Inconvenience Store

BOOK REVIEW: Married to the Mouse, Walt Disney World and Orlando

Richard E. Foglesong, 2001

Yale University Press</h2>

Oh joy, another book prying back the veil that Disney has attempted to hide

behind ever since they first arrived in Florida.

I was very surprised to learn that, in fact, Disney’s first plans for a cylopic

operation outside of California were centered upon St. Louis, of all places! It

was only a chance, ill-chosen, remark by August Busch Jr. (think: Beer) that

derailed the impending megadevelopment. Sigh. Had the remark, “Any man who

thinks he can design an attraction that is going to be a success in this city

and not serve beer or liquor, ought to have his head examined,” not been

uttered at a meeting attended by Walt Disney himself, the fates of both St.

Louis and Orlando would have been RADICALLY different. Walt IMMEDIATELY scotched

the deal with St. Louis and proceeded to start looking anew for a place to put

his proposed new operation.

It’s a shame St. Louis didn’t get the damnable thing. Not that I hold any malice

towards that city or it’s inhabitants, but I live a little too close to

Orlando and have seen, up close and personal, just exactly what the Disney

juggernaut has done to this area.

I don’t like it one little bit.

R. Foglesong has done an impressive job of sifting through the welter of plots,

subplots, agreements, backroom wheeling and dealing, and all the rest of the

amazing litany of things that Disney has done, and IS DOING, to get its way.

The book is basically a political and economic examination of the entire Disney

story in Central Florida, from inception to the present day, and it’s prime

allegory is that of a marriage between two very unequal partners.

Disney has greedily taken every advantage of Florida politicians (from the top

down), and residents from day one, and the politicians seem unable to get enough

of it, whether through naivety, cupidity, or just plain old stupidity. The

people, on the other hand, have more than their share of doubts about the whole

thing. But Disney did their homework in advance and fixed things up nice and

tidy, to where the thoughts and feelings of the people of Florida really didn’t

matter.

The parts of the book that describe the creation and operation of the charter

for the Reedy Creek Improvement District border on psychotic. State and local

political (and even JUDICIAL!) officials pretty much rolled over and played

dead, ceding an INCREDIBLE laundry list of special powers and exemptions from

state and local laws, to Disney. Disney, in effect, became a sovereign power on

it’s extensive tract of land, answerable to nobody at all. Not only that, but a

clever clause in the charter exempted Disney from changes to laws, or the

interpretation of laws, regarding Reedy Creek, in PERPETUITY! That the whole

sorry deal was pulled off by Disney under a smokescreen of deception,

misrepresentation, and plain old bullshit only serves to make the story even

more incredible.

This part of the book alone is well worth the purchase price.

But there’s more. Lots more.

I can’t even begin to list all of it here, though. To do so, would basically be

to recopy the whole book. Among some of the more bizarre comings and goings,

though, are loony deals like Orange County paying for a fifty million dollar

expressway interchange (to better bring even more hordes of paying customers to

Disney’s growing forest of turnstiles) that WASN’T EVEN LOCATED IN ORANGE

COUNTY!

Married to the Mouse doesn’t qualify as “light reading,” but neither does it

come off like a college textbook in politico-economic theory. Foglesong just did

his digging (very well, I might add) and then tells the story. That the story

contains so many twists, turns, dark alleys, and murky water, is no fault of the

author.

Read this thing, and then stay the hell off of Disney property every chance you

get!


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