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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Care and Cleanliness

Disney’s creativity has a lot to do with the letter c, so let us  “C” how Disneyland does it.  Our first “C” is care, and in Disneyland, Disney created what cultural geographers call a “field of care”—“a place loaded with associations of familiarity and affection for the people who live there” (King 1981a, p. 129) or, in our case, visit there.  Walt wanted to create a place that would accommodate large numbers of people in a courteous, efficient, and humane way, so that they would feel like welcome guests instead of customers.  This was a revolutionary idea, because many of the older, more unpleasant amusement parks viewed people, not simply as customers but as “marks.”  Disney wanted people to be able to relax and enjoy themselves and the world that he had created.  He wanted them to be able to participate in it together, parents with their children.  Disney’s whole approach was, according to Kaufman “to transmit pleasure and well-being to the public” (Finch, 1983, p. 432).  Disney’s entertainment philosophy was very straightforward and consistent.  Disney himself noted that there was

really no secret about our approach.  We’re interested in doing things that are fun—in bringing pleasure and especially laughter to people.  And we have never lost our faith in family entertainment—stories that make people laugh, stories about warm and human things, stories about historic characters and events and stories about animals. (K. M. Jackson, 1993, pp. 84-85)

Hench relates that “Walt Disney knew how to make people ‘feel better about themselves’ because he could make them ‘believe about themselves the way he felt about them’” (Findlay, 1993, p. 79).  One way of doing this was to keep the place clean, our second “C.”

Disney really disliked the messy and untidy atmosphere of other amusement parks and felt that by keeping Disneyland clean and beautiful it would inspire people to be their best.  Here is some advice Disney gave his designers: “Give the people everything you can give them.  Keep the place as clean as you can keep it.  Keep it friendly . . . make it a real fun place to be”  (K. M. Jackson, 1993, p. 102); “just make them [the vehicles and attractions] beautiful and you’ll appeal to the best side of people.  They all have it; all you have to do is bring it out” (Thomas, 1976, p. 254). The depths of Disney’s feeling about his park and what he hoped to create is expressed by his remarks to Billy Graham, after being told by the Reverend that Disneyland was “a nice fantasy.” Disney feeling wounded, replied:

You know the fantasy isn’t here.  This is very real . . . the park is reality.  The people are natural here; they’re having a good time; they’re communicating.  This is what people really are.  The fantasy is—out there, outside the gates of Disneyland, where people have hatreds and people have prejudices.  It’s not really real. (Findlay, 1993, p 70)

Disneyland is famous for its cleanliness and physical attractiveness, and for the warm feelings that Disneyland produces, both its nostalgic appeal, as well as its caring considerate atmosphere as expressed above.  According to Hench: “Disneyland is symbolic that all is right with the world.  The guest walks through an atmosphere of order and cleanliness and comes away feeling that things must be all right after all” (Findlay, 1993, p. 78):

You are emboldened and soothed by the clean streets, smiling faces, happy colors and the implicit promise that here, at least, everything will be okay.  It will be fun, you won’t get lost . . . indecision and anxiety make for tiredness. Figuring things out.  Not knowing where to go and what to look at.  Main Street makes no such demands on the pedestrian.  Look at anything. Wander anywhere.  Its better than any real street in any turn-of-the-century town ever had been, a vast stage, a film set with the tourist as the actor, comforted on all sides by familiar things that have somehow grown sweeter, gentler, more appealing than they ever were in… her own hometown.  (Marling, 1997, p. 83)

Keep in mind that we are talking about the experience of the guests at Disneyland.  Behind the scenes is a very different story, which centers on control and conformity to corporate policies.  Bryman (1995, 2004) especially, covers this aspect in a very thorough way. Although “keeping it clean” usually meant the physical cleanliness of the park, it also alludes to the next “C,” complementariness—perhaps one of the most important “C’s” because the idea of complementariness encompasses so many things.


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