, and see how they correspond to the different lands of Disneyland

I propose that Main Street would be associated with the planetary archetype Saturn, with Main Street's structuring, traditional, historical past focus, as well as its function of separating the guest from the outside world, and preparing them for the rest of the journey which is similar to the separation phase of a pilgrimage or rite of passage, as we will see shortly on our tour.  Fantasyland would be associated with the planetary archetype Neptune, focusing on fantasy and illusion and the confusion between illusion and reality, where Disney’s imaginal film images become realized in three dimensions.  Tomorrowland, with its future orientation, celebration of technology and progress, and utopian feel would be associated with the planetary archetype Uranus.  According to Marling (1997) “the whole western half of the park—is given over to the excitement endemic to liminal places where nature and civilization are competing for hegemony, while the outcome is still in doubt” (p. 103).  Bukatman (1991) feels the same way, so Adventureland and Frontierland, and especially New Orleans Square would be associated with the planetary archetype Pluto.  Adventureland and New Orleans Square draw on exotic yearnings, the desire to confront the unknown and the rebellious spirit of carnival.

Let us play just a bit more with this idea and bring a few other cartographies into the mix.  If we look at Marin’s (1984) historico/geographic distinction about Frontierland and Adventureland, we can playfully situate Grof’s cartographic correspondences to the outer planetary archetypes onto Disneyland’s original four “lands,” in the following way: Fantasyland and Tomorrowland would retain their association with the planetary archetypes of Neptune and Uranus, respectively, while Frontierland, based on America’s historical/temporal past, could be associated with the planetary archetype of Saturn—the ruler of time. The exoticized, primitive, savage portrayal of the geographic past of Adventureland could be archetypally associated with the planetary archetype Pluto.  The Disneyland television series in the 1950s was arranged into these four themed lands as well—Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland.  [An excursion is available on Main Street USA –"The Child of the Times" which talks about Disneyland the park as a sibling of Disneyland the television show.]


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