Disney Contradictions – The Darker Side.
In my last blog I described why, despite my doubts, I loved Disney’s Magic Kingdom for filtering through the story of Walt Disney and ensuring that the message of his legacy is not entirely lost amongst the madness of the rides and characters.
Therefore, I had high hopes when we arrived for a day of fun and learning at EPCOT, the second of the largest of the Disney Parks. EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and at 300 acres is twice the size of Magic Kingdom. EPCOT is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement and the plaque at the entrance reads;
“To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome.
Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney's creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.
May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.”
— E. Cardon Walker, October 24, 1982
With my own strong beliefs in one and all taking responsibility for shaping a better world I was liking my first impression of EPCOT but knew from my experience of Magic Kingdom not to judge a book by it’s cover…especially in Disney!
Our first stop was Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, a short Walt Disney produced film with a key message. In the film Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King are chopping down trees and clogging up rivers to build the Hakuna Matata Lakeside Village. Simba comes to them and explains how their actions are harmful to nature. This message is drummed home with live-action footage from around the world…I was suitably impressed that Disney were using their influence in such a positive way at EPCOT.
Next we were scheduled to visit the Living with the Land experience, an exhibition on farming and agricultural innovation housed in one of several greenhouses at EPCOT which equate to 2.5 million square feet in total!!! This was right up my street, especially when I read in the guidebook that the focus on the slow moving ride through the greenhouse is on agriculture, especially new technology to make agriculture more efficient and environmentally friendly.
Being on the Living with Land ride it didn’t take me very long to realise that this was a very disappointing mass of Disney contradictions .The audio playing explained that at the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Centre of Epcot they believe that humanity can solve it’s food shortages and environmental problems by improving agricultural technology…a bold statement indeed. One of the first plants we were shown put huge doubt in my mind that Disney was far from practicing what they preach. A huge tomato ‘tree’ with thousands of ripening tomatoes belonging to one plant. The greenhouse’s biggest SINGLE tomato plant yielded a total of 32,000 tomatoes by the time it reached 16 months! They even won a Guinness World Record for the most tomatoes harvested from a single plant in a single year…Disney magic or toxic fertilization and genetic engineering??
We were then shown the benefits of stacked gardens, maximising space by vertically stacking plants. This looked more hopeful until I took a closer look and realised that a greenhouse preaching sustainability uses Styrofoam pots for all their plants…. Dear Lord!! Sustainable, biodegradable and environmentally friendly are not words that spring to mind when I think of Styrofoam…Perhaps we need Simba to explain how these actions are harmful to nature?!?!
Consumed by shock, disappoint and confusion at the mixed messages given at Epcot I did a little research into the Living with the Land exhibit in particular as I needed clarity. How did Epcot move so quickly from “concepts of the future that promises new and exciting benefits for all” to obvious use of chemicals and genetic modification that certainly DO NOT offer ‘benefits for all’?
It didn’t take much digging to find that the Living with the Land exhibit is sponsored by none other than the infamous Nestle Corporation, the very company who are widely known to have caused many deaths, second only to tobacco. (Read more here on the Nestle debacle: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/may/15/medicineandhealth.lifeandhealth) This may explain the ‘mickey mouse’ attitude to agriculture and certainly makes me feel even more disappointed with Disney for being partnered with a company so far removed from their supposed ethos.
Another cold, hard truth I stumbled across whilst researching was the shocking fact that Disney use two separate pesticides to spray across their parks and land twice a day, far exceeding the routines of other mosquito districts in Florida. John Beidler, has been the mosquito control director in Indian River County for 50 years and he states;
“Disney shoots for the perfect world, and the perfect world doesn’t have mosquitoes”
That statement very much depends on how you see a perfect world!! Through my eyes a perfect world does not include harmful chemicals regularly sprayed where millions of children visit, genetic engineering disguised as clever agriculture, confusing bipolar messages and partnerships with murderous organisations. I am convinced this is not the vision the late, great Walt Disney had for his corporation. After being intoxicated by magic during the fireworks display at Magic Kingdom, I am now left wondering if perhaps it was the pesticides?? How and when did Walt Disney’s message of aspirations and achievement become so lost, diluted and convoluted? And what an absolute shame that Disney have the perfect platform to portray positive messages to a highly influential market but instead they have now chosen to favour profit and a perverted idea of perfection.
Next Week – Disney Decipher III The Conclusion
I wouldn’t feel I had fulfilled my role as a nutritionist if I didn’t make the final blog in my Disney deciphered series about the good the bad and the ugly of Disney dining and how I managed to return from the land of sugar without putting on a solitary pound!