"Walt Disney." The name itself evokes warm thoughts in parents. Words like wholesome and safe come to mind. Ministers lament the dearth of "Disney-type" movies. Leaders of the Moral Majority chime in. It's as if the Disney organization were the very embodiment of traditional values and the Judeo-Christian heritage.
What's wrong with these conservatives? If they only knew! Look at the PG-rated film Splash. PG! It had a naked mermaid and live-in lovers, for heaven's sake. (A smashing success, too.) Okay, that's recent. But I ask these fans of Disney: where are the religious, family-oriented values in Disney's classic cartoon features? Goofy and Donald and Mickey as symbols of filial piety and civic virtue? Come on!
But the real clincher is to visit Disney's Magic Kingdom itself. Wow! A recent visit of my own to Florida's Walt Disney World/Epcot tourist complex opened my eyes to just how downright subversive the whole Disney phenomenon really is. Conservatives, ministers, parents who want good, "family-type" entertainment—they've all got to face the alarming truth, no matter how shocking: far from being an embodiment of traditional Judeo-Christian values, the Disney organization is an exemplar of secular humanism—that's right, the man-centered philosophy, promoted by liberals, that moral principles and values come from humans, not from divine revelation.
Just start looking carefully at Disney productions—the disregard for religious values jumps out at every turn. How could concerned parents have missed it all these years? Most of Disney's best-loved full-length animated features are fairy tales—Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc.—that involve a matter-of-fact acceptance of magic. Old Walt was pretty sly, too. The Devil himself is never depicted—but witches are shown accomplishing numerous ends via the black arts. And even when the perpetrator of magic is a good guy (remember Peter Pan?), his magic powers are entirely pagan in character.
So what's all this nostalgic pining after "good old Disney movies"? There's even glorification of hallucinogens in Disney's Alice in Wonderland! How can Disney possibly be considered wholesome fare?
As I said, though, I'd never realized the horror of it until a recent visit to Walt Disney World. It was while riding through "Pirates of the Caribbean" that the flash of insight struck: here was scene after scene displaying utter debauchery—pirates looting a seaport, getting drunk, chasing women, even auctioning them off!—and all the while a jolly tune urges, "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me!" True, "Pirates" is presented with several touches of obvious humor. Walt probably wanted us not to take it so seriously. But do the five-year-olds get that message?
As to the Magic Kingdom's other attractions—many of them recreate Disney cartoon films, and the secular and magic themes are front and center. The popular Haunted Mansion is a veritable hymn to black magic and glorification of the dead—without even a nod to the Christian belief in resurrection. Instead, the implicit message is that if anything lies beyond the grave, it is the pagan spirit world.
Then there's the trick the Disney parks employ to attract teen-agers: rock-and-roll music at every turn. Live rock bands and recorded rock music are staple features at California's Disneyland and Florida's Magic Kingdom. And everyone knows how hedonistic and anti-authority today's rock lyrics are.
But the Disney organization doesn't just spurn traditional, religious values. It also reeks of the glorification of humanity characteristic of secular humanism. If conservatives would go into the newest addition to the theme parks—Epcot, for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—with eyes open, as I recently did, they'd have to see it.
The theme building of Epcot is a huge geodesic sphere that houses the AT&T "Spaceship Earth" exhibit. Since this is the first pavilion the newcomer encounters, it's where most visitors begin their Epcot experience—and it sets the tone for the entire park.
In "Spaceship Earth" you sit two-by-two in enclosed, moving seats that traverse a series of exhibits within the sphere. As the track slowly spirals upward, you are presented with an entirely secular account of human history, beginning in the depths with proto-human cave dwellers and climaxing with journeys to the stars. (By this time, the seat has reached the top of the dome.) Anyone who has seen this would have to admit that the frame of reference is very much that of the Enlightenment. Man is the measure of all things.
As the seats reach the top, they turn 180 degrees and recline for the descent back to ground level. While laid out in this recumbent posture, the visitor is subjected to what might best be described as a psychedelic visual display, while the sound track intones that we must progress to the fulfillment of our destiny: running Spaceship Earth. This ride has all the earmarks of classical brainwashing: recumbent position, darkness, sensory overload, and repeated simplistic messages.
The theme of the other industry-sponsored pavilions (the major ones being from Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, Kodak, and Kraft) is that science is the key to our future. There is no allusion to any values other than the rationalism of the scientist and the engineer.
Moreover, visitors to the Exxon energy pavilion must confront the theory of evolution explicitly presented. In Exxon's exhibit of life-size, moving dinosaurs, visitors are told that such creatures lived hundreds of millions of years ago—in clear contradiction of the Biblical account of creation.
I have left until last the most startling evidence of all of Disney subterfuge. Like the World's Fair it resembles, Epcot has two sections—an area of industry-sponsored pavilions, and a second area of international pavilions sponsored by individual foreign governments. Of course, there is a China pavilion. But it's not suntanned young Floridians who are running it—it's Red Chinese. So, unbeknownst to the American public at large, a whole gang of Chinese Communists is working at the Disney complex in Orlando (actually Lake Buena Vista), Florida.
The spectacular 360-degree film travelogue on China makes no mention at all of Taiwan—or for that matter, of the Communist revolution or of Mao. But the film's narrator does make a derogatory reference to "landlords" as a reminder of the bad old days.
The souvenir shop features, along with hundreds of Chinese-made products, books from Beijing's Foreign Language Press. And they take the official Red Communist line on everything from history to child-rearing. So any American, young or old, can walk into Disney World and purchase, for example, A Concise History of China, replete with lines such as this:
When the imperialist powers renewed their economic aggression against China after 1922, industries operated by the national bourgeoisie, which had developed rapidly after World War I, gradually came to a standstill or faced serious crisis.
Traditional values? Judeo-Christian heritage? Not from Walt Disney. On display there is the best of pluralistic, mainstream American secularism. Somebody give Jerry Falwell a call. Quick.
Calvin Levy is a regular visitor to Disneyland.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Life & Liberty: The Shocking Truth about Walt Disney".