The Book Club

Export Disney to Kosovo

Dear Mark,

You have me on literary structure, and I am always hungry to hear the story that wasn’t told. Do tell.

How do I really feel about the Disney Empire? I suppose the way one would after a day at the Magic Kingdom with the kids–content that some joy was shared, grateful that the influence was not the most baleful society has to offer, and a little queasy over the range of things consumed.

Truth is, I am not much of a consumer of Disney-branded products. Not the movies, not the channel, not the parks, not the stores. I walked around the new Times Square at 1 AM one night recently and kinda longed for the old sleaze. Celebration, Fla., is not my slice of heaven. But based on what knowledge I have of these “products,” I’d have to say that a culture too lacking in what my former Wall Street Journal colleagues called “guardrails” can stand a little more of this, er, pacifying. (I know you’ll have fun with that locution.) And if the Walt Disney Co. managed to profit from exporting more of this pixie dust to the Kosovos, Kabuls, and Congos of this world, it would not alarm me.

Even here in relatively peaceable America, it is good that families can repair to places and productions where there is at least the pretense that coarseness and violence and dissoluteness are held in check. If, as you suggest, fantasy here is fraud, then the reality check for young and old is never far away.

Today’s WSJ front-pager on kids as consumers shows how tricky it is now to connect with pre-adolescents. Disney as a commercial enterprise has had to adapt to that–not without controversy–but on balance it’s hard to fault them. Not that I would want to be a parent resisting the onslaught of McDonald’s and Burger King ads and tie-ins aimed at this audience.

Keep in mind, all this brave if vague defense refers to the strict and idealized Disney brand that Eisner has so carefully cultivated. There’s much more to the modern Disney corporation that falls outside of this gloss. You must be eager to discuss it. Me, too.

Best, Tim