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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Many Maps, Many Meanings or Many Meanings of the Map

Bukatman (1991) associates Disneyland’s structure with the psychologists’ topology of the brain, which he said is echoed by situationalist cities. Bukatman says that Debord’s description of the situationalist city’s division into different quarters, where “each quarter will tend toward a specific harmony, divide off from neighboring harmonies; or else will play on a maximum breaking up of internal harmony,” foretold Disneyland’s division into different lands (p. 66). Debord’s (1955, online) description was actually published contemporaneously with Disneyland's opening in the mid-1950s (

Using the brain metaphor, Bukatman (1991) notes:

Souvenir maps of Disneyland suggest such a model, the different-colored lands echo the diagrams of the cerebral lobes, while Main Street mimics the stalk of the central nervous system leading into the central hub (the corpus callosum), that links these different regions.  (p. 65)

Bukatman goes on to observe that the right brain functions are captured in the whimsical nature of Fantasyland and the fantastic futures of Tomorrowland and are found on the right side of the park.  Bukatman adds “it’s surely interesting that the rough-and-ready macho pragmatism represented by Frontierland and Adventureland are located in the left brain” and the left side of the park (p. 65). 

Waldrep (1993) sees Disneyland as similar to the medieval maps, which Michel de Certeau describes as marking out “itineraries (performative indications…) along with the stops one was to make.”  Waldrep suggests that as one visits the various different lands “one enjoys a set of preordained emotions much as one might in a staged pilgrimage of religious ecstasy” (p. 145).  The terrains of these lands are not real, but imaginal ones through one’s own childhood, in the case of Fantasyland, or the nation’s childhood in the case of Frontierland and Main Street USA.  Waldrep mentions that the “frontiers” between the different lands have a “mediating role,” and that the different lands themselves and their borders are

are about communication between zones, contacts, encounters, and struggles that require stories in order to be passed on.  The frisson offered the visitor is the excitement without any of the (real) hardship. The experience one encounters are of the body—the threat of danger, pain, getting lost, the thrill of making it through. (pp. 145-146)

Disneyland is a centered space, with Main Street leading visitors to the hub.  Marin (1984) points out that Main Street leads one from reality to fantasy.  Fantasy is at the core of Disneyland and is symbolized by Sleeping Beauty Castle, which is located at the hub.  Sleeping Beauty Castle is the first “visual magnet” or marquee and we will have more to say about the castle later, when we approach the different lands in turn.  Marin creates a semantic structural map in which there are two different axes: the vertical fantasy-reality axis which runs from Fantasyland at the top to Main Street USA at the bottom and the horizontal historico-geographical distance and space-time axis that runs from the historical/geographical past and far off of Frontierland / Adventureland on the left, to the union of space and time in Tomorrowland where today and tomorrow are blended together.  Marin’s musings about the map are a bit “left of center,” since he is a French communist theorist.

For Marin (1984), Frontierland represents the conquest of the West and America’s appropriation of land and resources.  Frontierland’s rides center around conquest and exploitation, signifying “the temporal distance of the past history of the American nation.”  Adventureland on the other hand, signifies temporal space and represents exotic locals and the flora and fauna found there.  Marin associates Adventureland with colonialism, signifying “the spatial distance of the outside geographical world, the world of natural savagery.  It represents the next possible fields of action, because adventure is also a frontier” (p. 250).  On the opposite side of the map, we find Tomorrowland, which represents the future, and according to Marin it is:

Future-as-Space, Einsteinian Time, which realizes the harmonious synthesis of the two-dimensional world represented on the left part as time and space, time as historical, national past and space as strange, exotic primitivism.  Tomorrowland is space as time, the universe captured by the American science and technology of today. (p. 251) 

Marin (1984) sees both of these halves as having their own "excentric" centers.  The left side has New Orleans Square, which mediates Adventureland and Frontierland.  According to Marin, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride warns of the deadly consequences of hoarding of wealth instead of the free flow of capital— “the fantasy of primitive accumulation” whereas the right side’s excentric center is the "Carousel of Progress," which signifies the same permanent family experiencing endless technological progress, another fantasy—“the myth of technological progress” (p. 254).  As these different views of Disneyland imply, there’s a lot of archetypal activity at work, or more properly, at play here, so let us look at the park in a more playful light, and see how Grof’s cartography might map onto the map of Disneyland. 


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